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Your strategy for dealing with crude reviews?

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Do you have any particular strategy to deal with reviews lacking any substance?


It seems that I'm too emotionally attached to my writing and would like to know if you can relate to this sentiment.


What riled me up and made me ask this question was the following review on goodreads.com:


She states she didn't finish the book, and I doubt she even started with it. All the points she mentions and the lighthearted style she critiques can be extracted from the blurb. Moreover, I wonder where she did find homophobia in the story. There is one scene of ACTED homophobia, though I question whether she read to this point.


Ultimately, that review sparked some more interest in the book, but still I can't get it out of my system. I'm simply not a good salesman... Posted Image

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I feel like what really matter most is that you're happy with your own work. Sure, getting a bad review sucks, but if you feel proud of what you wrote then don't let anyone else take that away from you. If it really still bothers you maybe you could message her and ask her to explain further.

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Here's the thing, you will NEVER get everyone to write good things. Some read it for enjoyment and other read it to judge it against 'their exacting standard.'


If you got a bunch of negative review and no one liked it, well then you might want to consider that it wasn't any good, but you got a lot of good reviews and one poor one. That poor one is the outlier and like they do with a curve, they toss the high and the low and average the rest.


Take the Twilight books, some people love them so much others think they're trash. My point is you read the negative review and see if there is anything to learn from it. What I would take from the reviews - all of them - is that for the most part, people who like to read find it a good read and enjoyable. People who fancy themselves experts on reading, think you've written a cliche book, filled with all the typical elements of a teen drama. Perhaps you do and maybe the next book you'll want to look into that. But then again, there is a reason there is a 'check list' out there for gay teen drama, it's because it's what people want. And it seemed to me those people - the majority who read this type of story - were happy. That's how you deal with it. ;)



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Thanks to both of you!


I didn't intend to write anything else but a lighthearted story starting from a "classical" bully/nerd setting. That is the reason why this bothers me so much: she isn't attacking faulty writing style or major plot holes; it's the very premise. And why, for goodness sake, do you read a book that you're determined not to like?


I think I'll refrain from contacting her because there will be some f* and a* and b* words if I do.


I think deep down I'm just a little kindergarden boy, holding up his scrawl drawing and wanting everyone to love it. Insight is the first step towards enlightenment. Posted Image


Once more, I want to express how grateful I am for you to bear with my whining! Posted Image

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  • Site Administrator

Don't feel bad; you're not alone. I've had critical critiques come to me where I was told things like my writing was amateurish and the story was a total fail based on specific feelings the reader had. That hurt, where the 'omg, you and your story are horrible and you're sick and sadistic' just made me laugh; especially since that reviewer read all the way to the end of the story. Sometimes having someone attack certain things like the premise for your story as if that were a fail because they don't like it hurts worse because that's not something that makes a lot of sense. I agree, why buy the book or read it if that is not a genre you're into?


Getting a bad review for something like that could seem bad, but I wouldn't think of it that way if I were you. As a reader I often check goodreads before I buy a book. I always check the least popular reviews to see why the authors thought the book deserved that rating, and then I check if anyone rebuts it like the 2 readers who did so for you. The bad reviews are just as thought provoking as the good ones for me, and I don't necessarily reject a book because it has a poor rating from a few people.


All in all, I don't think that you should consider the one you received as an attack on your writing, IF you intended to write that type of plot. Just because one person doesn't like it doesn't mean that it isn't a great story!

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Thanks, Cia, for sharing your experiences and putting my own plight (cliché alert!) into a little more perspective.


However illogical it may sound after spilling my tears here, I agree on the effect of negative reviews. On one or two occasions, I bought a kindle book after reading a harsh critique and thinking to myself, "But that's exactly what you are looking for."


I hijack my own thread for another question:

Does anyone happen to know whether the Jerry Cleaver online writing coaching is any good? (http://www.writeyournovelnow.com/)


I'm determined to work on my writing skills, and though I'm a devout autodidact in most areas, self-education can take you only that far. I'm not quite sure how to find a profound writing course in English in Germany. Hence, the online approach is very attractive for me.

Any input would be appreciated.

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To thine own-self be true.


There's a lot of stories out there I love, and there's a lot of stories out there I don't care to read. The same is true for most people, yourself included, I'm sure.


But, like yourself, I too find it hard sometimes to read negative reviews on my work. Like others have said here though, I try to look for something good out of it, or explain why I wrote what I wrote, in hope that the reviewer will understand why. In the end, that's about all you can do.


The others above, spoke to you from experience, lacking their experience, I spoke from the heart. I hope it was helpful.

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Of course, your view on this was helpful, Billy. Thank you!


As I've already said, I'll refrain from contacting the reviewer. Since the review was lacking all substance, I don't know how to inquire further and learn something from it.

Of course, constructive criticism is helpful and I'm glad to listen. The amazon review I've got falls into this category.



The reviewer is now lashing out at the people who spoke up on my behalf. The good thing is that she discredits herself even more by doing so.

