I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately – a variety of stories in different formats: an original science fiction script from a person I’ve never met who added me on Facebook; a novel from a friend (I swear, I’m getting to it Anna!) and a feature treatment from a local writer-director. Various other scripts, both produced and not, are waiting for my eyeballs (and hopefully brain). Then, of course, there’s the review of my own work as notes start to trickle in.
During the Treatment Workshop, when the writers bonded through adrenaline and a positive, shared experience ‘under fire’, everyone agreed to stay in touch and share their work. Deciding to forgo my Goldmanesque pit for once, I took this on board and offered to send out my treatment to anyone who was interested and, in return, read and give feedback on other people’s work.
The response was a little disappointing. To date I have exchanged treatments with the above mentioned writer-director (who was in the other group) and sent mine to two people from my group. There was one other person who expressed interest… when he finished his treatment!
Nevermind. The feedback I received from two of the three has been excellent (thank you Alex, thank you Helen) with little gems from perspectives I had not considered. Which is exactly what you’re after – an insight to how to make the work better. Is the story clear? Are the characters interesting? Is there conflict in every scene? Is the ending satisfying? Does the structure work?
I also enjoy reading other people’s work as it’s a way to hone your own craft skills. As Paul said during the workshop, we now share a common language for discussing and analysing scripts and treatments. So I was pleased when I pretty much hit the 7 structure points in Alex’s treatment correctly. He also seemed pleased with my notes and suggestions. A win-win outcome.
Why the reticence then from other writers?
I’ve been to writing groups and workshops before where people promise to stay in touch and, from my experience, it rarely happens. There are notable exceptions – I met the above parenthetically mentioned Anna in a workshop circa 2000 and we have been friends and occasional collaborators ever since.
Is it that writers are notoriously insular? Is it because we are all ultimately competitors for a finite slice of funding pie? Or is it simply that once you’re out of the cauldron of insane deadlines and intensive feedback, life and other things get in the way? Surely it’s not the old bugbear about people “stealing your ideas.”
One constraint I do have is where I don’t have ultimate control of a script – for example, with The Red Bride, the producers determine the readers it goes to which is perfectly fine. My natural inclination would be to send it to out wider.
With the In Total Unity treatment though, there is no producer as yet, so Tim (director) and I are keen to get feedback as the story is developing at a rapid rate.
Do you have a set of readers you always use? Do you circulate your work? Participate in writers’ groups?