I talk all the time about when writers are forced to edit their own work. It’s hard to do, hard to become detached enough to give it justice. Some how we do it though. But, despite that, there is another aspect to the finished product that I’d like to discuss today. Ready?
Reviews from others.
Probably a few people are cringing in fear at reading that. I know I did for a very long time before I got the gumption up to offer my work up to the anonymous person(s). When I finally did it I hovered by my computer/phone waiting for a response of some sort. It was a different kind of agony that I can’t fully describe other than pacing and being an overall grouch.
I will also mention that for about 70% of the time that I have allowed strangers or some what close friends read my stuff, they’ve been fair in their reviews of my work. I won’t say they all shower me with glory though I have had a few do that, but they gave me good, solid, critiques that in the end benefited me. For the other 30%, well, let’s just say that they weren’t as respectful. So, with that in mind, I’d like to share how to handle the different types of reviews that can come from strangers.
You can always tell the good ones because they have the mix between positive and negatives. It’s the classic critique you get (or at least suppose to get) back in school. Especially college. Often times it starts with a positive, for your viewing pleasure, an example:
“I found your story to be a very interesting take on Vampires.”
It is then promptly followed with a:
Which then proceeds all the ways you screw up in some form or another. It can range from grammar (definitely my issue) to character development or even, gasp, plot. This is the make you queasy part because as you read each word you realize, “Damn! They’re right! I hate that.” This is then followed by the positive, “you can do it” part of the critique.
This, in my definition, is a good review because they aren’t trying to smash you into little pieces and leave you a puddle of tears on the floor. It’s hardly glowing, but it’s real and true. Helpful too.
When you come across these my advice is to be polite and say thank you many, many, many times because they didn’t have to, but they did because more than likely they understand.
The bad is one of two things: Sweet or Sour.
This is our ego booster review. The one that goes on and on about how good the story was. You know the type. “What a fantastic story! The way it winds through the plot from one moment to the next that has us be one with the characters. I was especially moved by (insert name) and felt both his/her sorrow and happiness with them.”
My personal response to this type is: “Thanks, but, uh, how can I make it better? It’s just the first draft after all…”
Yeah, that type of bad.
This is our confusing review right here. Usually it is along the lines of. “I found your story to be slow and sluggish.”
That’s it, that’s all they give us and often the response is: “In what way? Give me more!!!”
Whenever I have gotten this type of review I have an intense urge to mutter to myself various phrases that aren’t PG.
It happens. For some reason or another, an individual reading your story decides to be downright cruel. I don’t know if it’s because they are jealous or because they had a bad review for their own work and decide to lash out at you because your story just happened to be the first one they read. Or, though this caused me to laugh more than anything else, when you give someone a review for their story, following all the protocols for it to be helpful despite the fact that the story sucked, they return with a bad review all because you hurt their feelings.
Sorry folks, but it does happen. Try to be nice and sometimes it bites you back. But that’s for another time.
These reviews are nothing but negative. It slams your story in every way possible, spared no expense, cruel. It belittles your writing and simply is meant to discourage you. Granted, some people can’t write a good story. Fact of life, but to be honest, there is a way to say that without being rude and impolite. I’d give an example but I’m pretty sure that most writers have seen at least one.
The question is, how do we deal with this type of ugly review? There are several ways to go about it. Ignore it, laugh it off, or respond with a similar type of scathing reply just to get back at them. I, personally, vote for the first two, usually in combination. Sometimes we need a good cry before we can do it, but it’s better. Or, you can try to take the high ground by replying in a calm, professional, and polite manner.
Just be aware that it might take a few days before you can manage that.