Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
“Praise and criticism seem to me to operate on the same level. If you get a great review, it’s really thrilling for about ten minutes. If you get a bad review, it’s really crushing for about ten minutes. Either way , you go on.” ~Anne Patchett
I am pleased to feature author Eric Trant in this Wow Women on Writing Blog Tour for his new book, Steps. We all know how important reviews are but what happens when we –inevitably–get less than positive ones? Eric offers some practical tips for writers on why we should not be bothered by the “bad reviews” and how these bad reviews can help us become better writers.
Bad Reviews: Why We Must Read Them and How to Survive
So you make your baby however it is you make your baby, and during your maiden cruise through the park, some guy slides his head into the stroller and laughs at your odd creation. He then ribs his partner and says something like what I list below.
What he says will label him as a particular type of reader, and, depending on his class, you can either take his advice and improve your skills (it’s the stone that sharpens the knife and dents the skull), or laugh and move along.
You should never get hot about it. Not everyone thinks your baby is cute, and frankly, maybe you made an ugly baby. I wrote five full-length, novel-sized monstrosities before I found my groove. No big deal. Learn from it. Write from a different position or something, but don’t let it unsettle your head and nerves. Certainly don’t let it discourage you from pursuing what I will assume is a lifelong goal, and for those of us in a committed relationship with writing, a do-or-die journey off a long pier into deep, dark, and dirty waters.
Below are some actual reviews for my 2013 novel, Wink.
(ed. note: Reviews are direct copies of the original text, and are not corrected for grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.)
I couldn’t even finish it, it became to ridiculous for words.
This is absolutely the worst book I have ever read. Do not waste time on downloading this waste! The only positive for me was that the book was free.
These are spitballs from the back of the room, snickers, coughs, and random hoots. Online we call them trolls, and I never feed the trolls. Still, you should read their comments, because sometimes you find a little diddy, such as a mention of boredom owing to a slow pace. Maybe the pace of your story really could use some tweaking. That’s when you poke through the other reviews to see if it is a common theme.
Too many characters. Could not relate.
I had a hard time connecting with the story at times just because Marty’s life was so strange that I couldn’t always comprehend it or wrap my mind around it.
This sort of criticism needs to be carefully reviewed, as it may hone your craft. This person took the time to read your book and post a thoughtful (even if crass) review. They may give you two or three stars and say nice things, such as calling you a talented and skilled writer. They are potential audience members, and while their review might not be good, it is not completely bad. Ferret out these reviews, and don’t let their gruff nature ruffle your feathers. Writers shouldn’t have feathers anyway. Feathers are for chickens.
Drugs, abuse, neglect etc. I would have given this more stars, but even though I know there are situations like this in the real world, I read to escape the real world. Yes, there is some supernatural stuff in this book, but the child abuse/neglect was too much for me.
It was too much like a fairy tale and science fiction together. I wasn’t into it.
Sometimes, people just don’t like your baby. There you go. If you want to make them fans, write something suiting their tastes. Otherwise, drift by with a wave and a farewell.
I can’t imagine why anyone would want to expose themselves themselves to this book. The fact that it is well written makes it worse, because you hate to put it down.
Spicy food does this to many of us. You begin with that first bite. Then another. You complain to the waiter the food is too hot, and she offers to bring out a fresh, unseasoned plate.
No, no, you say. This is fine. I’ll finish, even though I don’t like it.
You take another bite. Sip some water. You say to your dinner guest how horrible it is, offer them a bite. You pull the pin on another spoonful, slam it down your throat before it poofs in your gut with the rest of the shrapnel.
You rise after dinner, sated, buzzing, knowing you’ll pay for it later, but for some reason, you ate the whole thing. I mean, you ate the whole thing, because you just couldn’t stop.
You might be a subconscious fan. You liked it, but you can’t put your finger on why.
Now, for some general advice on reviews, you need to listen to what they ~don’t~ say.
Listen to what they ~don’t~ say.
This will be the most important thing you read. Notice in my bad reviews, nobody mentioned grammar, sentence structure, misspelling, or other basic elements. Nobody mentioned plot holes, unresolved questions, or thin characters. Nobody mentioned point-of-view, timelines, etc. Even as you sift through the murk, make note of what you ~don’t~ find. Celebrate these holes! I do. I worked hard to avoid such basic attacks.
In the end, it is about growing as a writer, rather than shrinking and shirking. If you approach all reviews like this, you will find that your bad reviews, even if they are hard to read, will become some of the most useful sharpening tools in your kit.
Genre: Fantasy Thriller
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (May 21, 2015)
Society is falling to a ravaging virus, and the Peacemaker family is stranded in the mountains of Arkansas. Forced to band with a group of deserted soldiers, they battle to survive starvation, apocalyptic cataclysms, and a growing number of dangerously infected wanderers.
As their dwindling number struggles against ever-increasing odds, they realize they are not alone in the wilderness. A large creature is present in the hills, at first seen only as a fleeting shadow.
Now the family not only faces impending death from the unstoppable virus, they must also deal with the mysterious giant, whose footprints signify that he knows where they are.
About the Author:
Eric W.Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Wink and Steps from WiDo Publishing, out now! See more of Eric’s work at
Thank you Eric for for sharing your perspectives on how to handle bad reviews of our “babies”. I also appreciate the examples you provide of specific reviews that helped you “fill in the holes”. The point I value the most is how bad reviews “can become some of your best sharpening tools in your kit.”
How about you? How do you feel about getting bad reviews?
We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below~
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