Stephen King compares writing to crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub, because in both, “there's plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.” Not only will you doubt yourself, but other people will doubt you, too. “If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it,” writes King in his book “On Writing”. His first published novel was rejected so many times that King collected the accompanying notes on first a nail, then a spike, on the wall of his room.
Negative reviews go with the territory. I have been writing for more years than I care to count—I sold my first article to a national magazine when I was 12 years old and have been in print (and pixels) ever since. Over time I have, of course, become less sensitive to harsh feedback. But when it comes to my memoir, “So L.A.”, I’ll admit that mean reviews do sting a bit more because it’s so much more personal than, say, a fiction tale or one of my books on film. When somebody doesn’t like my book and they say so in no uncertain terms with a public 1-star dis on Amazon, they don’t like me (or so it seems).
I have few friends who are also authors, and so when I took out a rare moment to whine about a specific bad review I recently got, Stacey Keith (“Sweet Dreams”) dropped me a line. I thought I’d share it because it makes so much sense—and it might help you, too. Whether you’re a writer or a wrestler, you’re bound to get booed. So remember this:
“[I read a book called “Bulletproof Writer” by Michael Alvear] and his contention was this: our brains haven't significantly evolved in over five thousand years. Different circumstances, same brain. Back in the forest primeval, if we were expelled from our small, roving band of tribespeople, that was tantamount to death. If the tribe didn't like us? Death. If we were caught doing something unacceptable? Death.
“Bad reviews act on our brains the same way. If someone writes a bad review, our brains make no distinction between a bad review and expulsion from the tribe. We're on the outside looking in. We're outliers. OTHER WRITERS get glowing reviews, but not us. We're left to die out in the cold.
“Personally, I think the higher up the food chain you go, the more of these kinds of reviews you get by bitter wannabes who don't have the stones to learn their craft and write a book. Have YOU ever left a one-star review? I doubt it. I know that I haven't. In fact, I rarely leave reviews at all. Maybe two reviews in all the time I've bought books on Amazon and both of them were five stars.
"So my hard-earned advice here is: don't sweat this. At all. Not even a little.”
Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with mostly good reviews. And I am grateful for each and every one! I don’t take them for granted. Not many people find the time to write something nice (it’s the haters who seem to live online) so I do genuinely appreciate any positive feedback I get.
“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” - Gene Fowler
I have some good news to share: I just got a five-book publishing deal from Third Street Press. It’s for a series of paranormal romance novels spanning two centuries. I can’t wait to dive into all that glorious research and get to writing (and writing, and writing, and writing…). This is my first foray into a continuing franchise of books and I am pretty thrilled about it!
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening.” – Ernest Hemingway
If you’ve been thinking about joining Audible.com and listening to some audiobooks on your commute or jog—or if turning pages has just become too much of a chore—now’s the time. There is no cost for your first book if you choose one of mine and you can cancel your membership at any time (and still keep the audiobook). Such a deal, amiright?