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* HELLO AGAIN
* CRITICISM AND HOW TO TAKE IT
Well it’s still not quite Spring yet, so am following my Nanna’s maxim; ‘don’t cast a clout till May is out’ and putting on a cardi.
Following on quickly from my last newsletter of March, I felt the need to write to you all about criticism and how important I think it is in the development of any creative individual.
CRITICISM AND HOW TO TAKE IT
Those of you who are members of my group on facebook The Script Advice Writers Room will know that I started my career in television as a Script Editor on Eastenders and that I am passionate about the job that got me there in the first place.
Talking to writers via my job at Script Advice Towers and on Facebook and Twitter I often declare Script Editors to be the unsung heroes of drama and at every turn will champion their place on any drama project.
Those of you that have used my Script Editing, reading and report services via www.scriptadvice.co.uk will also be familiar with my approach to this delicate, taxing, rewarding job of helping you write better scripts, one draft at a time.
The process of working with a Script Editor should never be:
A waste of time.
Lousy value for money.
Of course, non of the above apply to working with me(!) I enjoy the work and that comes across to my clients. They enjoy the process of having their work analysed by someone who clearly gets a kick out of bigging up the great bits of their script and sorting out the not so great. And they know they are in safe hands because I have done this before and know what I’m doing. This is key. You have to trust the person script editing your work. They must come up to scratch in your view too. This is a symbiotic relationship – it should never be toxic and never be parasitic.
And I am not talking exclusively here about the script editor/writer relationship; when I talk about criticism I also mean all criticism. Any criticism. The feedback that you get from having your script read by a professional reader, or the opinions you garner from having your script read by someone close to you, or a friend of a friend who is somehow connected to the industry. However you chose to expose yourself to criticism, when it comes, (which is most certainly will) you must be prepared for it.
This whole business of combing through a body of creative writing ultimately aimed at a critical, savvy audience; of pitching your lot into an already teaming pool of writer talent, can be and often is, very galling. So it is not lightly that I say, if you want to be a happy, productive, successful writer, start growing a second skin. Now.
Taking criticism is a really hard thing to do well.
You need broad shoulders. Strong chin. Thick skin. Not a good look, admittedly, (unless you’re Robert Downey Jr’s understudy) but still, those qualities will hold you in good stead when you have opened your work up to scrutiny from the outside world, and are standing on the crumbly bank of the River Criticism as it flows swiftly by.
Come to criticism in the same way you came to the writing process in the first place. Open minded. Without agenda. Positively. Ready to do good work. With a smile. With a bucket of energy. And take the highs with the lows. Always remain open to suggestion and when you don’t agree with the opinion/note (which will most certainly happen) do not take personal offence.
Hard not to. I know. I have been on the receiving end of good and bad criticism in my time both as a Producer and as a Script Editor. And believe me, when you have a body of people decrying the work you put your spine and most of your blood count into, (whom you are never likely to meet, but who still feel they have the right to get personal about your abilities) it’s a tough call. It’s also quite difficult to find your ‘happy place’ when you have a disgruntled, sleep-deprived writer querying whether you have a brain at all between those ears – but taking it personally never works. Get clever instead. Get critical. Get tough on your script and on yourself. Get up, keep doing it and firmly request clarification on what you don’t agree with from your reader/script editor. Without swearing. (Not always possible.)
Why open yourself out in this way? Because it is a necessity for all creative types to have at least another opinion on the work they produce. Look at the work of now famous writers and performers that has been allowed to go unchecked. Uncriticised. The work suffers. Ego takes over. The craft of what they once did, is lost in a destructive sense of ‘knowing’ that dulls the original wit and drive of what they used to stand for.
Most of us don’t have this problem. We are not surrounded by yes men but are struggling on a daily basis with this ‘stuff’ this writing business, that needs sorting. So you need someone to fight your corner or to face you with some criticisms.
Without this un-biased eye, this un-emotional, critical pass over the work you bled for, you will never know if it is truely what you meant your work to be. Because you wrote this script to communicate something – didn’t you? And by definition, this script needs another (several others in truth) opinion to get it right for what it is intended to be for.
A commissioned television script will have to go through several layers of criticism, opinion and ultimately, drafts, before it becomes the ‘thing’ you envisaged when you started your outline all those months ago. You may fear it will not be what you set it out to be, but if you want to get your work seen, appreciated, talked about, you need to be open to all that criticism and that change.
Your spec script, the one that isn’t commissioned, but may get you through Producer doors, is also open to criticism. There will not be as many critical layers here – money, in this case, is not the issue – but your voice is. Here again, you may find you have to listen to someone young enough to be your off spring say something nebulus like ‘I’m just not feeling empathy here’ and bite back your knee-jerk response; ‘give it time, you’re still growing’.
Criticism can be direct and personal (see above). Can be general, unfocussed, and faceless (see above). It can be well-intentioned, it can be down right bitchy. Negative and positive. But in all cases, criticism is what makes you grow as a writer, as a creative individual and ultimately into someone who can not only take criticism well, but give it too.
All thanks to your kind heart, your writing talent and of course, your thick skin.
Join me on Facebook at the Script Advice Writers’ Room; https://www.facebook.com/groups/237330119115/
Here’s what Phil Gladwin of www.screenwritinggoldmine says about it:
‘It’s run by Yvonne Grace, a seasoned BBC producer, and her … incredible energy, passion, and dedication (in true, old school BBC style) means new links, new resources, and a very nice community of like minds on a daily basis.’
I hope I can help you with your writing; be it a television script, short or full length film or screen play, treatment or outline, novel or radio play, I read and script edit them all and can definitely help improve yours. Drop me an email@Yvonne.firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get working!
BYE FOR NOW AND HAPPY WRITING!
YVONNE GRACE APRIL 2013