The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Joe Public

I never read my reviews, is something other people say. I don’t believe them. Everyone reads their reviews. It’s irresistible. It’s like not doing an impression of the James Bond titles in the mirror when you’ve put on a suit. It can’t be done.

But the trick is, like in the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling, so memorably paraphrased by Alan Partridge:

If you do X, Y and Z, then Bob’s Your Uncle

‘Meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same’. To take as much notice of the bad reviews as you do of the good reviews.

Which is a little bit of notice - but not too much.

On the one hand, reviews are useful. It’s important to know how things are going down. On the other hand... it’s too late to do anything about it. Whatever criticism you receive, you’re unlikely ever to put it into practice, unless you plan on writing something very similar all over again. A wise friend once said that writers should “seek out harsh criticism”. He was right, but I’d qualify that – while you’re doing the writing. Get colleagues, script editors, producers, to tear you first draft to pieces, and your second draft, and your third draft, until the deadline arrives and everyone has to give it up as a bad job. That sort of criticism is vital, incredibly helpful, because it'll help make you a better writer. Reviews... don’t so much.

The problem is, even when you’ve got a positive write-up... you’ll then read other reviews written by the same person and discover that they love things you think are dreadful and hate things you think are magnificent. So their praise becomes invalidated, as you discover, alas, that they are bonkers and have really bad taste.

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