Hank over at Write To Reel asked if I would give him a testimonial to use on his site, and after finishing it last night, I thought I’d put it here as well in case there are other writers out there looking for some great insight on their work.
How better to learn a new craft than to study it judiciously? To disassemble, remark upon, and appreciate the work of others who have labored over their craft as much as you have yours?
Step into any creative writing classroom, lecture, or seminar, and one of the first and lasting assignments you’ll be given will be to read. Read everything, as though the world is ending and the only way to spare it is by absorbing as much of its literature as you can.
It can be a daunting task, especially when all you want to do is sit down and write the next great American…whatever, but the importance of absorbing as much as you can from other artists cannot be stressed enough.
I didn’t care about reading when I was a kid. I liked it, sure, but only when it was able to hold my interest for more than two sentences. Unfortunately, that habit of skipping past great pieces of work carried on into adulthood, even when I was reaching the point when, ironically, I needed someone to sit down and read my work; to tell me whether or not I was kidding myself.
Hypocrisy notwithstanding, I sought out to find other writers who shared the same passion, but had the patience to guide me in the right direction. I knew I had something of value, even if it was buried beneath pages of unnecessary scenes and characters, and I just needed the right readers, who could see where I was taking the story, even if the draft they read wasn’t worth their time.
As luck would have it, I happened to stumble upon Hank and Roy’s services at Write To Reel out of pure chance, a mere passing exchange of courtesies from one writer to another on the Internet. At the time, I was tired of the usual back and forth style of getting my work read by someone who did not know their craft. For every one Hank or Roy, you get one hundred others who picked up a Syd Field book or read over one of The Bitter Script Reader’s entries and started calling themselves screenwriters, crucifying your work for no other reason than they don’t know how to actually give criticism.
And after enough conflicting notes, after you’ve been lectured by another fifteen-year-old who thinks you need to “add more chicks” into the mix (a note I have honestly received to spice up the “sex appeal”), the idea of jumping right back into that mess didn’t seem very appealing.
Thankfully, I took the time to visit Write To Reel, and immediately understood what Hank and Roy were attempting to accomplish. They wanted to understand the craft just as much as I did, yet they did it in such a simplistically brilliant way: they invited writers to showcase their work and, together, they would learn from each other. They’d dissect the writer’s techniques, praise their strengths, and warn of any missed stumbling blocks. The writer got great coverage, while Hank and Roy learned valuable lessons that they’d be able to apply themselves as writers.
I couldn’t have been more pleased with the notes I received from Hank; not because of the praise, but because he saw the scope of the story. He was able to look past the petty spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors that any writer makes and scrutinized my spec the way it needed to be. Even if he had hated the story, the characters, or all of it, I still would have been grateful for the service, because it was exactly what I needed at the time: unbiased, unfiltered truth. Naturally, we writers are self-conscious when it comes to our passion projects, but the truth needs to be told if anything is to come of it in the future.
Because of Hank’s excellent criticism, I was able to see my spec from an outsider’s perspective, and it made all of the difference. If you have reached that point yourself, where your beta readers aren’t enough anymore, and you need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your work, I would highly recommend Hank from Write To Reel. The in-depth look at your work will be an invaluable tool at your side as you continue to polish your craft.