I remember writing my first screenplay like it was yesterday. I was 17, outspoken, and very confident in my writing abilities, so when the teacher told us we were having a stage playwriting contest, I nearly jumped out of my chair with excitement. I spent the whole day writing and planning out my screenplay. The next day, I gave copies to almost everyone in my class to see what they thought. One student said it was terrible and tossed it in the garbage. I even had a close friend tell me to stop sending her stories, and we never spoke again. Eventually, I just quit the class.
After I lost my job and moved back in with my family, I decided to dive back into screenwriting. It was tough; sometimes, the feedback looked like the person reading was having a bad day when they were making notes, and the nicest 'compliment' I received was, "maybe in ten or fifteen years, you could create something decent." Everything in and around me was telling me to give up, stop trying. Writing isn't for you. You don't have the talent. The notes became more and more hurtful as I did everything I possibly could to improve.
Instead of throwing in the towel and saying goodbye to my dreams, I pushed back and followed these five principles that helped me regain my self-esteem and be more productive.
Whenever I get feedback that appears harsh or mean-spirited, I ask myself, what are the intentions behind this note? Are they trying to be helpful, or are they rude? If the reader gives you reasons why your writing needs work and ways to improve, it's constructive criticism. If the reader is saying things like "you are an awful writer" or "this is terrible" without a reasonable explanation, you should ignore it and move on. It can be difficult to shake off hurtful things said to you, but it's necessary.
Many writers ( including myself) don't ask enough questions when we get notes. A lot of us won't ask questions, even if there are parts of our critique we don't understand. If you disagree or desire a longer explanation on something they wrote, don't be afraid to reach out and ask them to clarify or even put what they said in simpler terms. Trust me. You'll thank yourself later.
When it comes to writing, everyone has opinions on what's good and what isn't. If you enjoy writing romance but send your story to people who enjoy action, then the notes might be biased. A good way to avoid this is to choose people who are regular readers in your genre. This can also be beneficial because they're aware of the tropes, cliches, and genre conventions within your story, giving you more constructive notes.
Sometimes I'd nearly burst into tears reading some of the things people would leave as "notes." on my screenplays. I'd even shut down or get defensive. If you find yourself getting emotional when you get notes ( like me), take a deep breath, think, and relax before responding to the sender.
As writers, we pour our heart and soul into every word we type. Our work is like our children, so whenever someone insults or criticizes it, it's easy to get offended and get upset, especially if you're a beginner. I used to be the same way to the point where it felt like every insult or negative comment was a jab at my character. It took me a long time to separate myself from my work, so it didn't feel like I was getting attacked whenever I got notes.
Screenwriting is hard, and sometimes receiving feedback is even harder. Once you're able to accept and learn from the notes, you'll be a stronger, smarter, and more productive writer.
How did you handle feedback when you were a beginner? What's the harshest thing someone has ever said about your writing? Tell us in the comment section below!
I'm a blogger, ghostwriter, and aspiring screenwriter. I've had a strong passion for writing since I was ten years old. After years of self-doubt and fear of rejection, I finally gained the courage to chase after my dream of seeing my characters and inner world on the tv screen.
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