Sour grapes? Or an Opportunity to be Seized?

I’ve read more and more often about writers who, upon receiving a less-than-stellar review, have what I can only call a baby tantrum.

They either demand that the reviewer retract the review, change the review, reread the book because obviously he couldn’t have read the masterpiece she wrote if he gave it a 2-star rating, or whatever. Sometimes the offended writer will threaten the reviewer with retaliatory bad reviews if the reviewer is also a writer.

Please, people. Grow the heck up. And I’m not talking to the reviewers here. I’m a writer and a reviewer. I know the pain of sending out work and having those precious words smacked down because they didn’t appeal of the readers. I also have an editor who, bless her heart, does not know the meaning of the words “false praise.” When I write stuff that sucks, she tells me in words I have no difficulty in understanding. Do I love her? You bet your bottom dollar I do. Every writer needs an editor like that. (Disclaimer: I provide the same tough love for her when she writes.)

So you got a bad (by your lights) review. What are you supposed to do?

First, look at the context. Are most of the reviews you’ve gotten positive? (If all those positive reviews are from your mother and your Aunt Susie and your boyfriend, get out the saltshaker and discount the stars by at least a quarter. You know those people are going to give you the benefit of the doubt even when there is no doubt to give.) If you’ve gotten mostly positive reviews and then out of the blue someone gives you a bad one, suck it up, grit your teeth, and move on. Lashing out at the reviewer makes you look like a tantrum-throwing baby. This is not a good image for a writer.

Then look at the reviewer’s record. If she’s a tough reviewer who never gives a rave review, that might put your okay-but-not-stellar review into a different light. If she is normally a creampuff who praises everything she reads and she panned your book mercilessly, ignore it. Again, getting into an internet epithet-hurling spat won’t make either of you look like mature adults. And the internet never forgets. Even if you delete everything, someone somewhere will have a screencap. You know they will. Better to just take a deep breath and let it go.

If more than one reviewer makes the same point, make a note. If the review is mostly positive but the reviewer notices some bad word choices or misspellings, make a note. This is one way to improve your writing so the next set of reviews will all be better.

And, really, isn’t better writing always a good thing? Or is that just me?

4 Responses to “Sour grapes? Or an Opportunity to be Seized?”

  1. demilo19 says:

    Or have your tantrum but do so PRIVATELY! Throw your pens and toss your desk.

    Then suck it up, put on your rocket ship underwear, and learn from it. Believe me, I would rather my friends tell me that I have a bugger in my nose, my fly is unzipped, or that what I’ve written is crap rather than the public.

    When the public does it…like you said, learn from it. It hurts but so does life. What’s the saying…”Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”

  2. Mary Ann Peden-Coviello says:

    Well, a private tantrum is perfectly acceptable. I am talking, of course, about public responses.

    There just seems to be a glut of writers with chips on their shoulders who respond very badly to anything but 5-star reviews. Well, this isn’t Lake Woebegone where all the children are above average. *sigh*

  3. Chelle says:

    When any artist (writer, painter, sculptor, etc) puts their work out there they have to expect that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. I put my foot clean down my throat a couple a years ago at an art exhibit. There was wire, a tennis shoe, a beenie baby, and some feathers. I mocked, made fun of, and insisted that I could do better . . . within earshot of the artist. I felt like a complete MORON after that, but I still maintain that wire and a shoe wasn’t MY KIND OF ART. There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about constructively criticizing someone, though.

    Some of my greatest lessons learned came out of people snarking about my writing ability on an anonymous site. I realized that some of them made valid points and approached certain writing elements differently.

    You can take it to HEART when someone gives you a less than stellar review, but I personally take it to MIND and think about it. I don’t let it hurt me. I let it help me. Sometimes it DOES sting, but it’s the sting you will remember the next time you write something the wrong way.

  4. J M Cornwell says:

    Some people like nothing and some like everything. The average reviewer falls somewhere in between, the someones who like some thing, dislike others and usually tells it like it is. You can’t choose your reviewers, but you can take everything with a grain of salt and consider the source.

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