Word Count 16: Script editing, giving feedback, Scriptnotes’ VFX deep dive

by Suw on August 30, 2022

Hi there,

Welcome to this week’s Word Count!

I’ve decided to shift this newsletter to a fortnightly schedule in the run up to the final Ada Lovelace Day (and if you like science and tech, get your free tickets here). Much as I love writing this newsletter, I need to make sure that I get everything done for ALD, focus a bit harder on finding a new job or some freelance work, and make more time for my own writing, which has certainly taken a back seat over the summer. I’ll go back to weekly once things have settled down a bit.

Suw’s News: I’m now a trained script editor!

Having tested negative for Covid last Tuesday, I was able to finish up the script editing for TV course with Yvonne Grace in person this weekend. And it was fabulous!

We had been given quite a bit of homework to do, which included editing a script written by a very successful TV writer, reading a Holby City script, and writing our own storylines for a fictitious ongoing drama. The first two were fascinating and hugely enjoyable, but the last I found quite hard, as I’m really not an ongoing drama kind of a person so my mind doesn’t automatically go to interpersonal conflict when I am thinking up stories.

It’s hard to summarise how much I’ve learnt as there was just so much to take in. I’m looking forward to applying it to my own writing. I need to go back to my fantasy TV series and not only rework the pilot, but plot out the story arcs for each character, think about how their relationships change from episode to episode, and make sure that I’ve got enough subtext in there to drive the plot. Indeed, if I had to choose one lesson to share, it’s that subtext – how your characters react emotionally – drives everything. It’s all about what people want, hate, love, fear… It’s all subtext.

I’m going to start putting feelers out for jobs as a script editor. It might not be easy to break in at my age, but I really enjoyed the script editing more than anything else, so it’s got to be worth a shot.

Tip-top tip: Giving feedback

A big part of script editing is finding a diplomatic way of giving feedback. We can all be sensitive to criticism of our work, but whilst gracefully receiving feedback is a core part of being a professional writer, it’s easier when that feedback is gracefully given. It is important to find a supportive and positive way to communicate feedback to a writer.

For example, it’s easier to ask questions rather than make negative statements. In the script we were given, there was a mother-daughter relationship that was quite paint-by-numbers, but rather than say “I found this relationship weak and unrealistic”, it’s better to say “I’d like to see more depth in this relationship. How long have they been at loggerheads? Is this a new development in the relationship or have they never seen eye-to-eye? Are there moments of warmth that could be expanded to give a sense that there’s more to their relationship than just arguments?”

When it comes to giving feedback, I think this infographic from Mary Robinette Kowal provides a great guide. It’s aimed at book authors and their beta readers, but it’s actually relevant to everyone, including script editors.

Stop, look, listen: Scriptnotes Ep 563 – VFX Deep Dive

Have you ever wondered about the process for turning script directions into the VFX (visual effects) you see? Then you need to listen to this episode of Scriptnotes!

If you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy, or you’re dreaming up anything that’s going to require VFX, then understanding how VFX artists translate what you’re writing on the page into what we see on the screen may well change how you write certain scenes. Even things like wounds, which we tend to think of as being done through practical effects, can wind up needing VFX, so it’s worth thinking hard about how we describe them, so that we make sure there’s enough information to guide VFX decisions.

Obligatory cat picture

Grabbity playing with some packing paperWe are still unpacking here and will be for months to come. But the cats are over the moon with all the packing paper. Both Grabbity (right) and Copurrnicus just love tearing into the stuff. It’s fabulous to see them so playful!

We’re also getting a new sofa today, which is extremely exciting as we’ve been sitting on a wingback chair and a camping chair for weeks (although they were a step up from the garden loungers!). I’m sure that the cats will also love having somewhere more comfortable to sleep.

Right, that’s it for this week! I’ll see you again in a fortnight (that’s in two weeks, for my American readers!).

All the best,


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