Good, better, best

Good, better, best

V chuffed to report that “Hard Men’, my pilot show script, developed through last year’s Channel 4’s 4Screenwriting programme, has got through the quarter-finals of the Screenwriting Goldmine Awards 2013.

It made for a lovely afternoon, with writers galore getting in touch to check that I knew! Just goes to show what a community we are.

I’ve also been reading for Theatre Royal Bath’s Nova playwriting summer school, supported by their Engage programme for artists in the community. This has been a great experience, following not too far on the heels of reading for Butterfly Psyche / Rondo Theatre’s “Making Trouble” competition.

Reading other people’s scripts is a great learning experience. I recognise my own habits, particularly in writers who are just starting out. It’s like an experienced seamstress spotting the tell-tale stitching of someone starting out (and knowing her own stitching habits are glaringly obvious to her own teachers).

This isn’t always the case; and it doesn’t mean that we all have the same “beginner traits” by any means. Just that it made me smile to read/hear echoes of things I now realise I used to do. Things that are so subtle they might not even have a name; things that, if carelessly addressed in the reader’s report, could really put someone off moving to the next draft.

I remembered and tried to emulate the most helpful feedback my scripts had been given, stuffed with lines like, “the X raises intriguing questions that the writer could have more fun in answering…”, or , “the writer doesn’t do themselves justice by rushing the last few scenes – it would be worth really exploring their dramatic potential without worrying at this stage about running times.” IE, although these are made up, you feel the gentle support and encouragement of someone who wants your script to succeed and can see some ways in which it might.

Needless to say, I’ve had my share of feedback that is less helpful than this: “I only kept reading as a favour,” being one of my favourites. Thankfully, a few years into this writing lark, I’ve realised that every reader is different and that their judgement and taste is wholly subjective. The script that was only completed “as a favour” reached the top of one national theatre’s reject pile – perhaps that’s a B+, as opposed to the FAIL of the earlier critic. And that’s fine.

Drama is about horses for courses; it is subjective by its very nature. The best we can do is to do our personal best and hope that it chimes with someone, somewhere.

To return to my own competition entry, I know where ‘Hard Men’ falls down. I’m just hoping my stitching is better than I think it is…

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