To Read – Or Not to Read (Reviews, that is)

“How do you feel if someone sends you a critique of your work?”

everyone else, “I welcome it! I want my work to improve.”

me. “I hate it and avoid it at all costs.”

“How do you feel about negative reviews?”

everyone else, “I welcome it! I want my work to improve.”

me. “I hate it and avoid it at all costs.”

Here’s the thing, I don’t think I’m a good writer. OK – I probably shouldn’t be saying that on my blog post to my readers and author friends because you guys are nice and supportive and will tell me otherwise. But the thing is, I don’t really believe you. It’s not your fault – it’s totally me — and I’m fine with it. It’s just how I function. So, when I hear a negative review or someone sends me a critique – it stalls me. Big time. In my head I’m thinking “I knew it! I knew it! I knew I sucked. I shouldn’t write anymore.”

Why do I share this? Because I know I’m not alone in this and I share things with you guys. There’s no other reason, really. I write as therapy – and this is my therapy right now.

I need it.

A friend picked up one of my books recently and mentioned they’d post a review. I thanked them. I love when people post reviews (I love getting reviews on books – whether they’re good or bad – I just feel really weird reading them). I read ARC reviews and I read book blogger reviews because I feel it’s the least I can do, but honestly – each time I get an anxiety attack.

Then this person said they’d send me the review. I said “That’s ok, I don’t read reviews.”

Well, they didn’t send me their review (although they offered again) but they did go on… and on… about what they hated about my book.

I’m not really sure what this person said. Because as soon as I started reading/skimming what they said I felt like I was having a heart attack — really. This was 4 days ago and I’m still reeling from it. In fact, I’ve yet to write a single word on already seriously past due manuscripts. I just know that they started listing all the things they didn’t like. I remember things like “didn’t like your character, didn’t do anything for me” etc…

Yeah, it was awful. Here’s the thing. I’m already not a fan of this book this person read – but still. It’s my baby. They all are. They’re all my babies and I don’t care how ugly my baby is, it’s my baby.

I’ve seen people post in groups that they sent so and so a critique of a book that said person asked they read and this person flew off the handle, or blocked them, or had some sort of emotional reaction. Everyone comes to the rescue and says how unprofessional it is and so on.

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Then, here I am in the corner thinking – I don’t really blame them and know how they feel.

See, the book is in print. There’s not much we (as authors) can do. There’s nothing I can do. It’s different for someone who has an e-book and can quickly edit and throw it back up on Amazon. That’s not the case for me. Even if it wasn’t, I don’t want to hear negative things from others. The bottom line of why is I already know all the negative stuff. Because I’ve thought it myself, times 10.

So, if I don’t hear critiques, how do I improve? I read — a lot. I’m teaching myself and if you read my books from my first book to my most recent, you’ll see I’m improving – and part of the reason why is because I am so hard on myself. Besides that, I have editors and beta readers and writing buddies and a publisher and… yeah – I have professionals and experts telling me what they love and don’t love about my work. It’s a lot easier for me to handle this (and I welcome it) as I’m working on a project. But once THE END is up and the book goes to print, I’m done. I don’t want the critiques.

Also, I can see why author Jane doesn’t want their random friend messaging them on Facebook to hear all the typos and mistakes they’ve made. It’s one thing to brace yourself and head over to Amazon and Goodreads to read reviews – or to pick up the paper or click on the blog link. You have time to prepare and emotionally take a deep breath before reading that review with one eye closed.

But when you’re randomly messaging someone to say what you don’t like about their baby, you just don’t know where they are or what their situation is.

Did I add that this friend messaged me about my book minutes after I received pretty terrible news? Yeah – it was truly like pouring salt into a wound.

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So tread lightly my fellow readers. Us writers have hearts and some are more fragile than others.

Leave your reviews for the official sites and a little tip if you’re telling someone what you don’t like about their work. Email them and put in the subject line that review is attached. They may just hold onto that email for a time they’re prepared to read it. But please, if you’re a personal friend, don’t just throw them bad news. It sucks.

I’m still working on getting back to my writing – but I’m not quite there yet. I’ve felt like doing everything but writing since this message. But, I promise, I’ll get there.

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