Thursday, February 14, 2013


No one likes being criticized.  Sure, we can all talk a big game about how mature we are and that we can handle it, but inside most of us is a little kid trying to get out, screaming for people to like us.  Unfortunately, given the world we live in, not everyone is going to think we're cute and cuddly.
(We can't even get everyone to agree that Maui is an awesome place)
Why did I bring this up?  Because being critiqued is as much a part of being a writer as breathing is a part of being human.  Some of those critiques will be from people who just didn't care for your story, and they'll be polite or offer suggestions as to what they thought would've made it a better book.  However, some will be downright nasty about it, questioning why you ever decided to pollute their air by breathing.

Review on websites like Amazon and Goodreads are our bread and butter.  Most, hopefully, will be good.  However, even Harry Potter gets the occasional one-star review, but JK Rowling doesn't stay up nights and weekends wondering why not everybody liked her.  Unfortunately, in this world of crystal egos, some writers simply can't let it go.  There have been some very catty fights on Amazon over the person who said something bad about a book.

This doesn't help the writer.  In fact, it makes the writer look insecure and immature.  Lots of writers won't even read their reviews, and even some actors are this way.  They know themselves well enough to know that if they did, they'd end up getting in fights that would do nothing for the betterment of their careers.  This is the path I'd suggest for most writers.

Yes, we'd all like to open up Amazon and see those glowing reviews where people compared us favorably with Mark Twain or Ray Bradbury, but most aren't ready to see the review from that one guy who calls himself "FineLineReader"...the guy who gave us one star and compared our work to reading the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper.  And human instinct is to log in and take that asshole to task.  When we do that, though, nothing good ever comes of it.  Although most people are smart enough to overlook one poor review or two, they're not going to take kindly to you trashing a reader, no matter how badly that person acted.  Nope, the reader is going to envision himself or herself not liking one of your stories some day and imagine you jumping into the ditch to sling mud.  Instead of risking that, they'll quietly abandon you, and you'll find yourself wondering why no one is buying your books anymore.

When you want critiques, stick with a critique group you know and respect.  At least you'll be prepared for what comes your way.  But stay away from reading online reviews since you're bound to find one or five that pull you down and tempt you to fight back.  In the end, the only thing you'll do is hurt your own career.


  1. A valid opinion - and one widely shared: stay away from your own reviews.

    And before that, if you can't handle the arguments, don't post controversial topics on your blog.

    True, but...

    Maybe a solution is a helper, someone who knows you and your writing, and is willing to read the reviews periodically - and let you know if there's anything you NEED to know. (And maybe periodically pass on notes from your most rabid fans? Writers need more feedback than just sales figures.)

    When I get to that point, I think I'll try the helper way - rather than completely ignore bad reviews. And miss the really nice good ones.


    1. I can see some validity in that suggestion. My main reason for avoiding reading reviews yourself is that you tend to get too emotionally invested in them, and the natural tendency is to put up your dukes and defend yourself.

      But a helper, much like a beta reader, might be a good idea so they can look for trends that you can work on. Like I've said before - one point is easy to brush off; several similar points should at least be listened to.