My wife and I have been watching American Idol as it enters this season (sidebar: Steven Tyler is damn entertaining when they can play with his footage in the editing room... but I cannot WAIT to see what happens when you put this duck on live TV with an open mic. Unfortunately anything REALLY good will probably be chopped out by the time the West Coast broadcast begins) and I always empathize with the Idol judges. When you consider the relative quality of what I read, and the relative quality of what the judges contend with, our jobs are very similar.
It also makes me very glad that my coverage is often anonymous, and that I don't have to deliver it face-to-face to the writers in question. There have been situations where I have dealt with the writers through an intermediary, and often, it reinforces my decision not to make myself available to writers.
You know those moments on Idol where someone comes into the audition room talking up their own talents? Then they proceed to butcher a classic song, perhaps rendering it unrecognizable... and yet they're shocked - SHOCKED - when the judges tell them it's not up to snuff. In fact, I've seen it start with the judges trying to let them down easy, let them go with some dignity and the clueless auditioner becomes combative, insults the judges personally and either stomps out or demands a second chance.
And I always wonder "What the FUCK did you think was going to happen?" First, let's leave aside the delusion of being the next Freddy Mercury, because that's a whole 'nother ball of neurosis. On what planet does insulting the people deciding to advance your career sound like a good idea?
More to the point, if someone gives you a bad review, does telling them to go fuck themselves really help you in the long run? In the case of a writer with a script, suppose I send you coverage that says, "Look, this needs some work... the concept is a bit derivative, I didn't feel like your character's motivation was very clear, and it was perhaps a little too slow."
Is your response:
1) Thanks for your time. I'll take your notes under advisement.
2) Well, I'm disappointed, but if it's not your thing, I can't really change that.
3) Fuck you! You clearly didn't read it! The character is scared of water - that's his motivation! Didn't you notice he turned down water in every scene, declined the invitation to go to the pool and was shown to prefer sponge baths! Do you know anything? I'm an AWESOME writer! You're just stuck in the Hollywood mold and you're just trying to keep writers like me out because you know we'll take all your jobs! Well if you knew anything about writing, you wouldn't be reading scripts for a living, asshole! Who are you to tell me what's good writing when you haven't sold anything either? Anyway, I've already deleted your coverage from my computer and shredded the hard copy (after I used it to wipe my ass) so you can suck my dick, you no-talent asshole!
Now, there's a subtle difference among those three, but two of those replies might keep the door open for future submissions, while one of them only ensures that I will never, ever read anything from you again.
Here's the thing, manners aside, you can't argue people out of an opinion. This isn't like debating science or history, where there's an objective truth. If I say, "I didn't like it," you'll never convince me "Yes you did!" You're certainly welcome to ask questions, perhaps find out why my opinion doesn't match up with your perception. But if someone's taken the time to read your work, and you don't get the review you wanted, don't waste your breath fighting them. And if you ever degenerate into personal insults, don't expect them to ever call you back.
(Seriously, do you think that Brenda Hampton or the people at 90210 would ever hire me after the way I've slammed them... and compared to reactions I've seen first-time writers have to a bad review, I've been downright polite.)
So the first thing you should learn as a writer (yes, even before formatting) is how to be respectful when someone says, "I don't think it works."
2 weeks ago