Thursday, July 3, 2008

Reviews: The good, the bad and the ugly

So, I was looking through my latest copy of Romantic Times and got to thinking about reviews and the reactions writers have about them.

You know how this process goes. Your book is finished so you start firing off copies of the story to get people to say that you are the most amazing writer out there.

And then...

Someone comes back with an awful review. You didn't get a glowing review, or, in some cases, the review comes back and it says you should just drop out of writing all together.

Now, here is where things get funny. When a review like this comes back, the reviewer clearly didn't know what they were saying. The person was an idiot. You might even question if they even read the book (because darn it, if they had they would have seen it). On the other hand, when the review comes back and it is great or average, we think the person really did know their stuff.

What we seem to forget two things about reviews: First, reviews are subjective; and secondly, reviews sometimes tell us things we would rather not want to hear.

Writing is one of those few professions where you really put yourself out there and yes, it hurts when someone tells you that the writing is bad. But, this is not a reason for suddenly slamming the person about their comment. Look at your writing and see if maybe, just maybe, they were right. This is tough to do, especially if you have spent months working on your story.

Sure, it is subjective and what one person says might be completely different than what another person says, but hey, their comments should not just be thrown away simply because you don't like it. We need to listen to what they have to say and at least consider it.

The same goes with contests you may enter. Look at what everyone has to say about the book. Now, if 20 people all say the same thing and you have 1 that says the opposite, then you can potentially throw that comment out, but not before thinking about it.

Remember, you won't always write the most amazing manuscipt. We will have highs and we will have lows. Sometimes we have more than others. The key is to learn from our mistakes and move to that higher ground.

Have fun writing!



  1. I'll never forget my first book. I, of course, thought it was brilliant, but the agent I sent it to ... not so much. She did me a favor of going through the entire thing with a red pen, not because she was going to represent it but she thought that I'd have potential ... eventually.

    That manuscript came back almost full of more red ink than black. It literally hurt to read through it, like a punch in the gut. I think I might have even cried. Then I put it in a drawer and forgot about writing for a few years.

    Finally it occurred to me that review was the best thing that could have happened to me. It's great to hear "Wow, this is GREAT", but it's in those other reviews you learn your weaknesses so that you can make them strong.

    So even though they still hurt, I've learned to value them. It also helps to review the works of others; it makes you a lot more compassionate on how to wield the red pen.

  2. This post reminds me of the first writing class I took. The teacher, an author who has published over a hundred novels, tried to tell me things such as , "You don't have a plot, you aren't following formula, etc."

    I was INSULTED! Of course I had a plot (I soooo didn't), and I was a WRITER...I didn't have to be commercially viable, so why bother with writing formula (okay, not proud to admit I decided commercially viable wasn't a BAD thing).

    I had to send MANY emails to this man over the span of a year, telling him that he was right, and I was wrong (yeah, I'm a bit slow).

    In the end, his honest critique of my story, turned it into something that I can honestly say that I am proud of. Thick skin often accompanies a thick skull!

    :) Terri