Caution: reading reviews can be hazardous to your writing

I  thought rejection letters were harsh. I’m learning that bad reviews are downright lethal.

A while ago I wrote about the encouraging power of positive feedback. Today, I want to talk about negative feedback. Not the constructive criticism writers need in order to improve, but the kind of internet critique that often starts something like, “Aaarghhh, don’t buy this book!” and goes on with a litany of reasons ranging from silly plot, bad writing, shallow characters, or unbelievable story.  Surely, if it were that bad, no publishing house would have spent a dime putting it out there!

If I were more seasoned, I might fare better, but I confess that these heartless lambastes of my hard work have me wanting to crawl away and hide, or at the very least apologize to my readers for causing such pain and suffering.  But I’m not seasoned. I’m an insecure writer who reads each and every review obsessively. There. I’ve said it. And those terrible reviews sting like a son-of-a-gun poisonous scorpion.

You can tell me to suck it up; I’ve already tried that, and I didn’t listen to myself. You can tell me the naysayers don’t know what they’re talking about, or they’re just jealous or mean spirited, or ignorant. All that may be true, but it can’t eliminate their cruel words. What if they do know what they’re talking about? There is just enough truth in their observations to wound deeply. Maybe my characters are shallow, the story is trite, the romance is too sappy. All that may be true, but does it have to be said so freely, so…baldly?

I’m not so naïve to think that everyone is going to love everything I write. I don’t like every book, every movie, every work of art I’ve encountered either. But I certainly can, and do, appreciate that even a book or movie that is not to my taste has a creator who worked hard on it, with great hopes that it would be well received. And I cringe for them when I hear someone shred it to bits without mercy.

Tell me, armchair critic. Would you say to a friend, “Your meatloaf is so bad even pigs wouldn’t eat it?” I think not. But anonymity on the internet gives each reviewer a sense of power coupled with complete freedom to say whatever pops into the mind.

Which brings me to this point of seriously considering whether I have the ability to write, and more importantly, if I have the stomach to endure critiques like the ones I’ve read on the internet lately. I checked other authors on Amazon, and it was comforting to see that even best selling authors have to endure these too. So you could say I’m in good company. If  only you would.

So all you potential critics out there, next time you read a book that is not your cup of tea, don’t feel you must warn civilization that bad words are afoot. Before you whip off that blistering, but oh so satisfying critique, please stop to consider the person who put in the blood, sweat, and tears to create it. Remember the old saying–“If you can’t say anything nice, (or at least in a nicer way-my own addition) don’t say anything at all.” And if you can’t remember that one, try, “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

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One Response to Caution: reading reviews can be hazardous to your writing

  1. Gail Gammell says:

    Just remember the old saw that those who can, do; those who can’t, critique. Critiquing is far easier than creating…just sayin’. Don’t let them get you down! They don’t deserve that much power.

    Like

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