Additionally, she seems to hold the romantic mis-conception of German schools being havens for gay pupils. Is she aware that I'm German and visited German schools for 13 years? Okay, "some" time has passed since then, but I'm working with students coming directly from school and not too much seems to have changed.

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  • Site Administrator

A lot of people don't realize that online fiction is written by a person of many different nationalities and that not all school systems are the same. Even with your title, she's probably putting her own perceptions on things, certainly. As for my own experiences, I get quite a kick out of the haters actually. They usually do give me a good laugh, because they do highlight their own idiocy most of the time. That and I often get fans who stick up for me and then give me great compliments while smacking down the detractors. I'll admit to enjoying the ego stroking from that :P


As for your question on writing courses, I'm not familiar with the one you listed. I did find a really helpful creative writing course online for free and just today I picked up a book called 'self-editing for fiction writers' that looks very good. I was lucky enough to find a used copy at my fav bookstore. It has lessons in pov, perspective, dialogue mechanics, etc... that has exercises in it as well, so I'm excited. I haven't read it yet, though, so I can't say if I'd recommend it. I'll link the creative writing course here if you're interested in that type of help for your writing.

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I think that the best approach is to back off a bit and try to be unemotional. If you knew me, you'd know how hilarious that sounds, but it's true. Look at what the reviewer is saying, and try to decide whether there's any truth to it. If there is, you can use it to guide you. If not, well, you have an individual with issues that's decided to rain on your parade. Get out your umbrella.

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@Cia: Thanks for pointing out that course to me. I'll take a more thorough look at in this weekend.


@Mark: Good advice, but hard to follow. Posted Image


@james: Once I'm fully awake, I'll surely garner the wisdom of your words Posted Image


The commenting stuff escalated a little over the last 12 hours. She actually implied that all my reviews are fakes and that I'm "writing pure fabricated nonsense".

I flagged these two comments for inspection by goodreads.com for libel and irrelevance (of course, fiction is pure fabricated nonsense, isn't it?).

Additionally, I flagged the original review as containing factual errors regarding the book (the non-existing homophobia she found in the story).

Perhaps, my reaction is a little over the top, but now it's up to goodreads.com to decide. My hope is that this brings some impartiality to this mess.


Thanks again for your support.



The offending comments have been removed by the original poster. She contacted me via private message. I've explained the situation to her: I didn't ask for those comments, but they originated from a story forum (not GA) where I vented my frustration. I really hope that this ends this messy situation. It unhinged me far more than it should have, and I could need a night of sleep at last. Posted Image

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  • 2 weeks later...

I figured I'd add my own two cents.


First, never let everything rest on one person's review. If you do, you won't write again. One of the best thing you can do for yourself and your writing is find either one beta you can trust or a group who will be honest. Look over their comments and see if your story has wholes. Trust me, even the best writer needs someone with a bit of space to look something over, because they won't mentally add what you automatically have in your head.


Second, responding to someone who actively dislikes your story due to genre or is out to discredit your work due to some tic of their own isn't worth your time and energy. They don't like the story, well that is their opinion.


Anyway I wouldn't let it upset you. Keep on keeping on.

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Thanks, comicfan, for your input.


Meanwhile, I've cooled down, but at that time, I learned what burning anger really means. An interesting but disturbing experience.

Getting a beta (or some of them) is definitely something I'm considering. Moreover, I decided to do the coaching with Jerry Cleaver. I'm reading his book right now and can relate very well to his ideas and concepts. And I've got someone taking a look at my work and who nudges me in the correct direction, pointing out areas to work on. I'll give feedback in the write's forum whether the course stands up to my expectations

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  • 10 months later...

Lets be honest.  You will get good reviews and bad reviews. Like movies.  One critic will slay the movie, and another will swear its the best thing since peanut butter and jam.  I allow people who read my work, to be honest with themselves.  Some have given me destructive reviews, others have given me constructive reviews.  No one has ever told me to stop writing. Even if they did, I wouldn't.  A destructive review hurts like hell, and this is why I try to follow  these basic conditions of reviewing:


1: Characterisation – Do the characters seem real, or are they recognizable stereotypes and is this a problem in the particular story? Are the characters’ motives logical and necessary to the story? Are we meant to identify with any characters, and if so, do we?

2: Dialogue – Does the dialogue seem realistic? Can the reader imagine real people talking as the characters do? Does the dialogue add to the story, or distract us from it?

3: Setting – Does the story have a context and place that is convincing and alive? Is the reader able to visualise each scene?

4: Point of View – Is the PoV consistent or does it leap in the middle of the scene? Is the PoV appropriate – do we get a clear enough picture of the character’s inner drama – or too much? Could the story be told more interestingly from another PoV?

5: Development – Does the story develop organically, without the reader noticing, or does the narrative make sudden leaps or get stagnant? Does the reader get confused at any point?

