I recently sent off a script I wrote to someone I respect to get their opinion of it. I’m frankly nervous about hearing back from them.
A long time ago, I wrote about how awkward the business of getting feedback can be. That dynamic still is thorny. But let’s avoid that element of the conversation.
The risk you take in sending out your stuff for feedback—whether from a peer, a publisher, an agent or a professional—is that you get negative feedback. And after all these years I’m better at taking it, but still not very good.
I remember when I was about 25, I pitched a short story to Andy Lane, who was then editing one of Virgin Publishing’s Decalog collections. I sent a synopsis and a writing sample. Andy sent me back a thoughtful, constructive rejection note. It was my first real rejection letter as an adult. I did not take it well.
One thing I really remember was Andy taking my writing sample to task because my prose would switch from a third person narrative from one character’s point of view (which was the preferred house style of Virgin publishing at the time) to omniscient third person. “But there are multiple ways of doing narration!” I thundered to friends by e-mail afterward, “Why does it have to be that one way!?”
Flash-forward eight years or so. I’m working on the same short story to put into an anthology for Richard Salter. I’m working through the prose I wrote years ago and I have this sudden revelation.
“Holy fuck. Andy was right.” And he was. The narration was choppy and discordant and really should have stuck with third person from a single POV.
Ten years later, I was asked by someone to look at a short story they did. It was a good piece, but there were a few things missing, and the ending needed rethinking. I tried to send a thoughtful, constructive note, that praised what was good but pointed out what needed attention.
And somewhere along the line I realized: I was now Andy. It’s interesting how the world works.