Monday, October 8, 2012

Knowing when to send it out

Paul wrote in with a question:

I frequent a peer review site that ranks screenplays based on reader opinion. I've maintained a top five ranking for ten months now. I won free professional coverage from the site and it was a consider with strong potential for recommend if specific revisions were made. I made a lot of suggested revisions... a lot. Then I paid for more coverage from another service and it was a blatant pass with criticism about everything from character development to plot to writing style to structure, etc. In the end, my question is: do I take a chance and send it out? I thought it was close to being ready, but that last opinion really stuck it to me.

I'm sure this is something a lot of writers wonder about and it is a tough question.  On one hand, we're so close to our own work that it's often essential that we have someone with fresh eyes look at at and give us an idea of what the work looks like objectively.  On the other hand, the same work can provoke a wide range of opinions from people.  A script some people might think is great might not click for other readers for some reason.

But that's just the nature of the beast.  Even if you got glowing remarks from that last reviewer, I can probably guarantee that somewhere, someone who reads your script isn't going to love it.  If you've given this to several readers who seem to know what they're talking about and most of them think it's ready, odds are it's ready.

But my question would be: do the critiques of the script make sense to you?  When you see the problems that reader had with the screenplay, is your gut instinct, "Oh yeah, I can see that" or is it "This guy doesn't see the ideal version of this script the same way I see the ideal version"  If it's the latter, it could mean that he's just not a fan of your take on the story - or it could mean that you had trouble translating your intentions to paper.

My own feeling is: if the notes you're given spark ideas that you think can make the script better, there's no reason not to implement them.  However, if implementing pushes you in a direction that you're not fully committed to, maybe it's better to just take a stand on your vision and succeed or fail on those merits.

Ideally, you'd be able to send out your script with the conviction that it represents you well.  At the very least, you should never feel like you have to apologize for or explain the script.  You'll know you're ready when someone tells you "PASS" and you're able to simply say, "Thanks for your time." If your gut is, "Well, I know I just need to make this character more active," or "The second act is a little confusing but I can fix that" or any other apologizes, your writing probably wasn't ready in the first place.

A lot of industry pros will only give you one shot.  Can you objectively look at that script and be at peace with this being your single chance?


  1. My two cents: If you're feeling good about your draft, get it out there. See what happens. It will teach you to deal with rejection.

    If it gets passes all around, start your next project. In time, if the gods favor your story, it may have a second life. Or it just might be a step in your journey to becoming better.

    Great question.

  2. Agree with Nick, your intuition should tell you if it is ready or not. But getting at least one other opinion before you do that (and not from a friend who will tell you what you want to hear) is the way to go.

    More important is working out WHO you want to send it to.

    1. Absolutely. Mentors and writing groups who won't hold back are a must.

  3. Agree with Bitter and Nick 100%. It's incredibly important to be able to send out your draft once you like it, rather than sit on it and tweak it constantly, over and over, perhaps even obsessing about what everyone is going to think. It's important for your own sanity -- as well as your career -- to call a script done, send it out, mentally check out from it, and begin working on a brand new script. This takes some discipline and objectivity in knowing when to call it; obviously, if you call it done after the rough draft, you may just be lying to yourself. But if you've written a script that YOU like, that YOU feel is ready, it's time to push that sucker out of the nest...

    My own test for done: I read the script fully once a day and if I don't find any major items that immediately want to change, I call it done.

  4. I'm planning to send my current spec to several writers for notes. I'd also like one or two professional opinions. What are your thoughts on paying for coverage?

    I would never pay hundreds of dollars for notes. However, spending 75 dollars or so, on someone who also works as a manager, seems pretty reasonable.

    1. This old post covers most of my thoughts on the matter:

      I would NEVER pay for coverage from anyone who's actively a manager. That seems faintly unethical for them to run a coverage service on the side. They have to assume that some people are going to pay them not for the notes, but more for the hope that they'll like the script and want to rep them. I once asked a development exec I worked for about advice in getting repped. His response: "Never pay someone for a read."

      And I get that in this case you'd be getting notes and not just a read, but I have a real problem with the ethical tangle there.

    2. Seek for people near you, who you can trust. Find a mentor. Find screenwriting friends. Hell, a copyeditor will do more for you than coverage.

      Never pay for coverage.

      A lesson from my days in a rock 'n' roll band: "Never pay to play."


      Bitter - link is dead.

      One other way to get notes without paying exorbitant fees is to enter contests that have notes options, although that can be a crap shoot, depending on the contest.

  5. When you give your script to a fellow writer and they say "this is so good I'm mad at you." That's when a script is ready to go out. When you feel it's the absolute best it's going to be.

    Anything short of that, you're wasting the reader's time.

  6. Thanks for the answers folks. I've decided to complete another project and let some time pass. Freshen up the eyes.