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Sooner or later you'll be asked to give feedback, too. This is a great opportunity. Believe it or not, giving feedback will improve your own writing. It's easy to see where someone else has gone wrong, but harder to spot the same weaknesses in your own work. Giving feedback will teach you what to look for, and searching for solutions to help another writer will train you to solve those same problems for yourself.
When giving feedback, remember the following:
Keep your comments friendly and encouraging. Critique the writing, not the writer. Focus on improving the script, which is helpful, not on improving the writer, which is insulting.
Look at things from the author's point of view. Try to figure out the story the writer is trying to tell, and keep your comments focused on that.
Start with the positive. No matter how bad a script is, find something nice to say, even if it's just complimenting the writer for finishing the draft. Preceding a negative comment with a positive one softens the blow.
Two positives to every negative. Point out parts that are working well as you search for the problems. Keep the ratio as close to two pluses for every minus as possible.
End with the positive. Close your critique with one last positive, encouraging comment. Think of it as a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.
For positive comments, use the pronoun "you." "The way you got Sally out of that bind was really original."
For negative comments, avoid using "you." Instead of saying, "You lost me in the next scene," say "I got confused," or "The next scene was confusing."
Start with the big picture. If the story isn't working, address those problems first. Don't overwhelm the writer with the small stuff.
Point out a problem, don't offer a solution. "I'm having a hard time understanding why Joe loves Clara" is helpful. It lets the writer know what is unclear. "I think Joe should be in love with Clara's sister instead" is less helpful. The writer is left to wonder why you feel that way. It's okay to point out a problem and then make a suggestion—if you keep your suggestions pertinent and leave plenty of room for the writer to find his own solutions.
Frame your comments as follows:
• I don't understand who/what/when/where/why/how …
• This part feels slow/confusing/redundant…
• I had a hard time following when…
• This scene is very funny/exciting/moving…
• I really empathized with the hero when…
Giving feedback requires attentiveness, thought, and sensitivity. Learn to do this for others—and then apply your new skills to your own script!