A year and a half ago, a female screenwriter friend and I met for lunch. As we checked in on each others’ progress on creative projects, we found ourselves wishing for additional support. Both of us were well passed the “beginner” stage of learning the craft and industry ropes. We wanted to learn from other writers, and put DC talent more firmly on the entertainment radar. But how?
We walked away from the meeting with the idea for a small writers group of DMV-based female screenwriters. We envisioned meeting once or twice a month, doing table reads, and sharing pages for comments. My cofounder and I put a call out to writers we knew whose work was diverse, enthralling and unique; who seemed serious about their growth; and who were eager to collaborate to lift each other up. Now we have a thriving crew of devoted, resilient women who upped the ante on their craft; share tools, news, resources and recommendations; and review each other’s work with detailed coverage and development notes.
We call ourselves The Capitol Screenwriters Network (CSN), and together we have created something invaluable: a supportive place for sharpening skills and receiving feedback. We show up, no matter what state our lives or creative self-worth are in, and offer each other accountability and encouragement in equal measure. Every writer in the group has a different screenwriting strength and a different industry insight, which means work we vet together is stronger.
Being open to the insightful notes and poignant questions from my fellow CSN members took my Revisionist script to the next level- the level where contests and financiers took notice. The more scripts I read and marked up, the more I became a “clean” writer, where action lines are efficient and dialogue sings. And the more pages I sent them to review, the more practice I got taking criticism and feedback with grace. Sure, sometimes my feelings were a little wounded… but snacks, bubbly and cozy meeting spaces definitely help!
But good conversation and company aside, trust is essential for a good writers’ group. Only share your work if you get a sense of trust and credibility (and in most cases, an NDA– but that’s a different blog post). You deserve good notes so if the feedback isn’t helpful, it’s time to get out.
Film and television are collaborative art forms– and that starts with what’s on the page. There’s only so much you can perceive and fix on your own.
I highly recommend having at least one fellow writer to exchange feedback and resources with, but several is optimal. Be careful– there are definitely “idea vampires” out there eager to feed off your brilliance and insecure souls who may distract you from your own work to “assist” them with theirs. But if you can find your tribe like I did with CSN, you’ll see your work truly begin to shine.
Check back to learn more about responding to feedback from bigwigs and business partners in bringing a film to fruition.