How to Give Feedback to Writers

SHARE:


Works-in-progress are sacred ground. And in the past I have taken enough writing workshops myself to know that people piss on that ground all the time. I mean, have any of you ever taken a fiction class? I don't think I've ever encountered more self-hating artists with a thirst for blood anywhere else. The Brutal Writing Workshop has been parodied in enough films that I know that it's a common phenomenon.

As I explained in a recent post, one of the greatest challenges that writers face is finishing what they started. Many will cite lack of time as the number one factor that keeps them from getting to the end, but I actually think it's the internal critic that is the most problematic. When it comes to working on first drafts, self-criticism leads to self-defeat. And in a group of your supposed peers, the wrong kind of feedback compounds the problem. If you are full of self-doubt about your work, others tend to pick up on that and see it as an invitation to kick your literary ass.

In my playwriting workshops (I teach playwriting at USC in the Master of Professional Writing Program and at East West Players in the David Henry Hwang Writers Institute), where students develop new full-length plays over a three-month period (sometimes less) and finish them, I encourage them to stop thinking. In the early stages of a script's development, students tend to over-intellectualize the process and try to analyze things that essentially do not matter in the early stages of a new project.

What's important in that early draft is writing from the gut, exploring the "emotional core" of the piece and each character, and ignoring the internal (and external) critic(s) just long enough to finish your script. This will also allow you to try new things and take more risks without fear (whether conscious or subconscious) of persecution. And risk-taking can lead to exciting new discoveries about your work and, sometimes, about yourself.

I'm not saying that there is no place for constructive criticism or structural deconstruction or deep analysis. All that stuff is wholly necessary when you are in the rewriting phase. That's how to take a script to completion and get it production-ready. Feedback on completed first drafts should be thorough and direct. You want to know how people are interpreting your work because it will help you gauge what your next steps should be.

My rule of thumb is, if it's finished, then we can give complete and all-encompassing feedback. If it's not finished, if it's still a work-in-progress, if we're seeing just parts of the whole, then we have to reframe the way we generate and give feedback.

Ready for some new guidelines?

First, remember the following:

1.) We are dealing with works-in-progress—that is, works that are incomplete.

2.) We cannot fully know what a writer intends in his/her writing, especially in its very early stages. The writer himself/herself may not even know this early on.

3.) What we would like to see in a piece is not necessarily what the writer would like to see in a piece. Our aim is to help writers develop their work in accordance with what he/she would like to see in his/her own work.

4.) Writing is a process of discovery—for the writer and no one else.

With all this in mind, these are the rules for discussing works-in-progress. Answer only the following questions:

1.) What did you like about the piece? ("I liked the monologue on page three," "I liked the way the main character handled the situation," etc.) This overlaps with #2:

2.) What things that are already in the piece would you like to see more of in the piece? In other words, what parts can be expanded for your enjoyment and/or understanding? ("I think the mother's dark sense of humor is really intriguing, and I would like to see more of that," "The relationship between the father and son has some good conflict, and I would like to see more of that," etc.)

3.) What confused you or what didn't you understand about the piece? ("I'm confused about when this story is supposed to take place," "I don’t understand why he walked back in the room when he said that he wasn't," etc.) This includes perceived technical/logistical problems. ("The war that your main character is referring to was in 1812, not 1813," "One of your characters looks out at the sun and comments on it, but earlier in the piece someone says it's midnight," etc.)

The above questions can be most readily answered if you have first asked the writer: What do you want to accomplish in this piece? In this scene? In this character? Etc.? But the writer may not even know this yet, and that's okay.

Do nots:

1.) Do not tell the writer what you didn't like about the piece. It's irrelevant at this early a stage.

2.) Do not compare the writer or writer's work to some other writer or some other piece. In other words, do not start a sentence with, "This piece reminds me of"....

3.) Do not rewrite the work for the writer—that is the writer's job. In other words, do not make suggestions of things to add or change.

