I was going to post this in the comments section of the original article, but I don’t want those bitter dweebs all over my blog. Now before we all start reading, this isn’t directed at anyone in particular (ducky, I’m looking at you because I can hear the howls of righteous indignation already). It dovetails nicely with a post by John Scalzi in which he said the same thing:
1. I’m really flattered that you would think of asking me to critique your work and would trust me to give you valuable feedback. Thank you.
He then goes on to list the reasons why, which is far more generous that I would be.
Josh Olson has now posted something similar for screenwriting and I have to say, I couldn’t agree more.
Some salient points snipped from Josh Olson’s blog piece in The Village Voice :
I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script
And this is why I will not read your fucking script.
It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you’re in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you’re dealing with someone who can’t.
(By the way, here’s a simple way to find out if you’re a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you’re not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)
Which brings us to an ugly truth about many aspiring screenwriters: They think that screenwriting doesn’t actually require the ability to write, just the ability to come up with a cool story that would make a cool movie. Screenwriting is widely regarded as the easiest way to break into the movie business, because it doesn’t require any kind of training, skill or equipment. Everybody can write, right? And because they believe that, they don’t regard working screenwriters with any kind of real respect. They will hand you a piece of inept writing without a second thought, because you do not have to be a writer to be a screenwriter.
(MontiLee says: this applies to aspiring novelists as well. I can read it in the e-mails they send me – if you can’t proofread your e-mail (which generally has a built-in spellcheck), I hold out no hope for your novel/short story/manifesto)
He was frustrated by the responses he’d gotten from friends, because he felt they were going easy on him, and he wanted real criticism. They never do, of course. What they want is a few tough notes to give the illusion of honesty, and then some pats on the head. What they want–always–is encouragement, even when they shouldn’t get any.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to tell someone they’ve spent a year wasting their time? Do you know how much blood and sweat goes into that criticism? Because you want to tell the truth, but you want to make absolutely certain that it comes across honestly and without cruelty. I did more rewrites on that fucking e-mail than I did on my last three studio projects.
You are not owed a read from a professional, even if you think you have an in, and even if you think it’s not a huge imposition. It’s not your choice to make. This needs to be clear–when you ask a professional for their take on your material, you’re not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, you’re asking them to give you–gratis–the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different from asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours.
My comments had I posted them there, but I don’t want those people knowing where I play.
Look at all the bitter, failed writers.
You know who read my first screenplay — friends I trusted, not even friends and not a professional.
When a friend and I turned it into a novel, between other things getting published and fretting over who to send it to, trusted friends read it for insight. Then it was given to agents and publishers for a professional opinion, because in the end, that’s whose opinion counts.
I don’t do read/reviews for other people either. A- it’s not ever ready for a professional set of eyes (really, it’s not), and B – regardless of how couched my opinion of it might be, it’ll be perceived as jealous, or “afraid” of competition from a new writer, or ultimately — and this is the part that pisses me off the most — I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Damned if I do. Damned if I don’t, so I save myself the trouble, and I don’t.
Seriously folks, get a grip.
I don’t care that it makes me sound like a bitch that can’t be bothered with the petty ramblings of lesser beings. When you look through all of the comments of that piece you’ll notice a thread running through the dissent – people wondering who read Josh Olsen’s first script that made him the professional screenwriter he is now.
It is generally assumed that writers make it big because they *know* someone, that they got a leg up in the business and it’s not the writer’s turn to extend that hand to the next generation. Basically, you’re asking me to take everything I’ve learned over the last 20 years and just give it to you, and all you have to do is soak in my wisdom. I’m sorry, learning is the only way you’ll learn. Style, story, voice, plot, structure – they take time and practice and rejections from all sorts of agents, publishers and editors. It takes reading and classes and notebooks and writing.
It takes a thick skin to do what I do. I don’t do it for the masses. I write about vore and infanticide and boiling cats. I get rejections from editors who think there isn’t enough sex or too many words. Not everyone loves it, most people think I’m sick. I’m surprisingly okay with that. I’ve been getting rejections since 1990 and everyone is a badge of honor. I learned from each one (slowly) and it made my writing better.
No one like to be told that what they’ve poured their heart and soul into just isn’t that good and I’m not the one to tell them. You want an opinion – join a writer’s group. Read others’ works and critique. Participate in discussion about writing and words. You’ll learn the way all great writers learn – by doing.
Please save us both some embarrassment and don’t ask.