Taking the Fear Out of Getting Notes on your Writing

Notes sessions often are terrifying experiences, even to the most experienced pros. Here’s a look in how to hold back your terror and make the experience be the positive lesson new writers need:

by Vicki Peterson and Barbara Nicolosi

Notes-to-ScreenwritersFor writers, getting notes can be a terrifying, anxiety-ridden, and depressing experience. You’ve spent months, if not years, putting everything you have into your script, agonizing over every transition and slugline.Your themes matter deeply to you, and often come from your own personal struggles and failures. There is a little bit (or a lot) of your own heart and soul in each of your characters. So now you have to turn over the baby you’ve birthed and nurtured to a bunch of people who will spend a fraction as much time, effort, and soul sweat as you have on it, and then hope that it will be enjoyed and appreciated. And it usually isn’t.Your precious project is set on the altar of show business, awaiting sacrifice.

When we give script consultations, invariably we notice the writer’s sweaty palms and the tremor in their voices. Or else, there is just way too much bravado, which generally is masking lots of hurt and insecurity. Often, when we’re giving notes, the first five to ten minutes is about getting writers to just calm down so that they can hear us and hopefully trust us.

We understand.We’re writers, too, and we’ve been on the other end of that table.We’ve gotten some of the most debilitating, humiliating, unhelpful notes ever… We get it. But we’ve also been on the other side of the table as producers giving notes.

Getting notes doesn’t have to be quite so scary. In fact, it can be quite exciting and affirming — even when the script isn’t working. After all, a notes session means someone has at last been reading your work. Someone else wants to hear about the characters and situations with whom you’ve been alone for months or years. And then there is the chance you’ll find the rare treat of a reader or producer who really values your work, and is eager to meet you because of it.

Read it all in Vicki Peterson and Barbara Nicolosi’s new book, Notes to Screenwriters.