Q: Does anyone have advice on how to communicate notes with a writer in a way that will encourage them to make the necessary edits?
First and foremost, it is important to understand every writer is different so learning your writer’s boundaries and personality traits is essential to the note-giving process. Some writers prefer a more blunt approach, while others require more nurturing. Use your initial meetings to take the time to get to know your writer and learn what approach is best for them. Having open communication from the start will benefit you greatly in the long run.
Writing is a very personal art form, so bear in mind a writer has spent more time with the script than anyone and deserves respect for that alone. To that end, anyone tasked with giving notes should also be well versed in the show. Notes that come from a knowledgeable place will garner more consideration than inquiries that are easily answered by reading the script.
One of the most effective ways to give notes is to pose your suggestions in the form of a question. This allows the writer to be engaged in the process and eliminates any feeling of being dictated to. Instead of feeling forced to find a solution, questions offer a chance for open dialogue and collaboration, which is key in theater-making.
Also, be aware of the volume of notes you are giving. Always start with the big notes first and work your way towards the minutiae. If you sense your writer is getting overwhelmed, you can always save some of your smaller notes for another work session. The important thing is to keep your writer inspired to continue the work. Overwhelming them with an overabundance of notes will only stifle productivity and create feelings of discouragement.
Lastly, only give notes that will make a show better- not different. Be careful that personal taste does not influence your critique. Sometimes writers giving notes to other writers fall victim to this problem. It can be difficult to differentiate between “if I was writing this story…” and wanting to improve a peer’s work. Remember it is your job to get the best work out of your fellow writer, not do the writing for them!
Though giving notes can be tricky, it is an integral part of the musical making process. Above all, remember that notes indicate you are on the road to production and should be a joyful part of the experience. Stay motivated and get your show to where you’ve always dreamed it would be!
PS. Need some more notes? Join the Theatermakers Studio and find your accountability partner now!