Today’s Success Could Be Tomorrow’s Bad Review…

I just finished a new draft of my latest screenplay, MATRIMANIA, this morning. It’s come a long way from the original draft – or at least I think it has. I have already submitted it for its first professional review to my trusted script analyst, Scott.

It’s always risky to submit a piece of writing for review immediately after you have completed it. You sweat over it for weeks, months, or even years. You barely have time to celebrate the accomplishment of completing it before the review comes back telling you it needs a lot of work. I’ve been down that road before. It happened with the outline for this very script. I’m pretty good with character and dialogue, but I have some difficulty with plot and, in particular, structure. By structure I mean how the story is told. This includes pacing, building tension, etc. Rather than hash out an entire script, I’ve taken to writing an extensive outline, giving it to Scott to read and review, and then do another outline. Maybe several outlines before I’m ready to write the actual screenplay.

I worked for several months on the outline and then I finally gave it to Scott review. I felt that I was improving as a writer – maybe I am – but the outline needed a fairly complete overhaul. I think I got the review back the same day that I sent it to him. Disappointing, to say the least.

The good news is that, over the years, I have gotten very used to getting criticism. I’ve had LOTS of practice in this area. It doesn’t upset me anywhere near as much as it used to. There was a time where I would never have submitted a script for review in December. If it was a terrible review, it would ruin Christmas! That idea is almost laughable to me now. I’m stronger than that. I’m proud to say that I know that no matter how bad a review might be, it won’t upset me for long.

I have a system. First, I read the review quickly, my heart racing. I said I’m getting used to criticism – that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still scare me. The worst moment is when it pops up in my inbox (or arrives in the mail). That first flash of fear never goes away. That dreaded feeling of “Oh, no, it’s here…”. And I have a terrible track record of NEVER being alone when I receive it. Whether it was when I lived at home with my parents, or now with my kids and my husband, or sometimes it arrives when I’m out with friends. And I have to read it right away! I just wish I could be in private to deal with it – whatever it is.

The first skim of the review is the “how bad is it?” The second review is where I slow down and actually read it to really understand what it says. By the third time I read it, I’m already mentally working on the rewrite. That’s the best part. I get over the initial shock and start really thinking about the suggestions that were made. Often, I realize how true they are. I can start to see how much better the script will be once I revise it. AGAIN.

I probably won’t post the whole review here when I get it, due to professional courtesy. I don’t want to give away Scott’s brilliance for free (though I know the review might not make sense anyway, since you haven’t read the script). But I promise to post the highlights and the lowlights. I always try to be honest about both my successes and my failures. I won’t just brag about good reviews – I will be honest when I get shot down as well.

Wish me luck….