The Circle of Trust - by Brian M Logan
Every writer has them. Every writer needs them. That trusted group of scribes, readers, family and friends who are the first eyes of the world on all their new work. They’re known by many names, these most trustworthy of fellows. ‘First Readers’, by some. ‘Pre-Readers’ by others. Mine are known as the ‘Circle of Trust’ (CoT). I say ‘mine’ like I have some claim of ownership over the group. Some Lordship from on-high. When in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth, because in my writing Circle of Trust I am as much a leader as a follower. As much a writer as a reader. As much an editor as a fan.
A writer’s Circle of Trust is composed of people from many different backgrounds. Below is a broad cross-section of the folks you’re more than likely to find amongst them:
1) Screenwriters (those who write for film and TV)
2) Novelists (those who write long form prose)
3) Playwrights / Dramatists (those who write for the stage)
4) Copywriters (those who write advertising copy, either in print or on-line)
5) Journalists (those who write for newspapers, magazines or on-line)
6) Poets (those who write poetry)
7) Song Writers / Lyricists (those who write the lyrics in popular songs, musical theatre, etc)
8) Editors / Sub-editors (those who professionally edit the writing of others, be it in novels, newspapers / magazines, or on-line)
9) Marketing, Communication and Brand Managers (those whose jobs requires them to help companies ‘communicate’ a message or brand with a B2B or B2C audience)
10) Artists (those who are creative in other fields aside from writing, such as painters, sculptors, dancers, actors, etc.)
11) Producers and Studio Execs (those who work professionally in the development of written material for film, TV and video games)
12) Crew (those who work behind the scenes in film, TV or stage, and have an active interest in the arts)
13) Publishers / Publishing Staff (those who work within the publishing industry)
14) Avid Readers / Movie Goers (those who love a good book or a good film, but aren’t professionally engaged in either industry)
15) Family and Friends (your nearest and dearest who support you through thick and thin)
I originated my writing Circle of Trust when I first signed with William Morris (Endeavor) in Hollywood. I contacted some friends (fellow writers, mostly) and asked them if they would critique my latest work before I *gulp* sent it to my new ‘Big 4 Agent’. (A scary proposition at the best of times!) I dubbed the group the ‘Circle of Trust’ - a name that was quickly adopted by everyone else in the group - and I even went so far as to draw up some loose editorial guidelines. Then I took it a step further and introduced person A to person B, and person B to person C, until eventually everybody in the Circle of Trust became friends with everybody else (some physically, some virtually). And soon, what had began as a simple way for me to get feedback on my work, quickly became an on-line writers’ forum where all the other writers in the group could get feedback on their work too.
There are about 12 people in my writing Circle of Trust. Folks tend to be busy though, so not everybody is available to give notes on every piece of writing that gets emailed around. Usually there are about 4-6 people free at any one time. Which is just about the right amount of eye-balls needed to spot the typos, and just about the right amount of opinions needed to work out whether the Colonel, in the pantry, with the candlestick, really works as a twist ending after all. Because, if 1 of the 6 people tells you they don’t like that twist, it’s personal taste, and you’re free to ignore the feedback. But if 5 out of the 6 people take issue with it, then maybe it’s time to re-think the Colonel’s weapon of choice, and get him the hell out of the pantry!
One of the many interesting things about getting notes back from a bunch of different people, is that each person will give notes in their own particular way. In my writing Circle of Trust there are some people who aren’t very focused on theme, tone, story, dialogue and voice. But by God they’re eagle-eyed and go through the work line by line and find all the typos and grammatical errors that you, after 200 reads, missed! That’s their process. Other people blithely ignore the more mundane errors, and drill down into the structure, or the plot, or the character development or the dialogue, etc. That’s their gift to you.
Another thing I instigated with my writing Circle of Trust, is that when all the notes on a particular piece of writing are back, they are cut’n pasted into a single document and sent around to all the folks who participated in the note-giving; thus allowing everyone to see what everyone else thought. This is something that often leads to people commenting on other people’s notes; which is fascinating if you’re the writer whose work they’re discussing!
I am fortunate enough to have a manager in Hollywood as well as an agent, and use the former to help develop my ideas, material, etc, because they’ve got their finger on the ‘pulse of the town’. But, to this day, I still utilise the Circle of Trust for notes before my manager or agent ever sees one of my ‘first drafts’ (which we all know are really 3rd drafts at least!). I do this because these people are my friends, and - whether they’re a writer themselves or not - I trust their opinions. I don’t always agree with the notes they give of course (individual taste in material varies wildly from person to person, and I write some pretty dark stuff), but I sleep well at night safe in the knowledge that 9 times out of 10, their opinions come from a place of love. And only a fool would dismiss advice that came from there without at least considering its merits.
Brian M Logan is an ex-professional film actor (6 features, co-starring in 3) turned screenwriter / novelist who is repped out of Hollywood by the William Morris Endeavor Agency and managed by Circle of Confusion.
As a writer he specializes in character-driven action, thriller, horror and science-fiction, all penned with a splash of ironic humour.
As a screenwriter he writes individually, and as part of a writing team with David J Sakmyster. As a novelist he writes individually, and as part of a writing team with Steven Savile.
Brian M Logan’s first book, ‘Monster Town’, co-written with Steven Savile, has just been set up at a major Hollywood studio, with the producer of ‘Clash of the Titans’ and the producer of ‘The Shield’ attached, and is being developed as a major new TV series in the vein of ‘True Blood’.
For more information on Brian M Logan, visit: www.thatactionguy.com and www.developmenthell.com