Now before anyone starts flaming me about these seemingly rigid guidelines, let me emphasize once again that I am talking about works-in-progress. Once the writer has completed a first draft, then we can dig more deeply and talk about character arcs, plot development, structure, what doesn't seem to work on the page, etc. You need to talk about that.

But all that comes much later. Once the writer has a finished draft, most of the above ground rules will not apply.

With first drafts the goal is not perfection. The goal is completion. If they were meant to be perfect, they wouldn't be called first drafts.

COMMENTS

BLOGGER: 14
Loading...
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT
Name

24,26,301,2,3Oh3,1,50 Characters in 50 Weeks,1,555,46,Aaron Johnson,1,ABBA,3,Academy Awards,3,Adam Gwon,1,Against Me,1,Alan E. Muraoka,1,Alberto González Vázquez,1,Alec Baldwin,1,Alex Beh,1,Alex Pettyfer,1,Algenis Perez Soto,1,Ali Ewoldt,1,Ali Larter,1,Amazing Videos,43,America Ferrera,3,American Idol,3,Amy Hill,1,Amy Poehler,6,Ana Gasteyer,1,Anderson Cooper,2,Andrea James,1,Andy Samberg,4,Angelina Jolie,1,Anika Noni Rose,1,Animal Planet,1,Animal Video,13,Animal Videos,160,Animals,221,Animation,25,Anjelah Johnson,4,Anna Boden,1,Anne Rice,1,Annie Baker,1,Anteaters,1,Anthony Mora,2,Anton Chekhov,4,Armadillos,1,Aron Ralston,1,Art,5,Arthur Laurents,1,Artists at Play,1,Asher Roth,2,Ashton Kutcher,2,Asian,69,Asian America,153,Asians,34,Athens Boys Choir,1,Athol Fugard,1,Audio Clips,10,Audra Mae,1,August Wilson,1,Axe,1,Bacon,1,Ballet,2,Banksy,1,Barack Obama,55,Barbie,3,Barry Manilow,2,Bats,1,Bears,5,Ben Folds,1,Ben Lee,16,Ben Stiller,1,Benjamin Millepied,1,Best,27,Betty White,2,Beverages,1,Beyonce,1,Bill Maher,6,Bill Pullman,1,Birds,3,Bjork,1,Blogathon 2006,52,Blue's Clues,4,Bob Dylan,4,Bong Joon-ho,1,Books,61,Boy Bands,18,Boyzone,4,Brandon Patton,83,Brendan Fraser,3,Brent Rose,4,Brett Claywell,2,Brighde Mullins,1,Bright Eyes,9,Britain's Got Talent,5,Britney Spears,9,Broadway,11,Bruno,1,Burt Reynolds,1,California,1,Cam Gigandet,1,Carlos Mencia,3,Carrie Ann Inaba,1,Carrie Fisher,2,Casey Affleck,3,Cat,3,Catroulette,1,Cats,140,Center Theatre Group,1,Centipede Press,1,Chalk Repertory Theatre,7,Channing Tatum,4,Chantix,2,Chatroulette,2,Cher,1,Cherry Chevapravatdumrong,2,Chickens,1,Chimps,1,China,2,Chinese,8,Chiwetel Ejiofor,1,Chloe Moretz,1,Chocolate,1,Chris Mintz-Plasse,1,Christian Bale,1,Circle X Theatre Co.,1,Clancy's Crab Broiler,1,Coffee Bar,1,Coke,1,Coleman Hough,1,Colin Farrell,3,Colin Firth,1,Comedians,11,Comedies,1,Comedy Central,3,Comments,5,Commercial,10,Commercials,56,Conan