Taking the Sting Out of a Bad Review So You Can Become a Better Writer

No one likes a bad review, but let’s be honest, some of what the reviewer says might hold a bit of truth, if we’re brave enough to listen. So how do you get past the sting of a bad review so you can become a better writer?

Grow Thick Skin

Remember your first hard critique? You were a new writer. Bright-eyed, hopeful, and naïve. You thought your prose would sing in the ears of your critique partners, but instead of praise, your new friends screamed red all over your pages. Remember the sting? Remember the pain? You got over it, right? Well, you did if you’re still writing. Why? Because your skin thickened up, and you were able to pull out the truth in a tough critique to be a better writer.
The same thing should apply when we read a tough review. (If you choose to read reviews at all.) There’s a very real possibility the reviewer might be out right mean and not have understood your story or what you wanted to accomplish, but between the harshness, there might be some truth to help make you a better writer. You just need to grow an extra layer of skin to find it and realize the reader is not rejecting you. They simply didn’t connect with your book on some level.
Look at the Review Objectively

Of course this is hard to do when you haven’t grown thick skin, but if you have, try looking at a bad review in hopes of finding something you can work on so you can become a better writer. Is there anything constructive you can pull out from a bad review? Did the reviewer mention some aspect of the craft you might be weak in? Maybe they didn’t connect with your main character or thought you overused analogies, not that I’m speaking from experience. But those are things you can take a closer look at and learn from.
Realize Not Everyone Will Understand Your Story

Will there be people who leave reviews totally contradicting what other reviewers have said? Yes, and that’s okay. That just means that particular reader didn’t get your story and that it wasn’t meant for her. That person is not your target audience, so don’t sweat trying to write for her. You will never make that kind of reader happy, so why try?
Accentuate the Positive

If bad reviews outweigh the good reviews, that could mean a couple of things. You need to get back to the business of studying the craft, or other readers who enjoyed your story didn’t take the time to review it. I have some ideas on how to get readers to review, but I’ll save that for another post. In the meantime, focus on what readers liked about your story and do more of that! They’re the ones you are writing for!
Forget it and Just Write

I know, easier said than done. Bad reviews can sour your mood and paralyze your writing, that’s why many authors refuse to read them. But if you choose to read a bad review, realize that no matter how thick your skin, a harsh review will sting. The disappointment in yourself and fear of letting down your readers can keep you from writing, but to be a better writer, you need to write. So unplug from the internet, seek encouragement from those who believe in you and your writing, and just write. It is that simple!
Bad reviews aren’t fun, in fact, they hurt, but they don’t have to kill your writing. By growing thick skin, being objective, and a having desire to improve your craft you can take the sting out of a bad review and become a better writer.

Gina Conroy is founder of Writer…Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. Represented by Chip MacGregor, she writes fun, quirky mysteries full of twists and turns. Her first book Cherry Blossom Capers, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012, and Digging Up Death is available now .

Driven to Write ~ Lynn Rush

Driven to
write, Lynn Rush often sees her characters by closing her eyes watching their
story unfold in her mind. Lynn Rush is a pen name that is a combination of two
sources – Lynn, the first name of her mother-in-law, who passed away and Rush –
since the author is a former inline speed skater and mountain biker. All of
Rush’s books are dedicated to Lynn, her namesake, and a portion of the proceeds
benefits cancer research and awareness.
Tell our readers a bit about your journey. How long did it
take you to get published?
I started writing for publication
in May of 2008, and I got my first publishing contract through a contest in
January of 2010; however, that didn’t end up working out as the publisher
closed its doors. Crescent Moon press snatched up Wasteland March of 2011. It
was an up and down journey, but that’s part of any dream, right? Totally worth
it!
Tell us about this book.
The third book in this Wasteland Trilogy, Tainted, released
January 15th, 2013. I was sad to see the stories end, but it was fun
to write Jessica and Durk’s love story. I’d introduced Jessica in that very
first book when she wasn’t even sixteen. Durk had a brief mention, but he
played a bigger role in book two, Awaited. In book three, they finally get the
spotlight.
Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment to spark this story?
No. I’m one to just get an idea and start writing. I could
be walking down the street and a story idea will spark at any given time. But,
as I looked back at Wasteland, it was about being out of control. I was
unemployed, something I didn’t want or ask for. Things were just out of my
control, much like the main character, David. He didn’t ask to be a half demon,
didn’t want to be, but it was beyond his control.
Did anything strange or funny happen while researching or
writing your book?
Not Wasteland, but the second book, Awaited, was
interesting. My heroine is mute. So, I had to learn/research sign language for
some phrases. That was really fun. I’d always wanted to learn sign language,
just never took the time, so this was a nice taste.
Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?
I can write anywhere. I love this little coffee house near me called Cabin Coffee. I did a book signing there with a local musician back in October and they were just fantastic. It was so fitting since I’ve written, like, three books while drinking their tea and eating their cookies. <grin> But for the most part, I’m at my desk shown in the picture.
I have a picture of Lynn, my mother-in-law, on the wall where I can easily see it. She inspires me. And yep, that’s where I got my name. She read the first thing I ever wrote, and she was a great writer, so I thought it was fitting. And then when she died from cancer, I thought it even more fitting that her name would be on every single thing I publish. That’s also why I donate a portion of all my book proceeds to cancer research and treatment.

