How to be a screenwriter and not be so sensitive about your sh*t. #ErykahBadu (Taking critique in stride)
Notes, notes, notes. It's the most dreaded part of the process, but it can also be the most rewarding if you approach it correctly. Art is meant to be critiqued whether you're an artist, screenwriter, or musician. People are gonna have opinions on your sh*t. It may hurt to see someone rip your baby to shreds with notes, but as screenwriters, no script gets anywhere without critiques and revisions. So, let’s not be like Erykah and be so sensitive about our sh*t LOL. If you struggle with receiving notes, here are some tips on taking notes/critiques in stride.
1.Don’t put your baby out prematurely
One HUGE mistake beginning screenwriters make is sending out their script wayyyy too early. I know you want to get eyes on your script as soon as you hit FADE OUT, but you’re shooting yourself and your baby in the foot if you do. Sending your script out is your first and possibly your last impression and putting it out into the world before editing is unprofessional and could end up locking a door you’ll never receive a key to access again. Take some time away (1+ weeks) from your script. When you come back from celebrating your accomplishment, you’ll have fresh eyes and see all the work you cut out for yourself. This is where the real work starts. As the saying goes, writing is rewriting, and editing your script first before notes will save time, result in better notes, and if executed right, a better screenplay.
2. Your ego...get rid of it
After polishing your script and sending your baby out into the world, I suggest you send your ego the opposite way. It doesn’t matter if you're a first-time screenwriter or Shonda Rimes, you’re going to get notes on your script. Being high and mighty while receiving notes will only hurt you in the end. Showrunners and execs want to work with writers who can learn and improve with no mess in between and there are thousands of writers who fit that mold. It doesn’t matter if you're a fantastic writer. If you don’t play well with others, no one is going to waste their time and money on a writer that they have to pull teeth with.
3. Cut the fat
That one scene, that line of dialogue, that action sequence you spent days orchestrating, you may love it, but if it’s getting brought up time and time again in your notes, I suggest you cut that part of your baby. People love chubby babies, but no one wants to read a chubby script full of scenes that serve no purpose to the story. You must make sure your story is a lean, mean, compelling machine before and after you receive your notes. People’s attention spans are limited, especially in this day in age where people can damn near be on Mars. You must cut your script to the bone giving scenes that are dramatic and time-sensitive to the reader. Because trust me, you’d rather be meeting Martians than reading a fat 120-page script with unnecessary scenes.
3. Filter Notes
There are two sides to every coin. There are good notes and there are bad notes. A junior exec could have just got off a break-up the night before and opened up your lovey-dovey romance feature that is pretty damn good. But through their eyes, it the sh*tiest, most unrealistic display of love. They could have lost all hope in love and want to pass a law barring anyone from writing a romance ever again. So, he fills your script with ill-intentioned notes based on his singular perspective. That's when you put your non-egotistic reading glasses on and see that these notes won’t make your baby better. It's all about trusting your gut and making decisions that best serve your story.
So, the next time you finish your script, make sure to take a good look in the mirror and check all the boxes before you send your baby out into the world. It’ll save you time and allow you to put your best foot forward getting you closer to your dreams of that Written By credit next to your name.
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