It’s probably safe to assume you’ve found yourself in this situation before:
A colleague asks you to read their material and give your thoughts on it. “Don’t hold back,” they say. “Be as brutal as you need to be. I can take it.”
So you read it, compile your notes (making sure to be critical, but fair and helpful) and send them off. Most of the time this results in one of two ways.
1. “These are great! Thank you so much!”
2. “What do you mean ____? How could you miss that? Did you even read the script?”
Urgh. I hate, hate, hate when they say that.
Did you want notes or gushing praise? You asked me for the former, but it sounds more like you secretly meant the latter, and now you’re not happy with the results.
If I think your script is good, I’ll say so and tell you why. On the other hand, I also won’t hesitate to point out what I think needs work, or if there’s something I didn’t understand.
There’s no need to remind me how much you’ve slaved over this for months/years, but I’m not going to say it’s good just to make you feel better. You know every single aspect of the story. I don’t, and only comment about what I can (or can’t) see on the page in front of me.
This doesn’t mean I’m a bad reader. Have you considered the remote possibility that your writing just might not be the perfection you think it is? I’ll fetch the smelling salts while that one sinks in.
Believe me, I’m not saying these things to be mean. You asked me for my opinion, and I gave it to you. There are professional analysts and consultants who do the exact same thing, and you’d pay them for it. Not everybody is going to love your script or pick up on every intricate detail you think is painfully obvious to any moron with half a brain.
If you put your script out there for review, you’d better be prepared for the worst. It’s an unfortunate part of how this works.
And one more important piece of advice: getting defensive or arguing with me because I didn’t like your script or “just don’t get it” isn’t going to change my mind, and will definitely make me not want to do this for you again.
2 thoughts on “No, I’m making all of this up”
Craig and John talked about this on one of their Scriptnotes episodes – basically saying they always ask that question first: do you want praise, or feedback. Some people really do just want the praise (not sure how they’ll grow as writers, but that’s their problem, and probably worth raising).
I may start asking that, too.