O'Brien,3,Concerts,27,Conor Oberst,9,Contests,59,Cool Stuff,4,Corey Feldman,1,Corinne Bailey Rae,1,Craig Ferguson,4,Cry,10,Current Events and Politics,266,Cyndi Lauper,1,Czech Republic,1,Dagoba,1,Dalton Ross,1,Damian Aspinall,1,Dance,3,Daniel Henney,1,Daniel Radcliffe,8,Danny Boyle,6,Darren Aronofsky,1,Dave Franco,1,David Bowie,3,David Burnham,1,David Byrne,1,David Cope,1,David Fridlund,1,David Letterman,10,David Lynch,2,David Maurice Gil,1,David Saint,1,David Thorne,2,David Wilson,1,Deal or No Deal,5,Debbie Reynolds,1,Deborah S. Craig,1,Deer,1,Demian Mason,1,Demonic Jukebox,11,Denise Richards,1,Denmark,1,Denzel Washington,1,Depression,1,Diablo Cody,21,Diet Coke,1,Disney,7,Disneyland,1,Dixieland,1,Documentaries,22,Dog,1,Dogs,16,Dolphins,1,Dominic Cooper,2,Don Hertzfeldt,1,Donovan and the Vast Ancient Conspiracy,2,Donovan Keith,7,Donovan Patton,4,Dr. John,1,Dracula,1,Drake and Josh,6,Drake Bell,9,Dreamworks,1,Duck,1,Ducks,1,Dunja Gry Jensen,1,Dutch Watch,10,East Germany,1,East West Players,34,Edinburgh Fringe Festival,2,Edmond Rostand,1,Education,4,Edward Gunawan,3,El Cor de la Ciutat,5,Election 2008,94,Elephants,4,Elinor Burkett,1,Elizabeth Ho,1,Ellen DeGeneres,3,Elmo,1,Eminem,1,England,1,Entertainment Weekly,4,Eric Balfour,1,Everything Glendale,4,Ewoks,5,Facebook,19,Fancy Hollywood Parties,11,Fantasy,3,FAQs,3,Fashion,9,Fatboy Slim,1,Featured,2,Feodor Chin,1,Ferdinand Marcos,1,Filipino,8,Film,1,Finland,1,Fireside Chats,6,Food,60,Football,1,Foreign Films,18,Foreskin,3,Forest Whitaker,3,Fox,2,Fox Searchlight,3,France,4,Frankenstein,1,Frequently Assed Questions,1,Funny Animals,148,Funny Ha Ha,583,Funny Kids,4,Funny Stuff,30,Funny Videos,547,Gabriel Fleming,22,Games,2,Garth Stein,4,Gay,3,Gay Marriage,56,Gay Penguins,4,Gay Stuff,23,George Bush,5,George Lucas,2,George Takei,1,Goats,2,Godfrey,1,Goldenspell,1,Good Vibes,3,Gorillas,1,GQ,2,Grandview Topless Coffee Shop,1,Green Day,2,Gregory Itzin,1,Griffin Dunne,1,Guest Bloggers,7,Guilford Adam,1,Gus Van Sant,1,Hal Hartley,1,Halloween Guy Endore,1,Hamsters,4,Hanson,3,Harney Milk,1,Harrison Ford,1,Harry Potter,4,Hawaiian,1,Hayden Christensen,6,Health,7,Helen Mirren,1,Henrik Ruben Genz,1,HGTV,1,High School Musical,50,High School Musical 2,6,High School Musical 3,7,Hillary Clinton,10,Hollywood Blacklist,1,Hollywood Forever Cemetery,3,Horror Movies,31,Hot Girls,7,Hot Guy Stuff,2,Hot Guys,112,Hot Video Stuff,2,Hot Videos,49,HSM2 Comments,6,Ikea,1,Imelda Marcos,1,Impact Theatre,42,Indian,2,Indiana Jones,1,Infographic,1,Inochi,1,interview,1,Ira Sukrungruang,2,Ishmael Reed,1,Jack Johnson,1,Jack Savoretti,1,Jacques