Step Away From the Review

Currently, I’m an unpublished writer (or, more optimistically, pre-published). However, my Muses have all made the jump into the actual printed world. And while being published has its highlights– the validation, the effect on people’s lives, and the money (well, the chump change, at least), it has many pitfalls – real deadlines, bad/no marketing…and reviews. Therefore, I can’t tell you about reviews from a personal perspective, but I can give my thoughts on them from seeing the Muses go through them from afar.

In summary, here’s what I think: Reviews are a drug.

They are horribly addicting, rarely productive, and can be fatal in too large of concentrations. A good one will make you scrape noggins with the stratosphere, but on the other hand, a bad one can fuse itself to your cerebellum for eternity. Reading them can make your moods so wildly unpredictable that your loved ones will cringe every time you come near. They skew your perspective of reality, sometimes for good - like hearing how you kept someone awake all night reading, and sometimes for bad – your characters are flat or your plot is unoriginal.

And, like drugs, some people are addicts by nature and others aren’t…though be warned, as a writer, most of us seem more prone to obsessive personalities. Plus, in the internet age everyone is a critic and can post almost anything on Goodreads or Amazon. And our access to those is a keystroke away.

I’m not one to judge though because getting a Kirkus starred review or an ‘A’ in Entertainment Weekly is worthy of the high. Not getting those, though, shouldn’t be the end of creation. You just need to be aware of your own limits and take control of yourself. If getting a ‘one dog pile’ rating on will send you into serious depression…then going cold turkey might be the thing for you. Another alternative to consider is using others as your filter…meaning: letting your friends, writing group, or publisher forward you the important / worthy reviews (they will, believe me - and they’ll be even angrier than you are at the negative ones). Or maybe just read the major critics and ignore the Amazon stars.

Or maybe pay no attention to any of them and be proud of the fact that you got a book out into the world period. That, in the end, is the buzz we’re truly going for.


We are obsessive, aren't we? AREN'T WE?!?

I've found that I can exorcise at least a fraction of the crazy by responding to critics in a masterfully crafted e-mail ... and then saving that e-mail into a folder full of e-mails I'll never send. I labeled the folder "Stuff I Keep to Make Me Angry." And if I need to tap into some righteous indignation, I go back and read my responses and get worked up again.

Ryan: You are BRILLIANT. Everyone has heard that you should write emails you'll never send, but to keep them...GENIUS!

You could probably use them at some point to get fire to feed your characters!

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