Friday, July 9, 2010

Handling Reviews

One of the potential ordeals all writers face is handling reviews. I describe it in this fashion because review vary widely; they can be full of praise and easy to swallow or full of criticism and much harder to get down.

I admit I'm not good at this taking criticism. In fact, I was torn recently when I asked about getting my novel reviewed. For a split second I panicked and a twinge of fear made me worry about what people would think of my work. This is important for the new writer who has no reputation yet. Any bad word could scuttle a promising writer before the ship is even launched or out of the harbor. In that way, new writers risk everything when their work is reviewed, not that they have much choice. Reviewers are necessary because they also generate buzz, which in this Web 2.0 world of ours, is the thing new writers need. You have to hope the buzz is good. If not, then it is a learning experience for next time.

My own pang of fear was short-lived. My novel is as good as I can make it. So it must leave the nest and start its life in the real world. But I digress. The point here is not about handling rejection, that will be another post mostly likely, but handling reviews.

But let me clear, I'm not talking about feedback on a draft of a story; I'm talking about a review of finished/published work. I recently got reviews from folks on a short story I completed. The reviews ranged from "very good, but..." to the very terse "it ends badly". Other comments clearly showed the reader missed key points either because they read too fast or perhaps I was vague. When only one person misses the point, I assume the former, they read too fast. If I was vague, other people would've commented on it.

What I really want to see is reviewers adopt the rules for critique posted at This is a very good web site focused on critiques and have rules on how to give a good one. More people should really follow these rules.

The other thing to remember is a review is an opinion. Since writing is subjective, just because reviewer A does not like your story or novel does not mean it is bad work. You can still find an audience for it. On the other hand if reviewer A through J don't like it then maybe something is wrong after all. This more likely true in self-published work because on something published by a small press an editor will have gone over it and the publisher won't even buy it unless it is a solid piece of work. But even if you have sold some of your work you will still get the snot-nosed-know-it-all who thinks their view is king to rag on your story or book.

I have a nephew like this. He thinks every thought of his is great and has never been thought of before in the 6000 years of recorded human history. My only response to this is: "Wrong! And before you open your mouth again, please do some extensive reading in the fantasy genre so you know what is good and what is bad. Maybe then your opinion will be credible and have some substance to them."

Aside from all this, I recommend you take reviews, both good and bad, in stride. Comments on your work are just that comments on your work, not you. Can a bad review affect sales of your book? Sure. But you'll write a better one next time. So don't let a bad review get you down.

Just dust yourself off and get writing on the next story. Show everyone you can do better with your next story.

No comments: