A scathing review…. what now?

Imagine you are pregnant. You have morning sickness every hour of the day. You endure a tortuous, flesh rending delivery without the aid of an epidural and finally, that baby is out. The doctor takes a long look at your bundle of joy and says, “Ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.” Now imagine, if you will, your fiction novel. You work and slave and swoon and sweat over that thing. You polish it like mad. It goes out into the world and then…it’s review time!
Oh boy. Book reviews are both the boon and burden of writers. What do we do with great reviews? Plaster them everywhere, of course. The bad ones? Never mention them again. Over twelve years and fourteen novels, I’ve gotten both praise and punishment via the review route. Love the plot, love the characters from one reviewer. The worst book ever and the woman has no business within yards of a keyboard, says another (with accompanying all caps and multiple exclamation points.) Ouch.
Jodi Picoult, a New York Time bestselling author of dozens of novels, had this to say about those less than stellar reviews in an interview with Jason Pinter. “We’re all human and when I read something negative it hurts. I think when you write it’s part of the game, you’re going to get some good reviews and some bad reviews and that’s how it goes. I don’t write for the reviews. I write and if I give it my all then that’s really the best that I can do.”
Ray Bradbury had his own insight. He believed writing entailed learning how, “to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”

sad face
So that’s that. The business of writing means putting your tender newborn out for all the world to see and with that, taking the compliments as well as the criticisms. All right then, I will resolve to accept with grace and dignity even those reviews which indicate my precious novel is the ugliest thing ever created. Just one request to those angry reviewers…please don’t use all caps and really, one exclamation point is plenty!

What do you do as a writer when you get a bad review? How about the workplace, school or home? How do you handle criticism? Post a comment to enter the January drawing for a $25.00 Amazon gift card and a signed book.



3 responses to this post.

  1. Bad reviews, for lack of a better description, make me sad. Especially when the reviewer only talks about the bad and leaves out the good entirely. When I provide critique, I always make sure to start with what I like. This is obviously something that the creator has worked very hard on, after all — don’t they deserve at least some praise? And then I get into the stuff I didn’t like. But when someone just heaps on the negativity … it makes me sad. I get over it after a while, of course, but it still stings.



  2. I hate it. But honestly, I like it more than those who have said nothing. At least I can learn from it, gain some perspective. In the end I try to remember what I can do better and then start cleaning up the mess I made in my angst.



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