What do script editors really mean?

What does a script editor really mean when she asks a writer to ‘dig deeper’? Caroline Young, tutor on our Story for Script Development course, reveals the truth behind script editor clichés – and what writers hear when they read ‘We’re so nearly there now.’

Being a script editor is a huge privilege – you get to help a writer make their work as good as possible and this isn’t something to take lightly. Most writers write from the heart and as a result put a lot of themselves onto the page and understandably hearing criticism can’t be easy.

What follows are a number of clichés that most script editors will be guilty of using at some point when giving notes to a writer. Sometimes they can help you out of an awkward moment by allowing you to say something vaguely constructive rather than just telling them that their script needs a lot of work. More often than not though, it’s better to try and avoid them and be as clear as possible. Script editing is a hugely collaborative process and it always works best when the writer and the editor completely understand what the other one is saying/meaning.

Here’s a humorous look at what can get lost in translation:

1 – Script Editor says: “You’ve given us a lot to work with.”

Script Editor means: “It’s an unholy mess, but there’s some semblance of a story.”

Writer hears: “Tear it up and start again.”

2 – Script Editor says: “We think it needs one last big push.”

Script Editor means: “I’ve got nothing left to give. Please, God, do your job.”

Writer hears: “Nail it in this draft or we’ll get you rewritten.”

3 – Script Editor says: “I especially loved the bit with the dog in scene 21.”

Script Editor means: “I especially loved the bit with the dog in scene 21.”

Writer hears: “This was literally the only thing I liked in your script.

4 – Script Editor says: “Could we dig a little deeper in the next draft?”

Script Editor means: “Could you write a little better in the next draft?”

Writer hears: “Make an effort, you lazy bastard.”

5 – Script Editor says: “This is just a suggestion. I’m sure you’ll think of something better.”

Script Editor means: “You’re being paid so much more than I am. I’m not doing your job for you.”

Writer hears: “I think you should write it exactly like this.”

6 – Script Editor says: “I wonder if this will read to an audience?”

Script Editor means: “I have no idea what you’re trying to do here.”

Writer hears: “Time to dumb down your intellectual vision for the lowest common denominator.”

7 – Script Editor says: “Feel free to ignore if you disagree.”

Script Editor means: “Take this note unless you want your script to suck.”

Writer hears: “Feel free to ignore if you disagree.”

8 – Script Editor says: “Some of the character voices are a bit off.”

Script Editor means: “Have you watched this show?”

Writer hears: “Time to bland out your dialogue.”

9 – Script Editor says: “We’re so nearly there now…”

Script Editor means: “Two more drafts should do it.”

Writer hears: “A couple of line tweaks should do it.”

10 – Script Editor says: “I’ve got a few scheduling notes. Nothing too bad.”

Script Editor means: “Please God, don’t throw your toys out of the pram at this stage.”

Writer hears: “Cancel your weekend plans. Time for a rewrite.”

Story for
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