Getting feedback on your script can be hard. As writers, we pour ourselves onto each page, and handing our blood and guts over for judgment isn’t the most comfortable task. But as difficult as it is, receiving critical script feedback is a vital part of the writing process. And learning how to “kill your darlings” is a valuable skill that will only improve your writing.
Whether you’re writing a script as a sample to secure representation, submitting it to a competition, crafting it to produce yourself, or trying to sell your work to a studio or an established producer—feedback on your script can be incredibly useful. If you know what to do with the notes. Once you face your “feedback fear” and ask for notes from a dear friend, an industry professional, or via script coverage, here are three helpful tips to get you started on your rewrite.
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Find the weakest link
Receiving a lot of notes at once can be overwhelming, especially if they’re critical of major plot points or structure. But the best way to start your rewrite is by fixing your readers’ biggest problems. Pay special attention to the following notes or feedback:
- Was the reader confused by anything?
- Where was the script the weakest?
- Do any characters seem too similar?
- Can you cut out, or can you define their voices more strongly in opposition to one another?
- Can you fill in any plot holes?
- Are there any missing plot points?
Address the most confusing sections and obvious problems and you’ll correct a lot of smaller issues along the way. Fixing the weakest links first can help achieve real progress quickly without any of the dreaded rewrite paralysis.
Remember that not everyone loves sci-fi or romantic comedies. Personal tastes vary. Sometimes feedback can feel like it’s coming from a place of judgment rather than constructive critique. And while you could take that feedback with a grain of salt, it’s usually a good idea to dig for the kernel of truth in any feedback. Has the feedback addressed what’s working and what’s not working?
How can you distill their note down to its essence? This is often referred to as “finding the note behind the note.”
And if you’re still not sure if the feedback is biased, get another opinion (or multiple opinions). If you receive the same specific feedback from multiple sources, the fault might be in your screenplay, not your reader.
Make it a page-turner
No one wants to read a boring script. If you want to keep the reader (and eventually the viewer) interested you have to make sure the first 10 pages are interesting. There are simply too many other options out there for people to waste time on a boring script—even if it “gets good” later. Whether you hire a reader for coverage or ask a friend or colleague to read your script, you need to know if your screenplay held their attention. Be sure to ask for attention-specific feedback on your script with questions like:
- Did your mind wander? If so, where and why?
- Were there any long action sequences that didn’t seem necessary?
- Did any dialogue seem forced or inauthentic?
- Finally, is there anything in those first ten pages that you can tweak to make it a “must-read”?
Grabbing your reader from the first sentence is important. Do a deep dive here and get the kind of feedback that will improve your script. Make those first ten pages so strong that people can’t put it down. If you can do that, you’re already halfway to writing a great screenplay.
Script feedback will make you a better writer
If you are ready to face your feedback fears and slay your next rewrite, check out WeScreenplay’s coverage for actionable feedback on your script in 72 hours. With highly qualified readers and affordable packages, it’s a great way to receive comprehensive and thorough feedback to help bring your script from page to screen.
Helenna Santos is an actor, writer, producer, and was the founder/editor-in-chief of Ms. In The Biz for its seven-year run. As an actor, she has been seen most recently in CW’s THE FLASH, ABC’s A MILLION LITTLE THINGS, and THE GOOD DOCTOR as well as THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB on Netflix. Helenna produced and starred in the female-driven sci-fi/thriller feature film The Shasta Triangle and the adventure movie At Your Own Risk. Her work as a contributing writer has been featured in MovieMaker Magazine, Backstage Magazine, IndieWire, Film Inquiry, and BUST Magazine, and she can often be found on panels at conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter!