How do you handle getting feedback from professional readers?

I just got feedback on a script I wrote which I adapted from one of my novellas.

It’s the first time I’ve ever paid for feedback, it was a generally trusted source (I know there are shady ones out there that don’t go anywhere) and constructive criticism. I can agree with a lot of what was said and they were things that I was hit or miss on.

Have you gotten feedback from professionals? What did you do with the feedback?

If it was adapted either into a script from a novel or vice versa, did it affect your other version? Why or why not?

I was a script reader for a production house in L.A. I can tell you that each reader has their own specialities and blind spots. Use it as a guide not as a rule. However, if you get three other opinions (whether pro or average joe) and they all agree on something then you better listen. Sometimes we’re too close to our own material to judge best. Some things are clear to you because you know it so well, and are steeped in all the research and backstory that makes it on to the page.
As for whether is should affect your other version, I would say probably not. They are different beasts. Some things play well internally in a way that only books can provide. Scripts have to be visual and produceable. They have to fit within a 90-120 minute time frame. You just can’t tell the same stories. It would be shame if JK Rowling went and removed storylines and characters that never made it into the movies.

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I haven’t paid anybody to give feedback on my work yet, but writing was one of my majors in university, and I received feedback from professionals through some school programs (both on my prose and screenplays). Generally, I’ve found that it’s important to stay both respectful and critical while reading the critique; their opinion is always valid and should be given special consideration, but also keep in mind that they’re only one person.

If someone interprets part of the story in a way I didn’t intend, I don’t try to argue it or assume that they’re wrong; I assume that their interpretation is probably supported by the text and that others may come to the same conclusion. Some alternative interpretations are fine, while some are detrimental to the story experience you’re trying to set up. If it’s the latter, I try to find what in the text supports the unintended interpretation and tweak it accordingly. If I have opinions from multiple people, I weigh their interpretations against each other. How prominent the unintended interpretations are and how detrimental they are to the story determines how much I think my text needs to change. Obviously the execution of this differs depending on whether we’re talking about something like a specific word choice or a character decision.

I also take into consideration what supporting information the critiquer would have taken in. For example, if somebody goes into a story being told it’s a romance and somebody else is told it’s a tragedy, they’re likely to have different expectations, which will alter their experience. Watch out for strongly correlated patterns, and you may find that the source of an unintended interpretation is actually outside of your text. These things may be out of your control (e.g. a recent cultural event, such as a public tragedy, may put your text in a different light), but it’s still possible to edit your text to counteract that. On the other hand, if the only people who are reading a text as intended are those who read your summary, then your intended interpretation isn’t supported enough in the text and that also warrants an editing pass. I’ve found that professionals are generally better about identifying their biases from supplementary information, so I consider this less when reviewing their critiques.

Regardless of a person’s experience, I never immediately accept a suggestion on how to execute something. I think it’s more important to figure out what needs fixing and why, and then try to figure out the best solution while using any suggestions as a spring board. As long as you have carefully considered the feedback, as the author, you will most likely be able to find a better, more authentic, and farther-reaching solution. This also ensures that you’ve actually absorbed the information rather than just accepting the “fix” and moving on without learning anything.

As for transferring critique between screenplay and prose forms of a story, I agree with @CassidySavidi that it’s difficult because the forms are very different. I think it’s only really possible when the reason for the critique is at least mostly present in both forms, but that’s rarely the case.

All that said, take my advice with a grain of salt, but I hope this is helpful.

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I’ve never gotten feedback from a professional reader, writer, or whatever, as most of the time—it’s often the same in various versions.

The best way to deal with any feedback—no matter where it came from—is to take your emotions out of the equation. This is what a lot of people struggle with because it’s hard to let someone break down how much your story sucked when you worked hard on it. But the thing is, the only way to improve (not only your work, but yourself as a writer) is to keep your emotions outside of the room. Understand that these people aren’t trying to pull you down; instead, they’re trying to lift you up and make you a better writer.

This is exactly how I learned not to get too emotional over feedback because I used to be—what people call it nowadays—a “snowflake” where I cried over nearly any negative feedback. Nowadays, I don’t. I will be hurt, sure. Everyone is at some point, but it’s not because “my story sucks and everyone hates it,” it’s more like, “they don’t like my story.” Which, to be fair, is understandable since their feedback is subjective and it may just not be what they’re into. Heck, I may not like what they have written. But when I get feedback and push myself out of that “snowflake” shell, I’ll be able to see their viewpoint easier. Why? Because I view my work in three different ways: as a writer, as a reader, and as a critic. When I’m reading someone’s feedback about my story, I’ll often be within the reader and critic perspective—listing off reasons why this reader didn’t like the story, and listing off ways on why my story didn’t appeal to them through their feedback and how I could improve on that weak section.

I used to have a script on a sci-fi fantasy I was trying to write years ago. I first tried to write it like a novel, but it didn’t work. So I adapted it into a screenplay… and it still didn’t work as much as I thought. I didn’t really get much feedback at the time, but over the course of three years (since I last tried to write it), I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the small details of why it wasn’t working and now that I’ll be writing it again as a novel, I can see how so much have improved based on the storyline and how it’ll begin. One of the major problems I had when I was younger was the fact that it wasn’t extremely detailed. I tried writing it in first person, but I had realized that my details were very weak—a reason why I adapted it into a screenplay because I’ve heard that screenplays don’t require a lot of major details (as screenwriters say to “leave the major details for book writing”). But even when I wrote the screenplay, it didn’t feel good enough. But after the last few years of looking into fantasies and science fictions and how to write those, I may have grasped the basics to get me started. c:

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I got feedback from a paid editor (who was also a friend) once and a beta reader who could easier get paid if he wanted to. Just like any editing, you take the advice you agree on and leave the rest. However, you have to have a very open mind and not be defensive about your writing. That can be really difficult!

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Okay, well @CassidySavidi beat me to the punch :smile: - This :point_up:t4:

In very general terms, if you hear it once, be open to it. Twice? Give it some serious consideration. Three times? It’s probably an issue you need to address.

As far as it coming from a professional source, if you can get a sense of whether or not the reader or person doing the evaluation has a lot of experience, in general, and/or experience in your genre or with writers who write in your style, specifically, then I’d give them a bit more credence. Some of these evaluation services employ folks from all walks of life, and though they’re skilled, their exact experience isn’t transparent, so it might not be possible to know. But that can be a factor on whether or not you act on the advice right away.

Generally, setting it aside while you get a couple of more perspectives added to the mix, then circling back at that time, will help illuminate what to act on.

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