Audiard,1,Jake Gyllenhaal,1,Jakob Cedergren,1,James Franco,6,James Gunn,1,James McAvoy,5,James Urbaniak,1,Jan Stephenson,1,Jan Terri,1,Jane Austen,1,Jane Goldman,1,Jane Leeves,1,Janet Fitch,1,Japan,11,Japanese,12,Jason Bourne,1,Jason Statham,1,Jay Leno,7,Jazz,1,JD Salinger,4,Jeff Liu,1,Jennifer Aniston,1,Jens Lekman,1,Jerome Robbins,1,Jerry Ruiz,1,Jesse Harris,1,Jimmy Kimmel,5,Joan Crawford,1,Joe Biden,14,Joe Calarco,1,Joey McIntyre,8,Joey McKneely,1,John McCain,39,John Pinette,1,John Prine,1,John Wesley Harding,3,Johnny Knoxville,1,Jon Stewart,4,Jonathan Ke Quan,4,Jonathan Larson,1,Jordan Nagai,1,Joseph Minion,1,Josh Peck,4,Judge Judy,1,Jukebox Stories,83,Julie Salamon,1,Juliette Binoche,1,Jung Woo-sung,1,Kafka-Inspired Comedy Movie,2,Kangaroos,2,Kate Capshaw,1,Kate Pierson,1,Kate Winslet,1,Katie Couric,5,Keith Olbermann,1,Ki Hong Lee,1,Kiefer Sutherland,9,Kim Jee-woon,1,Kim Min-suk,1,Kirsten Dunst,1,Knäckebröddansen,1,Koalas,1,Korea,6,Korean,3,Kris Kristofferson,1,Kung Zhu,1,Kurt Wimmer,1,Kyle Harris,1,Kyle Lewis,1,Ladies Professional Golf Association,1,Lambs,1,Lance Gross,3,Lars Von Trier,2,Laundromat,16,Laura Bush,1,Lea Salonga,1,Lee Byung-hun,1,Lee Pace,3,Legos,1,Leonard Bernstein,1,Leonardo DiCaprio,2,Levi Johnston,27,lfred Hitchcock,1,Liam Neeson,1,Liev Schreiber,1,Lin Yu Chun,2,Lions,4,Lisa Kudrow,2,Live Monologue,1,Live Monologues,2,Live-Blogging,2,Local News,4,Lodestone Theatre Ensemble,1,Lorraine Hansberry Theatre,2,Louise Larsen,18,Lucas Grabeel,5,Lucinda Williams,1,Luxembourg,1,M. Night Shyamalan,3,Madonna,1,Magazines,3,Malaysian,1,Malls,4,Mare Winningham,2,Marianne Faithfull,1,Marilyn Hoggatt,1,Marines,1,Mark Wahlberg,8,Mark Zuckerberg,1,Martin Scorsese,1,Maru,5,Master of Professional Writing,11,Matt Bateman,1,Matt Damon,1,Matthew Vaughn,1,Maya Rudolph,1,MC Frontalot,4,MC Lars,3,McDonald's,1,McFly,1,Meat Loaf,1,Megan Fox,1,Meryl Streep,2,Mice,1,Michael Ballhaus,1,Michael Buble,1,Michael Bublé,1,Michael Cera,4,Michael DeAntonio,1,Michael Golamco,1,Michael Lowenthal,3,Michael Moore,4,Michael Phelps,14,Michelle Obama,5,Mike Leigh,1,Mike Shinoda,1,Mike Valentino,21,Mila Kunis,1,Military,1,Miss Coco Peru,1,Molly Shannon,1,Monkeys,8,Monologue Madness,11,Mormons,6,Most Popular Posts,2,Most Viewed Posts,11,Mother,2,Movie,6,Movie Recommendations,7,Movies,462,MTV,1,Music,312,Music Recommendations,4,Music Video,22,Music Videos,212,Musicals,36,My Morning Jacket,1,My Sister,11,Mysterious Skin,21,Nancy Anderson,1,Nancy Elliott,1,Natalie Merchant,1,Natalie Portman,1,NBC,3,Ned Sublette,1,Neil LaBute,9,Neil Patrick Harris,2,Nerdcore,6,Never Look Back (Except Now),7,New