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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Not To React To Negative Reviews

Grow thicker skin. It’s such a cliche, but it's such a wise statement. We hear it often in the world of writers, but it also applies to the general public, especially those in the performing arts whose work is evaluated and judged rather publicly. The critiques come from objective sources, but the contents themselves can be subjective. It's very easy for someone to take them personally. 
When writers receive a negative feedback or review from their alpha/beta readers, agents, or book reviewers, they first need to take a step back to breathe. I have a good example of what happens when you don’t. A few months ago on Twitter, a mob scene and RT frenzy wall-papered everyone’s twitterfeed. It was a link to a blog where a nasty argument between a particular indie author and a famous book blogger was taking place. When I went over to the blog, I noticed hundreds of comments from people chiming in, including several from the author herself. 
The book reviewer, who shall remain nameless like the author, gave a short and honest review to this author’s latest book. I’ve read it, and so did the others. He gave it 2 or 3 stars out of 5, sighting that he had a difficult time trudging through all the grammar errors, missing punctuations, poor vocabulary, and awkward sentences. But he also said the premise and the plot was interesting. It was a perfectly reasonable review in everyone's opinion. And it was his right to rate it however he saw fit as a book blogger. I mean, we can agree that censorship is a bad thing, right? So why the fuss? 
The author came back and posted, yes, posted, her nasty remark on his blog claiming that he didn’t know what he was doing. She called him names using....not so nice language. Her petty comments were incoherent filled with numerous typos and grammatical errors just like the writing in her book. If her rants were any indication of her writing skills, it’s easy to see why she didn’t receive a rave review. But I digress. On that day, her reputation was ruined beyond repair, and no one will ever review or read her book.
That got me thinking. What makes a writer lose her sanity in a public forum? Was she so delusional that she believed the whole world would fall in love with her book? Who knows? I understand how one can feel about her own creation. I love my own writing, too. But some writers love their books so much that they start to think of them as their babies. How precious. You know what? Babies grow up. Then they will enter the real world, as adults, where they will be accepted or rejected just like everyone else. That’s life. Get my analogy here?
Let's go back to why I began to write this post. The proper etiquette toward alpha/beta readers. That's the title of a guest post I did for a friend and writer/musician Derek Flynn. In it, I included a short definition of alpha/beta readers those who are not familiar with the terms as well as how writers should behave when they receive critiques from anyone. Hop on over to his blog and read it. Follow him on Twitter too! 
Well, my conclusion in both posts. Suck it up. Do what grownups do. Thank the readers for their time and feedback. Remember. There’s no need to burn bridges or ruin your reputation over your hurt pride.

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6 comments:

  1. Great post. We should all take your advice to heart. It is very personal when someone critiques our work and the feedback is less than favorable, but it is also important to remember that just like in the real world, not everyone is going to like you. Negative feedback can be used in a positive way. I just had to accept that very thing not so long ago. I had a reader call my intro "boring". I wasn't happy about being called boring, and I still would argue that I am far from it, but at the same time, I had to re-evaluate the work. There is no such thing as perfect, and you can always make something better. Relationships included. Thanks for a great post. I look forward to checking back for more great advice.

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  2. With her typos and such, she was probably just your garden-variety internet troll. Moving on is the best option. She just doesn't matter when examining the big picture.

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  3. Great post, Sirra! We get so dang personal about our manuscripts, don't we? At the end of the day, people's opinions about our books because ultimately, they'll buy them, right? That is the eventual reason we write and want to be published, I would hope.

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  4. Excellent post, Sirra. I remember the incident you're referring to. I have to admit I was sympathetic to the author at first -- even though you NEVER respond to reviews -- but any sympathy I had went out the window very fast once she amped up the rant.

    While you can't please all of the people all of the time, what's the point of even trying to write if you're not going to use feedback to try and improve your skills? I think we all need to remember that we're supposed to be professionals, and when someone judges our work they're not judging us personally. If you can't grasp that, you need to find something else to do.

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  5. I once heard the advice that you respond to negative feedback by writing your feelings on a piece of paper, let it sit for a day, then burn it.

    But somebody who didn't know that probably hasn't read many craft books, so it wouldn't surprise me that her book got a 2 star review.

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  6. I know who you're talking about and it's really really sad. Personally, I think nothing wrong with thinking of your book as being your baby, I do that too, but then I know that others might find my baby ugly. Fine by me. The reaction was more a case of: I can't take honest criticism. But that's part of the job, which means you better go and get a thicker skin. :-)

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