Monday, February 24, 2014

If you can't take the critique, get out of the kitchen.

I'd like to share a story with you and, hopefully, it will inspire you as much as it has inspired me.  It's about perspective and while I generally don't like to focus on negative or take on airs of superiority, this was too remarkable to ignore.

One of the things I do is provide 'notes' to other writers.  I don't do it all of the time and have probably only covered about 20 scrips in the last 8 months or so.  I don't charge and I don't promise immediate feedback (in most cases...) but it's a wonderful opportunity for both the writer and me to see what we've learned.

While I'd never quit my day job and hang out a shingle, I do know what I'm doing (based on the feedback and public recommendations I’ve received).  Perhaps more to the point, I know what the writers are doing.  Both good and bad.

The last script I covered was not especially good.  It was written well but the underlying story wasn't the least bit engaging.  I've read much, much better.  I spent three pages explaining my impression and citing examples of what worked and what didn't.  (Never a fix, that's not the way notes work.)

I received a bit of argument in reply.  Not what I was expecting.  There was a brief exchange.  I was then asked if "it had ever occurred to me, since it had been a month between when the script was finally send (different story) and when I sent my notes, that there might be a newer version of the script available and I should ask for it?"

I said, "No.  Has the script changed fundamentally since the version you sent me?  My notes were about the underlying elements of the entire story, not the quick fix grammar or formatting.  Knowing the version I read, would you be able to quickly summarize how your most recent draft addressed the issues I identified?  I would be happy to take another look."

I received back the very curt, "Thank you for your time."  The author clearly disagreed with my assessment (well within his right) but for some reason thought that it was my fault I didn’t like it.  I had the impression that he didn’t actually read my notes.  It was a total waste of time.  For both of us.

My work has been shredded since I started writing – from teachers, friends, family, and peers.  It was shredded for good reason and I’m a much better writer now because of it.  Find someone qualified to give you feedback, solicit it, and then politely pay attention to them when they tell you how to make it better.  It isn’t personal and if they didn’t respect you in the first place, they’d never have looked at your work.

No comments:

Post a Comment