When participating in a workshop, one of the critical elements is receiving notes from the instructor and from your fellow writers. Once the workshop concludes, students often form writing groups to continue the work of critique. Nothing is more valuable than getting objective notes from fellow writers.
But we also have a responsibility to give notes to writers. It’s a two-way street. So below is a checklist on how to generate good notes for your fellow writers.
- Give notes based on the material in front of you. Don’t turn someone else’s script into your version of a script or movie you’d prefer to see.
- Personal comments are not welcome. Whether or not it’s your genre or style, you should still be able to give notes about structure or basic character elements. The phrase that is unwelcome is some form of, “I hate this kind of movie. I’d never watch it.”
- Personal stories about your life, rather than the material before you, is a waste of someone else’s time.
- Stick to the basics first. Structure, character, scene work.
- CONFLICT. Is it evident? Is it working?
- Don’t make the critique personal. Every writer needs honesty but not brutal honesty. Put yourself in the position of a development exec. What is a professional, clinical, and objective means of delivering notes to a writer?
- Help the writer present a professional script by pointing out format issues. Help correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes.
- If you give a note, be prepared to explain how to execute the note. If you make a statement like: “This scene doesn’t work.” Explain to the writer why it doesn’t work and the steps to make it work.
- Be aware of the DRAFT. A first draft is very different than a fourth or polish draft. Meet the writer where he or she is on the page.
- Look for ways to help freshen genre, character, and dialogue. Help the writer make ordinary elements of scenes vivid, vibrant, and fascinating.