Conservatory Theater Center,11,New Kids on the Block,4,New York,2,NFL,1,Nick Gabriel,1,Nick Lowe,6,Nick Swardson,1,Nickelodeon,1,Nicole Atkins,1,Nicole Holofcener,1,Nina Simone,1,Noah Baumbach,1,Noel Alumit,4,Norah Jones,1,North Carolina,1,Odd News,111,Odd Videos,47,Odds and Ends,240,Oklahoma,1,Old Spice,2,Oliver Assayas,1,Oliver Evans,1,Oliver Fish,1,oprah,1,Oscars,3,Otters,1,Owiso Odera,1,Ozzy Osbourne,1,Palo Alto High,2,Pandas,4,Pantages Theatre,1,Paris,1,Paris Hilton,4,Park Eun-kyo,1,Patton Oswalt,3,Paul Greengrass,1,Paul Kikuchi,2,Paul Rudd,1,Peen,4,Peen Stuff,2,Pelicans,1,PEN Center USA,2,Penguins,5,Peter Darney,1,Peter Wylie,1,Philippines,1,Phillip Noyce,1,Pimone Triplett,2,Pixar,1,Playboy Mansion,2,Playwriting,25,Podcasts,5,Polar Bears,2,Pole Vaulting,1,Polls,4,Ponder,1,Ponderings,6,Pop Punk,1,Pork Chop,75,Pork Chop's Weight-Loss Challenge,3,Prague,1,Pranks,2,Prints Made Easy,1,Pro Bowl,1,Psy,1,Punk'd,2,Queen,1,Quentin Easter,2,Rabbits,2,Rachel Dratch,1,Randy Newman,3,Raunchy Comedy Movie,3,Reality Shows,7,Regina King,3,Religion,17,Rent,7,Restricted,2,Return of the Jedi,2,Revolutionary Road,1,Richard Yates,1,Rick Astley,4,Rickrolling,6,Ricky Gervais,1,Robbie Williams,3,Robert Harling,1,Roberto Bolle,1,Roger Ross Williams,1,Romain Mesnil,1,Romania,3,Ronald Reagan,1,Royce Reed,1,Rude Guerrilla Theater Company,3,Ryan Fleck,1,Ryan Gosling,4,Sab Shimono,1,Sacha Baron Cohen,7,Sam Gold,1,Sam Mendes,1,Sandra Tsing Loh,2,Santigold,1,Sapphire,1,Sarah Palin,50,Sarah Silverman,1,Sasha Grey,1,Saturday Night Live,22,Science Fiction,18,Scott Evans,1,Scott Heim,32,Screenwriting,3,Sea Lion,1,Sean Faris,1,Sean Penn,2,Seattle,7,Sesame Street,6,Sharon Jones,1,Sheep,1,Shel Silverstein,1,Shelley Berman,2,Shepard Fairey,1,Shimajiro,3,Shirtless,1,Short Films,2,Sidewalk Studio Theatre,2,Simon and Garfunkel,1,Simon Cowell,1,SIS Productions,6,Sketch Comedy,7,Skin Report,1,So Gay,211,Soap Operas,1,Soldiers,1,South Asian,1,South Coast Repertory,3,South Park,3,Sport,1,Sport Stuff,2,Sports,25,Squirrels,4,Stand-Up,1,Stanley Williams,2,Star Wars,8,Stephen Colbert,2,Stephen McCauley,1,Stephen Sondheim,1,Steve Burns,4,Steve Carell,1,Steve Martin,1,Steven Soderbergh,1,Steven Spielberg,1,Story,16,Strippers,1,Super Bowl,1,Susan Boyle,4,Suzanne Whang,2,Sweden,6,Tahar Rahim,1,Taiwanese,2,Takashi Murakami,1,Talang,1,Talk Shows,15,Tamlyn Tomita,1,Technology,32,Television,273,Terrance Howard,1,Thai,27,Thai Stuff,4,The Americana,4,The Bilerico Project,50,The Celebrity Apprentice,1,The Coen Brothers,1,The Constellations,1,The Daily Show,4,The Drill Hall,1,The Gaslight Anthem,1,The Goonies,6,The