5 Ways To Get Feedback on Your Screenplay

If I had a dollar for every time a new screenwriter reached out to ask me for feedback on their work I wouldn’t have time to write this article I’d be too busy freestyling through the cash in my Scrooge McDuck swimming pool.

It’s common – and understandable – we all want to know how we’re getting on particularly when we’re starting out. And we want to know how we can make our work better.  I feel you, newbie.

So here are 5 ways to get feedback on your work.

Peer to Peer (Group)

This is usually a quid pro quo situation with a live writing group or an online writing group.  You do for them and they do for you. Check out Facebook or Meetup or industry organisations to find screenwriting groups in your area. And of course there are many online forums.

Pros – it’s free, fun and great for networking. People will most likely be encouraging and supportive.

Con – you’ll get a range of feedback so you’ll have to get practised at sorting the useful feedback from the irrelevant or unhelpful feedback. You can’t guarantee quality feedback and need to be prepared for clumsy feedback that feels personal even if it isn’t.  And if this is a group of friends there can be a tendency to be nice rather than critical. And it can be a little subjective.

Tip: Do yourself a favour and seek feedback from people who know something about whatever it is you do – someone who will give you honest feedback, not just a pat on the back or ill-informed criticism.

Peer to Peer (One to One)

Again, a quid pro quo situation with a regular writing buddy. This is great if you have a similar work ethic, writing goal and level of experience.  Set up a regular meeting and you’re good to go.

Pros – it’s free, convivial and you’ll develop a relationship with a trusted advisor.

Con – you’ll only be getting feedback from one source.  And you’ll need to choose carefully to get the right fit for you and your work.

Peer to Peer (Read Through)

Organise a bunch of chums to read your screenplay out loud.  Know some actors?  Even better. Then have a group discussion to get initial responses.

Pros – it’s free (aside from some catering) and you hear your script out loud. People will probably be supportive and encouraging.

Cons – unless everyone in the room is amazing at screenplay assessment you’ll invariably get somebody getting excited and going off track or trying to suggest what they would do rather than asking thoughtful questions.

Tip: Go equipped with specific questions you want answered and make it clear why you’ve organised the read through i.e. in order to hear what you have NOT get story suggestions.  Unless, of course, you DO want story suggestions.  Establish some ground rules up front and that way it doesn’t become a creativity fest that doesn’t help you improve your work.   

Tick the Feedback Box

Many screenwriting competitions and funding initiatives offer a basic feedback service to applicants/entrants.  Sometimes it’s part of the deal and it’s free, sometimes it’s for a small, additional fee.  Either way it’s worth it to get a basic, gut response to your work.

Pros – low cost and it will be objective, market feedback from strangers. And occasionally it might be quite comprehensive.

Cons – it’ll be one person’s viewpoint and invariably brief without a lot of specific detail. And you can’t go back with questions.

Use a Professional Script Assessor or Script Service

The time to use this option is when the script is the best version you can do.  You’ve probably had a friend or group read it for first impressions and you’ve rewritten it – probably more than once.  There are many script reader services in the world – so do some homework.  I’m always a little leery of very cheap reader services that are vague about who is actually giving the feedback. So look for testimonials and names – ask around – check out who they are and what they’ve done.

Pros – objective, professional analysis of your work from someone who reads a lot of scripts and quite often writes professionally too.  Clear, comprehensive criticism and advice on how you can improve your work.  They’re not there to make you feel good – they’re there to help your improve your craft.  And you should be able to go back to your pro with questions.

Cons – it will cost.  If you’re quite new and not used to receiving feedback – a professional assessment can be a little daunting.  By their nature a professional assessment will invariably tend towards criticism rather than praise.

Tip: Welcome negative feedback – it can be your friend. Generally, professional assessment or criticism is far more likely to focus more on the areas for improvement rather than listing all the ways you are brilliant. So here’s a crazy idea – even the most negative feedback can improve your project and craft. So how would it be if from now on you receive feedback from that perspective? You could calmly ask yourself this – how can this viewpoint, negative or positive, help me improve my work? It’s nice for the ego to be told your work is perfect but it’s also kinda pointless – you don’t develop and neither does your work

Advertising Guru, Paul Arden put it more succinctly than I ever could when he said “Do not seek praise, seek criticism.”      


©Kathryn Burnett 2021

5 Must-Haves for a Great TV Series

Does your TV series idea have the “legs” to run longer than an episode or two?  

Ideas for films tend to be about a problem that are acute and solvable but TV series ideas tend to be about a problem that is chronic and unsolvable i.e. it’s a basic idea that can keep running for a whole series – and some.

 Whether you’re working on a half-hour sitcom or 10 – part drama, your TV series must have these elements.

  • 1) A Strong Narrative Drive – When you think about just about any successful series there is always a challenging goal driving the main character. What’s going to drive the narrative of your series? 
  • 2) Engaging Characters with depth, flaws, agency and clear goals. These fictional representations need to be relatable and engaging to watch. Or we just stop watching.
  • 3) Conflict – Every television show needs conflict. Differences between the values, needs and goals of the characters.  Ideally, characters should also have to deal with internal conflict as they struggle with the consequences of their decisions and actions.
  • 4) Great Dialogue – we all know great dialogue when we see it. But in TV it is the primary vehicle for telling the story. Great dialogue is believable. It fits the character and reflects the way people communicate in the real world.
  • 5) An interesting and surprising storyline – sometimes we can predict where an episode story is going to go and the writers’ challenge is to get to an expected conclusion in a fun, unpredictable way. Other times we are blown away by the unpredictable turns the story can take – but it still has to be believable and logical within the world of the series.

Want to create and write a TV series? Register for my Beginner’s Guide Writing a TV Pilot Workshop (April 19th)

How to Fight “The Doubts”

Last month I received an email from a screenwriter client who, after receiving a “thanks but no thanks” letter, wanted to know what I tell myself to fight off the doubts that I’m not good enough. – and stay focused on finishing my story…

It was such a great question and it really started me thinking – what exactly DO I tell myself to fight off the doubts and keep going?

Self-doubt affects just about every writer I know and I’m certainly no stranger to it. Being a writer means endlessly seeking validation and approval from the outside world. And sometimes we just don’t get it. Cue the doubts aka the dark vortex of doubt aka the creeping fingers of dread aka the paralysing, grey corset of doom.

So what do I tell myself to get the crazy under control?

Continue reading How to Fight “The Doubts”