3.7.13

IWSG: The Worst Review Ever

Hola, fellow members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, founded by the marvelous Alex J. Cavanaugh. A frequent topic in the group is dealing with negative feedback on our writing, whether it be via reviews, crit groups, or online forums. It seems we all agree that constructive criticism is rather like a visit to the dentist. It might hurt, but in the end we recognize that we're better off for it and will even come back for more.

And then there is the feedback that's just plain mean. This is like...like walking innocently down the sidewalk and having a random jogger punch you in the face. By the time you recover enough to ask why, the jogger has crossed the street and disappeared from your vision (this actually happened to my brother once, btw). It hurts, you're bruised, and you're left with no explanation as to what the jerk's problem was. Nothing good comes from this because there is no meaning in the meanness. All we can do is get up, shake it off, and try to not let it make us afraid to walk down the sidewalk again. 

Thus far I've been fairly fortunate and haven't been dealt any blows I can't easily deflect, but if I strive to widen my audience...well, success will mean dealing with meanness. But not to worry, because I have an automatic go-to to make me feel better in that situation, and you may borrow it if you like. It's a comment from Mark Twain about Jane Austen's writing, copied below. What it serves to remind me of is that everyone approaches a book from a different standpoint. Some people will love it, some people won't, and some people will feel the need to spit venom over it. That's just the way it is. 

 Mark Twain in a letter to Joseph Twichell, 13 September 1898:
"I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

Janie had the good fortune of being dead when this letter was written, but even still, I can't imagine it didn't sting just a little. Yet that doesn't keep thousands and thousands of people (who are not Mark Twain) from adoring her work, me included.

25 comments:

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I've seen a few of these mean reviews, even gotten one or two myself. They are puzzling to me. I can understand not liking a book and writing a less positive review but pettiness and cruelty are just uncalled for.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Not everyone will like what we've written. I don't worry about those reviews. That's not who I wrote the book for anyway.

Dani said...

Bad/cruel reviews are fueled from jealousy. Feel good that you acomplished something that most could never fathom. I love your writing! I'm a fan for sure!!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I love the idea of recognizing that there is "no meaning in the meanness." It might not be easy to accept, but it definitely helps to recognize the truth of that statement. :)

Annalisa Crawford said...

Although I adore Austen, that's a great quote! We all like different things, which is good. Otherwise the whole world would be reading the same author and no one else would get a look in!

MollyMom103 said...

I believe this: If you are not making someone angry, uncomfortable, or dismayed you are not digging deep enough.
Charlotte's Web opened to blistering reviews...

I'm new to IWSG. Hi!

Steven said...

You can't please everyone, nor should you try. My post today is on the very same subject!

Suze said...

Babe, I so love this! The intense subjectivity of appreciating fiction becomes very apparent when seeking an agent. You're basically looking for someone not to spot excellence but to happen to love what you've written. Naturally, this is the case with reviewers, too, but the mean ones who go out of their way to crap on somebody just suck. (And I think not to deep down they know it, too.)

Suze said...

too

Jennifer Lane said...

Thank you for sharing that quote! It will bolster me the next time I get hit by a mean girl on goodreads. :-)

Elsie Amata said...

Wow, that was a harsh review! I'll be good if no one threatens me with my own bones, I think.

Elsie

Cherie Colyer said...

I like this post. I bet Jane Austin smiles from above whenever she's reminded of that review. All her adoring fans are proof that her story is loved by many.

Janie Junebug said...

That's wild. It seems as if Twain read P&P over and over so he could complain about it. I know people like that. I've never been punched by someone I didn't know. Mostly I've been punched by old ladies in nursing homes.

Love,
Janie

LD Masterson said...

I'm keeping that Mark Twain quote. The perfect antidote to a mean spirited review.

Editors At Work said...

Reviews are subjective and every readers own opinion. But if a reader doesn't 'get' a genre, they shouldn't review it.

Great post.

Nas

michelle said...

The other day I read a mean book review where the sh** word was used.
My jaw dropped. Literally. How dare a person refer to somebody's hard work as sh** ??
It's okay to dislike something, because not everybody will like your story. That's a given. But at least have the courtesy to point out why you disliked the story instead of resorting to foul language.
(I didn't know the sh** word was allowed in reviews...? Or was the reviewer taking a chance?)
Writer In Transit

Stephen Tremp said...

I just helped a friend this morning as someone keeps leaving her one star reviews. You can go to Amazon and thereis an option to click YES or NO if the review is helpful. I clicked no for all the bad reviews (obviosly left by one individual).

DL Hammons said...

I have experienced some pretty brutal critiquing, but reviews are a different matter. I imagine its a bit like grading tests...you throw out the high and low scores and base everything around the average of whats left. :)

Talli Roland said...

I've had some really mean reviews, but I just take the hit and move on. Now. It's taken me a while to get to this point!

Siv Ottem said...

Guess the best thing would be to not read the reviews....Yeah, like right...We can't help ourselves can we :)

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Wow, that's really interesting. I had no idea he disliked Jane so much!
Some times I look up books I love on GR just to read bad reviews. I mean, if they have people who don't like their genius then obviously there will be people who won't like my writing.
Great post. :)

Mark Means said...

It's like the line from the old Rick Nelson song "Garden Party"....

"You can't please everyone...so, ya got to please yourself."

Like you said, if you have success, you'll have bad reviews and not everyone is going to like everything. You'll just have to become so successful that you won't care about those little stings :)

Have a great weekend.

Morgan said...

I have never read that quote! Wow. Certainly puts things in perspective. Thanks for this, Nicki. I'm going to think of this next time I'm down and need it!

Misha Gericke said...

Lmao I loved that quote, much as I enjoy Jane Austen's books.

Just goes to show you that no one can please everyone.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Love that quote by Mark Twain as a reminder that no matter who we are, someone will dislike our writing. And Jane Austen's writing is beautiful. . .