How to Handle A Bad Review: Pt 1 (When They’re Wrong)

This is the first in a series of posts about what to do with bad reviews. I welcome your recommendations in the comment section below.  

Photo Courtesy Brenna Richardson © 2014

IT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU

All writers everywhere have gotten bad reviews. Whether it’s a critique group going postal on your unfinished manuscript or a disgruntled Amazon customer decimating your four and a half star average, it’s a fact of life. People exist on this planet who will not like your work. Ever. Some will hate it. Internet trolls will call on all the demons of the underworld to drag you into the sulfurous circle of hell where wannabe writers are eternally tormented for wreaking havoc on literature.

No matter what you do. It happens to everyone.

If the bad review is unjustified, that is, the reviewer is not pointing out real issues that need to be addressed, then you can hopefully find some solace in the points below.

 

IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S THEM

Sometimes, people have unwarranted visceral reactions to the things that they read. Psychologists tell us that anger is often a symptom of fear. Why is that guy coming at your manuscript  with a torch and pitchfork? Possibly, it’s because you’ve struck at an emotional chord that he is uncomfortable dealing with.

There are plenty of reasons people may hate what you write which have nothing to do with you or what you’ve written.

Among them:

A) your reviewer may not be qualified to offer a useful opinion or helpful advice

B) they might not ‘get it’

C) they may dislike your genre

D) they might disagree with your premise, or despise your characters, or poo poo your plot because they have unresolved personal issues

E) they may be critical and cynical as a matter of course, because they believe this makes them look intelligent/discriminating/or superior

F) they may want to purposefully derail you because they are antisocial, psychopathic or mean

G) they might use your work as an opportunity to vent frustration at their own lack of success

H) they may have a bad day

I) they might want you to have a bad day

J) other

If your reviewer dislikes your work for any of these reasons, there’s nothing you can do about it.  Imagine their review as a fish that’s too small to fry. Toss it back in the water. Not your problem anymore.

 

IT’S SUBJECTIVE

Writing, like all art, is subjective. What’s Twilight to you is Pride and Prejudice to someone else. You like Dan Brown, he likes Tolstoy, she likes Evanovich, he likes Cormac MacCarthy. She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts, she’s cheer captain and I’m… wait, what? Nevermind.

I’m not saying everything that’s written is good. I’m saying different  people have different tastes. It is literally impossible to write something that everyone loves. And that’s okay.

The question then becomes, is the reviewer pointing out problems that are actually problematic to you?  Are they highlighting issues that will bother the majority of other readers? How can you know?

These are questions I will tackle in my next post.

In the mean time, I appreciate your unvarnished opinion of this one. 😉 How do you deal with bad reviews? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!

About 

Joshua Rigsby is a freelance writer, tea drinker, and full-time father based in Los Angeles, California.

3 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    So a “good reviewer” would point out grammatical errors like –“Internet trolls will call on the all the demons”. Where a “bad reviewer” would say they dislike an author who writes about writing.
    Hashtag bustinyourchops now quit writing about writing and get into your art and let your story flow zoro! Tell it like you think it, like you see it in your mind, that’s my advice to any story teller.

    Reply
    1. Joshua Rigsby (Post author)

      Another point I failed to mention is that responding directly to a bad review almost never works out well for anyone. I would argue that the sentence is grammatically correct. Maybe this will help: http://bit.ly/KD1sPu.

      I would also respond that lots of writers write about writing. In fact, it’s hard to find any who don’t. Examples: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/05/03/advice-on-writing/

      But, I appreciate your advice to tell the story I want to tell. I will take that to heart.

      Reply
    2. Joshua Rigsby (Post author)

      Ha! Even in responding to your comment I didn’t see the grammatical error you were pointing out. I took care of it. Thanks. 🙂

      Reply

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