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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thank you for your order: Kick or Kiss?

What if I told you that my business, the Script Department, was in the business of taking money from writers, kissing their behinds, telling them their writing and their scripts were just great, and then sending them out into the writing world not knowing or caring what happened next? Sound pretty ethical?

Earlier this week, we had a very rare occurrence. So rare, in fact, that around the Script Department, the Disgruntled, Deluded Client is an endangered species. Which is how we like it. Once in a blue, blue moon, a client laboring under the delusion that the Script Department applies kisses to behinds and not truth to material, gets a bit upset when their notes aren't as complimentary as they ought to have been. In fact, he was pretty durned upset that the notes weren't stellar, and demanded a refund. Oh goodness, what to do?

Handling notes on material is very difficult for all writers, myself included. But the more you write, the more professional (read: arm's length) you get about your material. If you get negative comments, no matter how accomplished you feel you are or have been in your writing life, you need to take a deep breath and let those notes roll around in your head for a day two. You may decide to reject some. You may grudgingly accept others.

Here's an armchair diagnosis from a script doctor: if the first feeling you get after reading notes is white-hot anger and outrage? You have some issues to work out. You are, in all probability: 1) investing too much emotion and self-esteem in the material 2) have not been told the real truth in the past or 3) in serious danger of never becoming a real writer because...wait for it...this is the life of a writer.

If receiving notes you don't like puts you on the defensive immediately, there are several things you can do. But first you have to choose, because you've come to a fork in the road.

Option one: Do you want to be a real, produced/published writer as a profession?

Option two: Do you want writing to be for an audience of one - you?

If you choose Option two, then here's what you do: Find a consultant or editor or good friend who will always tell you that your writing is great. Or join a writing group the sole purpose of which is to make friends, chat about writing and books and what you had for dinner.

If you choose option one, then when you find notes upsetting, put the notes down and take a long walk. Breathe it out. Remember, it's not personal and that your dignity as a person and as a writer are still intact. Remember that you get to choose which notes you really will take to heart and which ones you will let slide. If you really, really disagree about a note - talk to the source of the notes. Is there something they didn't catch? Something that you didn't make clear? Maybe there is a dramatic tenet you aren't utilizing. Maybe you can learn something new from these notes - even if it's which direction you don't want your story to go.

I will tell you two things that I know for sure:

1) There is absolutely no way to grow as a writer if you don't receive honest feedback on your writing. And very often - it ain't pretty. You need thick skin.

2) I am not in the business of ass kissing. I've thought about adding it to the menu of services at the Script Department, but the price would be way too high - my integrity.

ShowHype: hype it up!

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Jake Hollywood said...

Would the ass kissing thing be included in the initial pricing or would one have to pay extra for the service (and are there other "extras" available)?

Ooooooo that was totally inappropriate, wasn't it?

Julie Gray said...

Extras are available for those single men with a very high income, a passion for their career and a fondness for Paris ;)

DougJ said...

He should of* called his momma.
That's what I do when I'm looking for some unqualified praise.

* gotcha!