Dealing with Critiques and Rewrites: Be Honest with Yourself

Except from Screenplay Competitions: Tools and Insights to Help You Choose the Best Screenwriting Contests for You and Your Script by Ann Marie Williams © 2019

A fundamental skill you need as a writer is the ability to be honest with yourself. No critique, including your own, will ever be as effective as it could be if you’re not honest with yourself about the quality of your writing. This is a hard thing to learn, but the more you write (and rewrite), and the more you read and analyze other scripts (and films and shows), the more accurately you should be able to assess your own work. 

You don’t need to know exactly how perfect (or not) every aspect of your script is (I doubt any writer can do that). Rather, when critiques are offered, you need to honestly assess whether taking the suggestions would improve your script. 

One question I ask to ensure I’m honestly assessing my script and the critique is: Can I explain my decision to follow or ignore the critic’s suggestion? In other words, if I’m going to change something in my script—or if I’m going to reject a suggestion—I need to be certain I know why. And the reasons for my answers should always support the story and/or the conveyance of the story. 

For instance, can I explain why it’s pertinent to the story to keep or change a plot, a scene, a character, or even a specific word or a piece of dialogue? It should all matter. It should all have a reason for being in the story in the first place. If I’m going to change it, I should know why. And if I choose not to change it, I should be able to explain why it’s necessary to the story that it remain the way it is and why my assessment is more reliable than the critic’s. 

Another benefit of this process is that it might help me locate the real source of the problem (if there is one).


Screenplay Competitions book front and back cover

Screenplay Competitions is available on eBay, Amazon, and direct from the publisher: Bluestocking Press.

Screenplay Competitions  has received endorsements from Dave Trottier (Author, The Screenwriter’s Bible, http://www.keepwriting.com), Richard Walter (former Screenwriting Area Head, Associate and Interim Dean UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television), Matt Dy (former Director of Script Competitions at Austin Film Festival), professor Harry M. Cheney (Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts), script editor Lucy V. Hay (www.bang2write.com) and Emmy-wining writer Ken Levine (Hollywood and Levine).

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