7 Writing Rules: #5 Avoid Reviews

Some people say that reading reviews can help to give you a pick me up (the good ones) or can serve as an indication of things you can improve on (both good and bad) or that you can take the criticism and toughen yourself up (the bad). There is truth in this, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact, if you absolutely have to read reviews of your book, start with Amazon, or see which official critics in your genre might have reviewed it and read them. Are they always right? Nope. Are they often unfair? They sure are. Is there anything you can do about it? Nope.

Let’s get this out of the way here and now. If you are an author or you are thinking of being one, prepare to let go of Goodreads, if you happen to have an attachment to it. The vitriol on that site is not only unbecoming, it’s overwhelming. There are some amazing people who put their hearts and souls into their honest, mature reviews, and to those people I apologize for saying this. However, the entire basket has been spoiled almost beyond redemption by those who imagine that authors are not people, that real analysis or reviews are secondary to their attempts to be hostile and hateful, and that the whole point of a review is to be as sarcastic and degrading as possible.

Example: Joan D. Vinge’s novel The Snow Queen won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel the year it came out. One man reviewed it on Goodreads saying, “Women can’t write science fiction, and I’ll fuck anyone who says differently.” The rest of his review went on to dissolve any notions that this was meant to be some sort of joke.

Example: Some remedial hag reviewed Bram Stoker’s Dracula, giving it one star because she “hates epistolary novels.” She went on to claim that this classic was overrated and stupid because of this one thing…then admitted to not finishing it.

Have you ever read the comments section of the average Yahoo article? Do it. There comes a point when some people cross the line into being a contrarian, where they must always be against something. You could have an article about a man rescuing an abandoned puppy from drowning in a storm drain, and you will get a variety of reactions: most would laud the man for his compassion and/or curse the original owners for not taking proper are of the puppy. However, there will be some who turn it into a political debate. There are others who say that writing that article was a waste of time because there are more important things out there. There are then the obvious sociopaths who talk about how the man should have let the puppy die because of overpopulation, because of evolutionary law, or because they hate dogs. Others will criticize the man for not minding his business.

Goodreads is disproportionately full of these last types of people. Essentially, these people are trolling. Reviews can be good. They can teach you things, but they can also tear you apart. It’s not about being weak or having a thick skin, it’s about not letting that interfere with you. More than anything, it’s about trusting yourself, your muse, your publisher, your well-chosen and honest beta readers, and your loved ones. If there’s something wrong with the novel, it is your job and the job of those people I just mentioned to tell you and help you through it.

Avoid the reviews. Trust yourself and your support system, not some stranger who simply wants to seem clever or to release aggression or to be a contrarian troll. You are better than that and don’t need that validation.

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~ by Darren Endymion on January 30, 2017.

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