6: Pacing – How deeply is the reader drawn into the story? How long does the story take to set up? Is the reader drawn into the story from the get go? Which is more appropriate for each story: non-stop action or character development?

7: Mechanics – At the outset, some writers experience trouble with the mechanics of expressing their fiction in words. Story, paragraph and sentence structure are all slaves to the flow of the piece. If something is amiss, the reader will experience the lack of flow immediately. A critique of a later draft can be invaluable in pointing out some of the specifics that impede narrative flow.


When I find a destructive review, I sit back, think about it, scratch my head.  Curse the reviewer.  Take a shower. And ignore her.  They hate being ignored.  Why do I ignore? I'll tell you.  He or she does not hve the faintest idea about critiquing. They never will.  And all they are out to do is make the writer self destruct.


I will never get caught up in that trap.

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There are three stratagies to deal with crude reviews:


1. track down the offender and kneecap the b-stard


2. take them to heart and be crushed


3. Ignore them.


AWWWEEESSSOMMEE!! I knew violence was an acceptable solution! *goes find his childhood bat*


Anyway, answering question: I don't often pay mind to people who scream and push and foam at the mouth. More often that not, they're after bringing someone down, as Louis was kind enough to point out. Such people are best left unattended.

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  • 2 weeks later...

my fiance, wise as he is, had to make me see that there really is nothing to do about them. brush off, ignore and move on. i find it really hard, i tend to stomp around the living room in a rage for a while, shouting at the computer.


then i remember that reviews are usually written by idiots who have no creative energy at all, and then i feel better.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Learn from them. Crude reviews are probably fueled on by someone passionate and often (very wrong). Even if the person does not know what the hell they're talking about it can't help a person to ignore them and do whatever makes them happy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

update on this, two of my readers started a fight in my comments (not here, on LitE)


one complained of my lack of editing saying that "i couldn't be a real writer because there was so many errors" and another replied with this nugget of perfection:


"authors who post online for free are doing us a favour. Authors are not beholden to us, contractually or otherwise, and we should be thankful that they post at all"


after that i just sat back and allowed nature to take it's course.

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Ouch! That review must have hurt. I've been on the end of some nasty ones elsewhere before now, but never one that was so analytical as the one you have received is.


My usual strategy is to put away reviews like this, ignore them for a while and then, when I've chilled a bit, come back and treat it as if I were editing my own work. I look at the points raised, reflect on them, compare them to the sections of the story they are complaining about and then if they do not justifiably apply to the story, I invoke the writer's privilege of overruling them in my head. If they are justified, I will also swallow them and re-jig the story to remove or re-frame the offending section.


I am also not above replying to reviews with an explanation of why the story is the way that it is, what my intentions were and politely pointing out that perhaps my story is not one which may be suited to their tastes. If I have already put up great big warning signs for homophobia in the plotline, a bully in the story, etc, I will also point these out gently but firmly.


Not everybody likes what I write. Not everybody is going to give me good reviews. There are some times when I have thought I have got a story to a point where it is watertight and then, only after posting it, does somebody point out a niggle in the plotline which I simply did not see after three edits and several re-writes as I am too close to my work. This is why I like my moderators. They can provide me with a fresh eye so that hopefully the problems are ironed out before the story goes public.


For your review, I would suggest turning it into your own positive checklist. If I had been dealing with your review as if it were mine, I would probably work through some logic like the following:


Jock and nerds present? Check. Good, they're meant to be there so that's not a problem. Rampant homophobia? Does it fit in with the plot? Is it aimed at the characters and not the reader? Yes. Good. Check. Bullies? Check same details as for homophobia. If it checks out and is justified in the plot, check it off as a good job well done. Snarky inner dialogue? Well, I know of several gay people in real life who can be very snarky. Does it fit the character? Does it serve a purpose? Yes? Leave it in. Teenagers who are essentially dimwits? Which of us have not done something stupid in our teens? I know I did. Occasionally we even manage to perform them in adulthood. As long as it fits the character, leave it in. If we didn't have tropes, we'd have to invent characters right from the very beginning every time. (Julie Andrews may once have sung about this being a very good place to start, but personally I would much rather start with a trope and build up from there. It's kind of like buying flat-pack furniture and assembling it rather than cutting down your own tree, designing the piece, sawing, whittling and honing it to what you want it to be every single time. Or, at least, that's the way I think of it, anyway. In reality, I tend to have very finely-whittled furniture regardless of its origin. I think it may be a genetic affliction of mine. Oh well...)



At the end of the day, not everybody is going to like what you've written. There are too many different people out there for that to ever happen. I would personally only start to worry if the vast majority of my reviews came back to me in the negative. As long as its only a handful which object, you probably don't need to worry about it.


Chin up and carry on. If you love writing and what you do, keep on doing it. After all, as Walt Disney once said, "We are not trying to entertain the critics. I will take my chances with the general public."


Or course, the other way you could view this is that your writing is good enough to make people form a strong opinion, which in itself is a great achievement.

Edited by RobsWriting
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