I’ll never forget the first time I received a negative review. The pure devastation of it left me crippled with my bruised ego. I couldn’t fathom the idea that there was someone out there who didn’t like my work. Not only that, but they had the audacity to express it by putting their distaste on a public forum for the whole world to see. Gasp! The horror!
When I wrote fan fiction, negative reviews were often called flames. Authors would complain that they were under attack by these people, and in some cases, they really were. Most times, however, it was one lone person who had the nerve to address a flaw in the story where no one else would for fear of hurting the author’s feelings.
I count myself lucky because the people I surround myself with are all willing to give me their honest opinion. Do I enjoy having my ego fluffed? Hell, yeah, I do. But I also appreciate honesty – even when it hurts.
Every writer, even the epic authors, receive negative reviews. It’s inevitable. But when it happens, here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years that will help you get through the disappointment.
1. Lean on your friends. They’re are a Godsend. They know your strengths and weaknesses, and can remind you of your voice.
2. Remember that reviews, both good and bad, are publicity. It’s hard to believe that, but there are readers in the world who believe if all the reviews are good, that means they come from friends and family and don’t have literary value. I actually had a person give me a one-star review (while admitting they never even read my book) simply because they heard somewhere that I ended my book with a cliffhanger. I was pissed at first by their childish behavior, but in the end, that one review actually brought me good readers. Readers that I might never have obtained without that review.
3. Know what’s important. In most cases, for every one negative review there’s probably five good reviews to counter them. Dwell on the positive.
4. And if all else fails, remember that even “the greats” have received negative reviews. If you go on Amazon right now, you’ll find that Mockingjay, the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy has over 600 1-star reviews. Who would ever believe that someone could say this about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: “An oft-used plot and set of characters, but used entertainingly by Ms. Rowling. However, after this plot is used in two sequels, it becomes predictable. A worthy cure would have been further character development, the addition of a new villain, or a new aspect of the old villain, even a minor variation of the plot, such as each defeat of Voldemort becoming a building block to his eventual demise.” Seriously? More character development in Harry Potter?! Blasphemies and yet, I pulled that quote directly from Amazon.
So, the next time you feel devastated by a negative review, just remember, in a world where social media is the primary form of communication, the fact that someone took the time to tell you what they really think and feel about your work, matters. And if the review hits below the belt, and believe me that can, simply smile, breathe, and keep writing, because that one review doesn’t define who you are as an author. It only helps you strive to be better, and in the end, isn’t that what we all want?