The picture above is my idea of a really awful review – one star and a fist behind it. This piece was inspired by a discussion on FB started by my dear friend, the children’s author Brenda May Williams
We are often asked “What is the hardest thing about being a writer?” with the expected response being a) finding a publisher or b) getting ideas.
No, for me the worst part and the hardest lesson was accepting constructive criticism and learning from it. Never having reacted well to being told off, it was a very hard job but I managed it.
I have only ever received one truly negative review and it was on an early version of Shaman’s Drum before it was published by Crooked Cat. The woman was scathing about certain things but when I scraped myself off the ceiling, I had to admit she was right to a certain degree. The next version was changed a bit.
This goes for self published or traditional authors and one of the big stumbling blocks is … duh duh duh – EDITS. I write my books but they would be nothing without the immense hard work done by Steph Patterson
Some people seem to think that they don’t need professional help. They did OK at English at school so where is the problem? The problem, forkwit, is that you are too close in, you are reading what you thought you wrote and are so taken up with the story that you can’t see the words. It takes an impartial observer to weed out the mistakes. This is why Badger is my best proofreader. He is not fond of my work so reads it dispassionately, fishing out holes in plot, mending word goofs and pointing out where I have gone overboard on purple prose.
This led us on to reviews. I cannot in all conscience give a good review to a book that is poorly written in the sense of “cowboy writer” bodge-jobs. The narrative might be great but I find the mistakes get up and punch me in the face, spoiling my enjoyment of the whole.
It is, therefore, a big mistake to give a 5* review to someone who is your mate. A far friendlier thing is to recommend a good editor and refuse to leave a negative comment. This can, of course, blow up in your face. We writers are a very touchy lot.
PS – if a bad review is not constructive, dismiss it. You can’t please everyone. Shout at your computer screen and forget it but do examine it closely a bit later on to see if there is any helpful material there.