Hee hee heee…..yeah. Reviews.
Where do I start?
It’s a weird and wonderful thing, having strangers review your book and all.
I mean, I started off basically only writing stories for myself. Every once and a while, I’d show one or both of my older brothers, or a friend here and there. And I think there was that one creative writing class where we’d workshop each other’s short stories, but having strangers review your first novel? Experiencing that for the first time is…how do I even describe that? Oh yeah like this: LAKWERIOUAWERLKEAFSKLDJFAJLWBERANWEBRAMNWEBRAWERAWEA and so on.
The funny thing is, and I think sometimes even a lot of readers forget this: us writers are readers too…like we started out as readers. So I started out looking at other authors dealing with reviews and going O_O pretty much with every other reader/reviewer out there. Like Anne Rice’s melt down, or all those YA Author – Goodreads incidents a couple of years back. As a reader, I was observing all the incidents from the outside so to speak. But now I’m one of the few people who gets to cross that line over to the author side and experience things for myself. So, given my new position (as an author as well as a reader) what are my thoughts on the getting bad reviews thing?
My feelings about reviews have definitely evolved throughout the years. Heck, in the past month that my book has been available on netgalley, my whole outlook changed from:
Yay! First Bad Review! I’ve made it as an author!
(thumbs up if you like my gifs of when Supernatural was actually a good show)
until I was basically like
quick tip only SHINee will make it better
Around the time the post-Twilight YA boom started and all those Goodreads-Author kerfuffles started becoming a hot topic in the YA blogosphere, I was pretty much on the side of ‘wtf are these authors doing STOP TYPING STOP TYPING NOW.’
Well, I still am. But now as an author, at least I kind of understand where the sadness and frustration comes from. This is my book! I love it! I wrote it! I stand by it! And – what? You…you…HATE it? Like, you didn’t even finish it! You want to bury/burn/throw it off a cliff…I….I………*sobs*
It’s hard, and it can be completely crushing to one’s self-confidence (especially if you already struggle with that sort of thing) when those first stream of bad reviews come in. Especially when the negative reviews get creative in expressing just how much they think your book sucks. There was a time when after reading one too many of them, I started to actually regret ever telling my family that I got published in the first place. Because omg my mom was so happy when I told her I’d finally gotten something published and she’s telling her friends…and if she sees this girl trash my book online SHE’LL be crushed and that’ll make me EVEN MORE crushed 🙁
Like you start to feel ashamed almost…of your work and yourself.
But you can’t! Seriously? Don’t feel ashamed of your work or yourself, ever. Certainly not over a review.
It’s normal. Feeling depressed because of a bad review is TOTALLY normal, as normal as it is to get those bad reviews in the first place. And authors react differently to the same situations.
Some authors lash out at the reviewers, getting all up in their goodreads review space and challenging them, creating entire websites to shame them – which is a huge mistake, because not only is it a huge PR error, it’s immature, silly and borderline abusive (and in some cases not even BORDERLINE). I mean hell, reading is subjective. It’s supposed to be subjective. Different people will interpret and respond to the same book differently. And sometimes, as an author? There’s stuff you can get from those reviews. Like things you can do better for next time. It’s not the end of the world and bullying a bunch of readers for expressing their opinions isn’t going to help or change things.
Some authors, though take it out on themselves. They direct all that anger, sadness and shame inwards. That’s what I tend to do. You beat yourself up, start to lose confidence, get depressed, regret and rethink everything. And when I go into Eyore mode, it’s hard to really focus on writing anything new, which is the worst of it.
But eventually, you’ll get through it. You have to. That’s my advice, I guess. That’s what I learned. Let yourself feel whatever you need to feel and just get through it. Don’t let yourself settle into that ‘I have no right to be a writer my dreams are invalid’ mindset, because you do and they are certainly NOT (invalid – sorry double negative). And buck up! Because where there are negative reviews, there are positive reviews. The negative reviews can help you figure out some stuff you need to work on. The positive reviews can cue you into your strengths. Both teach you that inevitably, different people will respond differently to what they read (ie: some people love the magical realism-style world building of FEATHER BOUND whereas other people say there’s no world building at all – different strokes lol).
And eventually? You’ll start to see more and more good reviews and some that honestly just make your heart grow three sizes.
The important thing: don’t let reviews destroy you or make you feel ashamed of your achievements. Believe in your ability, but be humble enough to always strive for improvement. That’s what I tell myself anyway. Respect others’ opinions, keep writing, keep writing and don’t give up. Seriously. Because think of how many stories you’ll be depriving the world if you do 🙂
Oh yes and a quick announcement: an extract of FEATHER BOUND is now up on the Strange Chemistry website. I tried to also upload it to my blog, but WordPress is really weird with me using html to embed stuff (ie it WON’T LET ME) so definitely follow the link for the extract. For those who haven’t gotten a chance to read FEATHER BOUND yet, take a look and tell me what you think!