Story Potential Assessment

I’m putting up this post to explain COVERAGE, my Story Potential Assessment service and Fundamentals Consulting. (Not the usual writing advice post, however, if you’re not familiar with coverage, or have a story you’re planning to put into production, you might want to read on.)


Standard Coverage

In the screen writing industry, screenplays often get put through a review called “Coverage.”

In a nutshell, coverage is a summary and analysis of the script. It points out the script’s shortcomings (and highlighting the strengths),  while also providing a quick, pass/fail score across a host of standard key script elements. The scoring allows a nigh instant assessment of the scripts viability.

* Production companies rely on coverage to figure out which scripts are worth acquiring, or as one of the first precursors to getting a script into shape for future production.

* Individual writers also get coverage on their scripts. The feedback acts as a core editorial review: bringing to light areas of the script that need help, instilling confidence where the writer does well, and also providing realistic insight into the commercial viability of the work.

I provide coverage all the time for folks.

Not just for screenplays, but for any type of script (it’s just as valuable for a comic or novel than a screenplay, though novel coverage comes at a premium due to the size.)

Good coverage always has value to the writer looking to produce their best work, but standard coverage has some weak points…

Problems with Coverage

First and foremost, coverage is only as good as the person providing it.

I speak more to this point in my beta-reader article which shares the same concept when it comes to beta-reader feedback. If the person is not specialized in your genre, their feedback will have less value… potentially no-value, or in a worst-case scenario, the person not experienced in your genre could send you in the completely wrong direction.

The person providing the coverage may also have a bias.

It takes a high-level professional to set aside all their personal passions, prejudices, and opinions to look at a script under a completely impartial lens. Politics are the low-hanging fruit example. Imagine the political aligned thriller script that clearly glorifies one side and demonizes the other… now imagine, the person providing coverage is a lifelong Democrat… or a lifelong Republican.

As I say, it takes a special breed of editor/reader to completely sever their personal experiences with the world during the time they review someone else’s view of the world. Most folks can’t do it well.

The idea of different people providing different analysis of the same material underscores the point; if you don’t actually know the person giving you advice, how do you know how to take their advice? What if the person providing you coverage has been a cheesy romance writer for 30 years… and you send them your alien horror script?

In the writing world, editorial critique is one of the tools we use… and the wrong advice is literally, using the wrong tool for the job. Like trying to hammer in a nail with a screwdriver.

I actually reached out to one of the major service providers of screenplay coverage, I don’t want to throw that company under the bus, so I won’t mention them by name. Anyway, I asked them this latter question. Their response was basically, “Hey, all our coverage providers are experienced professionals AND they choose which scripts they cover.”

That’s great, but when I asked if there was any kind of vetting process on their end, they clearly and honestly, responded, “NO.”

So in other words, that 30 year romance writer could indeed be hard up for money and simply take on the alien horror script. Good for them… not so good for you.

I’m not saying you have to intimately know your editor to get results… though, that certainly wouldn’t hurt.

What I’m saying is, when you don’t know ANYTHING about the person critiquing your work, it puts you at severe disadvantage.

For the new folks to this site, I’ve been writing a long time and consider myself a particularly versatile writer, just look at my body of work;

King Arthur prequel, Feudal Japan samurai fiction, Cyberpunk, and my current novel WIP, hardboiled 40’s detective Cthulu horror. I’ll also throw in all the work I did in Victorian Era London on the Sherlock Mysteries game series (over 100,000 words in total).

For my full wheelhouse, be sure to read my bio. 

Now where was I? Right, problems with Coverage…

Second, the simplified pass/fail scoring of standard coverage, is really… abstract.

When you get standard coverage, and it says, your dialogue, storyline, and characters are all a “fail,” the meaning is pretty clear, you’ve got a stinker, something that really needs to be reworked… but really, beyond that, the score itself doesn’t tell you much of anything.

It’s not much different than someone reading your script and just shaking their head, “Sorry, mate. This is no good.”

Well that doesn’t help.

This simplified abstract coverage scoring can create confusing, less-than-helpful situations, especially for the newer writer.

  • Imagine a coverage score that is kind of, half-and-half… half your elements fail and half your elements are good.
    Well, now what?
    What exactly does that mean for your story?
    Sure actual feedback brings the soft points to light, but the actual scoring is neither here, nor there.
    Is my script with failed dialogue but a good concept, good to go? Does it just need tweaking, or a bones up rewrite?
  • What about when the coverage comes back, scored with fails in areas you knew you went off and did something unorthodox or highly stylized.
    Let’s say you filled your script with some intense Elmore Leonard type dialogue. It comes back with the dialogue flagged as fail, as you expected it would… but again, now what?
    Does that mean the dialogue is really bad. Or did it do exactly what you set out to accomplish with it?

The simple scoring of standard coverage doesn’t really give you actionable insight. 

Imagine taking your car to a mechanic for tune up and he comes back and says, “Oh man, you’ve got some serious engine trouble. Your engine’s a “fail,” I probably wouldn’t drive it if I was you.”

Wait, what!

How could you possibly leave his shop with that advice? How would you know what actual actions to take?

