OH ME. OH MY! If you are a writer, then you know half of being a writer is re-writing. And whether you are work-for-hire, staffed on a show, working at the studio level, or just implementing notes from your peers or writers’ group – we all know what it’s like to pull up notes, and try to incorporate them into an existing script.
In this article, I want to point out helpful ways to approach notes and how to implement them in a way that doesn’t leave you bashing your head against the keyboard.
First, and this is likely the most important point in this article, I think it’s important to try every note you get even (and sometimes especially) if you don’t agree with it. Obviously, a lot of this depends on the producer (or alt) you are working with, but ANY note you get has some sort of validity. And I think it’s important to start from a place of humility and recognize that. The person that read your script bumped on something – and it’s worth looking at why, even if you don’t understand why they bumped on it and think they are just being stupid. (Haha! I know you’ve felt that way!)
I have found that by trying to implement a note that I didn’t originally agree with, it always highlights something that I thought WAS working, but actually wasn’t.
Conversely, if you have TRIED to implement a note and it’s not working, by all means be willing to explain why, and ask questions to help clarify, or ask for pitches to make it work. Far too often, I think writers are afraid to ask for help. I think ego gets in the way, and we worry about looking stupid because we don’t know the answer. That’s hogwash! It takes bravery to be humble in front our peers and superiors in the arts! Ask for help!
I have also found that what originally feels like an earth-shatteringly complicated note, is typically satisfied with just a couple line tweaks in a few scenes throughout. Again, this obviously depends on how macro or micro the note is but barring the producer (or alt) is asking you to overhaul the A-story, change the genre/tone, or come up with a new ending – almost ALL notes are much easier to implement than our gut reaction tells us.
Point being, I have heard re-writing equated to jumping into a swamp with leeches and wading around for a couple hours while you pull apart everything you have worked hard on. I have been writing (and re-writing) for almost 10 years, and I have never once, even come close to that experience.
Take a deep breath, digest the note, read what you have written with that note in mind, and give it a shot. It’s not that bad. I promise.