Many writers, especially new and young writers eschew getting professional coverage in favor of getting notes from writers’ groups. Perhaps it’s the expense that they don’t like, figuring that they can get the same quality notes from a writers’ group that they can get from a professional reader at no cost to them. Personally I feel that is a misguided belief. There is nothing wrong at all with writers’ groups. Personally I’ve used them and I find them to be very valuable up to a point. I would never suggest to any writer that they stop going to writers’ groups, but it’s also incredibly important to have your screenplay evaluated by a professional reader if you want to take your script to the next level.
Here are three reasons to get professional coverage in conjunction with using a writers’ group.
The coverage includes a synopsis
Getting a 3-page synopsis included in your coverage is crucial to learning what is working in your story and what is not working. A reader needs to take a feature length screenplay of 90-120 pages and summarize the entire thing in 3 pages of prose. That means the synopsis of the story can only contain the most important details from the story, if the reader is writing studio-level coverage. When a reader writes coverage for a studio, it’s important that the synopsis be written as though painted with broad strokes. The reader needs to provide executives and producers with enough information that they can follow the story without getting bogged down by too many details. When you read the coverage that’s been provided to you by a reader that provides this type of synopsis, you are seeing what someone who is unfamiliar with the material deems to be worth mentioning after a first reading. If you put a sequence in the script that you feel is integral to the story, but the reader didn’t mention it in the synopsis, then the reader didn’t think it was as important as you do. That will give you an indication as to what might need to be adjusted in ensuing drafts. It also allows you to read your story as someone else would tell it, and that can give you an entirely fresh perspective on your own material. The closest thing you get to that in a writers’ group is other people reading your script while you listen. The various inflections in their voices and the way these people try to act can be valuable because they’re saying things in a way that may be different from how you heard it in your own head, but since they’re likely non-actors, it’s hard to get a true measurement on how the script plays. What you will not get is a full sense on how your work is being interpreted by people who are reading it for the first time.
Professional coverage provides in depth analysis from someone who knows what he/she is talking about.
Most coverage services are run by people who have been readers for studios and/or agencies. Many coverage services are run by people who have made their profession as writers. You can be confident when you submit your screenplay to a coverage service that a professional reader will be evaluating it and providing notes to you that will increase your chances of creating a script that can be bought, optioned or acquire representation. Your script is going to be read by someone who understands the ins and outs of dramatic structure and character development and can provide unbiased notes on how well or poorly these things are currently working in your script and how they can be improved. And since readers have worked in studios and agencies, they know what studio readers are looking for. They know what types of things in your script will get you a pass or a consider or even a recommend. Having a reader who has worked in those environments evaluate your script before you start shopping it around is invaluable in giving you insight in avoiding the pitfalls that stop most scripts at the first gate keeper (or Threshold Guardian). I’m not entirely discounting the value of having your script evaluated in a writers’ group. You’ll get a completely fresh perspective there and will certainly get ideas to improve your story. But it’s not likely that anyone in the group is a professional writer. It’s not likely that they’ve been a reader. If you have people like that in your writers’ group, then so much the better. But if you have a group that is filled with amateur writers, you’re unlikely to get the kind of advice and/or evaluation that can help you to get a “consider” from a studio or agency reader. Only a professional reader can provade that for you.
I alluded to this earlier, but it’s important to restate it. If you use a service, like Monument Script Services, your script will be read by someone who as read for multiple studios and production companies. You will receive notes that are exactly the same as the notes that would have been provided to a studio executive. It’s as close as you can get to seeing the inner workings of a studio without actually being there. It allows you to see why a studio reader would recommend that the studio pass on your script and give you an opportunity to fix it before you commit to submitting it. You will receive notes that will show you what it takes to write a screenplay that looks like it was written by a professional writer. There is nothing in a writers’ group that compares to that.
With these thoughts in mind, I suggest you look into having your script read by at least one service, but getting it read by two or three services would be even better. It can be expensive, so you might want to use one service, then write a new draft and send it to another service for the next round of notes. And continue to use writers’ groups as well. In fact, you should use a writers group first, and then write a new draft based on those notes, and then submit the script to a professional reader. It will ultimately make your script better, which means that it made you a better writer.
Click the link below to see how Monument Script Services can give you that type of professional evaluation.