You couldn’t. And you wouldn’t.

Luckily, there’s a better way! 


Mac’s Story Potential Assessment

Dishing out countless coverage over the years, I saw first-hand that the abstract simplified scoring system didn’t really help the individual writer.

The scoring helps the production companies turn over high volumes of scripts without concern if the feedback actually helps the writer or not.

Somewhere over the decades I’ve been writing and editing, I realized there was a more effective way for the writer. It’s what I call a Story Potential Assessment.

No one else takes this approach, by the way.

In essence, my Story Potential Assessment covers all the same bases as standard coverage, but instead of giving you a quick pass fail score, it focuses on assessing how much potential your story actively taps.

If you’ve been following this site for a while, you know I’m always barking about story potential.

Nearly every story has a winner inside it… it’s all about digging it out.

And here’s why the Story Potential Assessment is crazy useful…
It delivers a 1-100% score on how much story potential the script actually taps.

The number is actionable, because the percentage directly represents how much potential you’re leaving on the table.

If you score a 50%, that means you’re missing a whopping 50% of your story’s full potential.

Or in that instance, you’re really only half done! 

Likewise, if you score a 90%, you immediately know your script is in really good shape. No matter what the coverage details reveal, you instantly know, you’re in a stage of final tweaks and polish.

Industry standard coverage tells this or that isn’t working… but it doesn’t tell you by how much it’s not working. My story potential assessment does.

Let’s jump back to our car mechanic scenario for a second. So you take your car to a mechanic for tune up and this time he comes back and says, “Oh man, you’ve got some serious engine trouble. It’s only running at 80% of what it should.” Well, 20% off ain’t that bad. You now have a basis to make some decisions about driving it. Just as if he came back and said, man it’s only running 30% of what is should. 70% off its best performance, that’s a dire situation! Knowing your car is running at 80% or 30% what it should, makes a difference on how you respond. And that’s the difference between standard coverage and my Story Potential Assessment.

I base my Story Potential Assessment score on a number of specific narrative factors.

The elements I’ve spent the last 10 years discussing on this website (and

I’m not going to list them here, because I don’t want folks to rush out and try and cram new elements into their script just before a script review (which believe it or not, folks love to do, making a hot mess of everything).

Your work should be reviewed as you’ve honestly developed and organically wrote it. 

If you’ve followed this website for a while, or read my books and stuffed all the fundamental narrative elements into your story, great, you’ll be ahead of the curve. If not, the Story Potential Assessment will only be that much more relevant for you.

Of course, once you get a Story Potential Assessment it’ll tell you what areas you’re taking a hit in and what areas you’re excelling in. Making the overall percentage score, even more accurate and useful.

Ultimately, when you get any editorial feedback, YOU, no one else but you, has to make the call on how much more time you’re going to spend and where you’re going to spend it revising the script.

A percentage score based on your story potential, is in my many years of writing, the most useful and effective way for you to make that judgement call. 


Fundamentals Consulting

Along with the Coverage and Story Potential Assessment I offer on the homepage, I also include story fundamentals consulting. These three services all fall under the same pricepoint.

It’s not uncommon, when a writer gets feedback in a specific area, that they still have trouble understanding, or fixing the issue on their own. It’s here, some time clocked in consulting on the story’s fundamentals acts as a real lifeline.

The writer doesn’t just overcome the narrative issue they’ve been struggling with, but hits that element for maximum potential.

Quick example, a common one is the main character arc. Even when coverage says, “Hey this MC arc is falling flat. The progression’s off and it does’t tie with the other required core beats…” The writer doesn’t know how to resolve this issues efficiently. They’ll often improve on their own, but unable to really see the forest for the trees, they can’t get all the narrative ducks in a row without a little outside help.

*Don’t get me wrong. Some writers get coverage or a potential assessment, then set off to the races on their own. With little or no additional feedback from me. It really depends on the specific issues of the narrative and their own comfort and skill level for tackling what’s been brought to light.

Fundamental consulting can also take place without coverage or a Story Potential Assessment being performed.

This is typically the case if a writer struggles with a specific narrative obstacle.

I’ve had writers contact me with the entire host of problems, from the generic and completely unknown, “Hey Nick, something’s not working in this script, but I can’t put my finger on it,” to the particularly specific, “My subplot with this and that character feels hollow and drags, but I can’t figure out how to fix it.”

Basically, you can start with consulting when you’ve already identified something not working… OR, you can start with Coverage or the Story Potential Assessment, to identify what’s not working and go from there.

Even for the Experienced Writer

Successful writers don’t like to broadcast it, but I help plenty of them.

Even if you’re pro level, getting another set of eyes to help you assess your story potential only serves  to further elevate the quality of your work.

The trick with getting the most out of any kind of initial review when you’re an experienced writer, is working with someone who specializes in your genre(s). Working with a real expert brings a one-two knockout combo of “personal taste and professional know-how.”

About the Author —
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Newcomer or veteran writer, if you’re working on a project that needs commercial success, Nick urges to you read this intro article.

Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, Amazon, and in select stores around the U.S.