Last Airbender,1,The Life and Times of Pork Chop,19,The Lodger,1,The Lost Coast,1,The Monkees,1,The Muppets,12,The Olympics,11,The Onion,8,The Only Way Is Essex,1,The Proclaimers,1,The Rolling Stones,2,The Simpsons,5,The Tonight Show,3,The Velvet Underground,1,Theater,252,Theater Reviews,22,Thierry Guetta,1,Things I Did,3,Things I Read,8,Think Tank,3,Thomas Bidegain,1,Tigers,2,Tina Fey,8,Tips for Actors,1,Tips for Writers,8,Tips for Writers and Other Artists,3,Tom Gabel,1,Tom Hanks,1,Tom Wilson,1,Tom Wolfe,1,Tori Amos,1,Tortoises,1,Toys,14,Travel,2,Trieu Tran,1,True Blood,1,Turkeys,1,Turtles,1,Twin Cities,8,Tyler Perry,3,UCLA,2,United Kingdom,1,Unsung Movies,17,USC,12,Valerie Bertinelli,1,Vampire Weekend,2,Vanessa Anne Hudgens,13,Vermont,2,Video,71,Video Games,10,Videos,1001,Vietnamese,1,Views,5,Vincent DeSalvo,1,Vulva Original,1,Wanda Sykes,8,Weezer,4,Weighing Pork Chop,14,Wenda Fong,1,Wendie Malick,1,Wendy Wasserstein,1,Wendy's,1,West Elm,1,Wham,1,What the What,2,Whitewashing,1,Will Ferrell,3,William Shakespeare,2,Willie Nelson,1,Woody Allen,12,Wow,24,Writing,9,Writing Stuff,47,WTF,22,Zac Efron,56,Zac Efron's Ass,4,Zebra,1,Zuiikin English,3,
ltr
item
BAMBOO NATION: How to Give Feedback to Writers
How to Give Feedback to Writers
https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-K--e1RDNaRk/WGgmzodqgOI/AAAAAAAAIrg/qutju8656HYyqiHXLSlTM1VbRZS1lY6AgCLcB/s1600/spec-scripts.png
https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-K--e1RDNaRk/WGgmzodqgOI/AAAAAAAAIrg/qutju8656HYyqiHXLSlTM1VbRZS1lY6AgCLcB/s72-c/spec-scripts.png
BAMBOO NATION
http://www.bamboo-nation.com/2007/08/most-people-dont-know-how-to-give.html
http://www.bamboo-nation.com/
http://www.bamboo-nation.com/
http://www.bamboo-nation.com/2007/08/most-people-dont-know-how-to-give.html
true
29736335
UTF-8
Loaded All Posts Not found any posts VIEW ALL IN THIS CATEGORY LET'S GO! Reply Cancel reply Delete Posted by Home PAGES POSTS View All
MORE CRAZY THINGS ON BAMBOO NATION
LABEL ARCHIVE SEARCH ALL POSTS Not found any post match with your request Back Home Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat January February March April May June July August September October November December Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec just now 1 minute ago $$1$$ minutes ago 1 hour ago $$1$$ hours ago Yesterday $$1$$ days ago $$1$$ weeks ago more than 5 weeks ago Followers Follow THIS CONTENT IS PREMIUM Please share to unlock Copy All Code Select All Code All codes were copied to your clipboard Can not copy the codes / texts, please press [CTRL]+[C] (or CMD+C with Mac) to copy