Anna Kowalczuk is a professional script reader and contest judge based in London. She currently evaluates scripts for The Writer’s Store and is a judge on several contests including The BlueCat Screenplay Competition. For inquiries or to submit your script for analysis, contact AK.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now from Anna:
A Reader’s Perspective on Writing
A professional reader’s advice on submitting your writing
In all areas of writing today, almost everything goes through a reader. Novels, scripts, short stories and contest entries, are all evaluated by a trained objective reader. In my first years of writing, I took on a reading job in order to feel connected to the industry when I worked my full time desk job. What I quickly learned, (and why I haven’t been able to give it up) is that reading is a crucial part of the writing process.
Readers are trained to be objective. When reading a script, a reader takes a look at each structural element and evaluates it separately. Success is not hinged on being able to create the most exciting action scene every done, or the wildest and most memorable character. Success is hinged on creating strong elements and being able to tie them in together seamlessly to create a cohesive whole.
The most common flaw in new writers is that they only focus on one element such as really strong character or a unique and exciting plot. These elements are important, but they will not be enough on their own. Characters may be likable, but their actions must be justified. They must have clear journeys that can be succinctly explained and easily identified. The plot must be logical* (even in fantasy, horror and comedy) and have a pace that heightens consistently through to the climax. It goes on. It is great to start with one strong idea or concept, but it is important to take a look at each element as you continue to build and rewrite your work.
The best advice I have been given is to read and be open to feedback. Both are imperative and often lacking with screenwriters. Screenwriters focus on watching movies rather than reading the original scripts. This isn’t as effective as the movie itself is comprised of additional roles such as actors and directors that are used in conjunction with the script. To understand what makes a strong script, you must read as many as you can get your hands on. Share your work with people that read a lot. You may not agree with all the comments given but it is important to look at themes. If six people tell you they dislike your character for six different reasons, they may each be wrong but you can be sure there is some aspect of your character that is not working.
I will end with the advice of someone much wiser than myself: as Stephen King famously said “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
*Logical means justified. The plot can be unrealistic in our existing world, but the author must make the world strong and clear so that it feels believable and can still be relatable to human experience.