I got my first bad review this week. Worst part was having to apply to my life all the encouraging things I have said to writer friends in the past. Eventually, all that sunk in and I thought: someone was moved enough by my storytelling to write a review! Yes, I was not ignored and that’s a great thing. Although, for a writer, dealing with the negative is tough and you have to work through
The review was harsh, harsh enough to feel like a critique of me rather than just a critique of my writing. The reviewer stated errors that she found and the slip she found in punctuation was probably accurate. The two other “errors” she stated were a metaphor that didn’t work for her and a literary device she didn’t like. She complained that my heroine did not behave as a well bred woman of the early 1900s would. While this might be true, my heroine’s secret has to do with not having spent all of her life as a proper Victorian lady. The reviewer also asserted that my research on Galveston was so flawed, that I should never have written about her island.
She didn’t realize it is my island, too, and I have studied the history probably more than she did. Part of that research showed that language people used was not terribly different than what we use today.
I was okay after reading the review, but I then I woke in the night, worried that everyone would pay attention to that review and none of the good ones. I calmed myself with the knowledge this was the only bad one, but then I thought how some of the good reviews were my friends and maybe people could tell that.
To work through this, I looked up books I enjoyed and looked at the Amazon reviews. My goodness! There are some nasty people out there reviewing books. I could almost see the point—almost--when people pay $25 for a hardcover book, but many of these reviews were people who got the book for free. What kind of expectations do people have for a free book? I think the answer to that is in another question: What kind of people take the time to write something unpleasant? People who are happy when complaining.
So, by giving them something to complain about, the writer has made them happy.
Yes, I’ve made people happy, so keep those bad reviews coming (but I sure hope the good ones keep coming, too).
So as a writer when you get a bad review:
· Be objective—sort through the analysis and see if there are any grains you can glean to make your story better. Anything else, disregard.
· Know the reviewer wasn’t objective—someone who takes the time to snark about you to the public isn’t someone you should let have an effect on your life beyond punctuation
· Realize the reviewer may just not like your writing—don’t try to win them over; people who don’t like your work just aren’t worth your time. Work on finding all the people who will like your stuff because they are out there.
· Keep writing—while something like this is discouraging, don’t worry that people will
· Remember why you write—chances are, you wanted to have an effect on people, maybe even help them. Letting someone vent their spleen at your story rather than at their spouse, well, that feel awful, but is good.
I’m the author of the Hurricane Mystery Series, ECHOES OF THE STORM and BRIDES OF THE STORM, set in Galveston, right after the 1900 Hurricane, as well as the military thriller, SHADOW OF TWILIGHT. When I’m not writing, I’m working with my husband and daughters to restore our Victorian house in Galveston. While some people have waiters in fine restaurants greet them by name, we are known to the guys at the Salvage Yards.