You may have been there before, too. You poured your heart into your work. You agonized over the editing process. You spell-checked, edited, wrote, re-wrote until you had your bright, shiny finished product. You went through pre-production, production and launch, garnered dozens or even hundreds of 4- and 5-star reviews. You did everything right.
Then one day it happens, a negative review and it’s not just about a couple of typo’s. Someone has taken the time to tear down every aspect of your work from grammar and punctuation to plot to the depth of your characters to your writing style. It’s shocking the first time – or anytime – it happens. You feel like you’ve been sucker punched, side-swiped, blind-sided. Your pulse races, your heart is in your throat and your stomach feels like you’ve been on the world’s biggest roller coaster.
If you’re a crier, tears well up and you fight to hold them in. If you’re a shouter, you might let out a blood-curling scream. If you’re a fighter, you might pound on your desk and curse your enemy and their family! Whatever your mode of dealing with life, you’re bound to have a reaction that makes you take a good look at yourself and your work. You may even feel a bit light-headed from the shock. You wonder how this could possibly happen to you, but it has and it will probably happen again. After all, you’re a writer and you put yourself out there into the public realm where anyone can criticize if they desire.
Now, you have to find a way to deal with all the repercussions, internal and external, imagined and real, public and private. For the most part, you’ll find that the repercussions are much larger in your head than they turn out to be in real life.
Negative reviews are a part of the publishing process, and even a part of life. Not everyone’s going to like you and not everyone’s going to like what you write. That’s okay. At some point in your career, you may find that you’re work has some typo’s or grammatical errors or it just doesn’t measure up to your past work. It happens even with the best authors, biggest publishing companies and most brilliant editors.
You must install a thick skin and learn some strategies for dealing with the naysayers, hecklers, critics, and legitimate reviewers. This may be even more important for women who write as we’re still striving to gain an even playing field in the publishing world.
Here are some tips to help you put negative criticism into perspective:
- Put it in context
- Have a friend/peer/colleague read it to check it’s validity
- Be a duck – let it roll of your back (but learn what is there to learn)
- Let go of worry and self-recrimination and pick up a learning mind-set
- Realize that negative reviews add balance and validity to all your reviews
- Don’t fixate on the negative review to the exclusion of all the positive reviews you already have
Here’s the thing to remember, though, negative reviews will seem to be the ones that stick with you the most, if you’re like most people emotionally and mentally. For some reason, we seem to focus on the negative even when it’s in a disproportionately low ratio to the positive. We’re conditioned to look at our faults and to judge ourselves harshly. This is the time to break that negative conditioning.
Focus on your strengths. Focus on your positive reviews. Focus on your fan base and all the people in your life who believe in you. Sure, there’s someone out there who doesn’t like your work but there are SO many who do enjoy your work and those are the people you want to think about and remember.