Are you a plotter, SOTP writer or somewhere in between?
SOTP for sure. The most plotting or planning I do is a Mind
Map of my characters. Sometimes I don’t even do that. Just sit in front of a
blank word document and start writing. I love that rush!
What’s your process for writing a book?
When I start a book, I really can’t rest until I write it.
My characters just don’t shut up. So, I pretty much spend every waking hour
writing to get the story out. It’s a VERY rough draft. Some have called it an
80,000-word outline. I’ve been known to write an entire first draft without a
character name. Just blank lines throughout until the idea of a name hits me.
Do you ever bang your head against the wall with writer’s
block? If so, how did you overcome it?
No. If the words aren’t flowing very well, I usually go for
a run, bike ride, or jam out to some really loud, rocking music. After a while,
things usually work themselves out. Especially when I’m on a four-hour bike
ride. That’s TONS of time to think things through for sure!
Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what
visuals do you use?
I literally close my eyes while typing. Visualizing
everything in my mind like a movie. I’m not so much visual in the sense I like
to look at something while I write or to inspire me. After I write the first
draft and it’s sat for a while, I’ll go back and edit, it’s then I start doing
note cards for each character, doing time lines, calendars, etc.
Novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over
implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What’s the most
difficult part of writing for you?
Those things happen to me, too. Mid-first draft I’ll figure
out I can’t go that direction, so I’ll just change. Totally different
direction, but I’ll make notes about how I need to get to the beginning and
tweak things to make it start working. The most difficult part for me…crutch
words. If I didn’t have awesome editors and crit partners, I’d have stones
thrown at me for how many times I use the same words. I love editing, but
sometimes it’s tough because I glaze over my own weaknesses, so that’s
sometimes the most difficult part. But when an editor/crit partner points
things out, then I can get on it and fix. THAT part of editing is great. I
don’t mind getting editorial letters or suggestions from crit partners. I know
it’s for the best!
What’s your strength in writing (characterization, setting
as character, description, etc)?
I’ve been told I can write action scenes pretty well and
that I have deep characters. I have an MA in psych and worked as a therapist
for a few years, and I really think that helps me dive into a character’s mind.
Did this book give you any problems? If not, how did you
avoid them?
I can’t remember any for the Wasteland Trilogy at the
moment, but Violet Midnight (which released October 2012) I had some big plot
holes and issues that were revealed during editing. It took a big rewrite to
get everything straightened out, but it was worth it. I love the end product!!
How do you balance your writing time with family and any
other work you do?
It’s a delicate balance sometimes. And once it gets out of
whack, I can really tell. But for the most part, I write as much as I can while
my hubby’s at work or out training (he’s a triathlete) so when he’s home, I’m
freed up to be with him. I work at a bookstore, so I have my “weekend” during
the week since retail’s busiest times are on the weekends. So, I get two full
days to focus solely on writing. The others, I just fit it in when I can. I
don’t have kids, so that leaves a bunch of free time. J
What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?
Write every day.
That’s really true. It keeps you in a rhythm. It’s not
always possible. But if you can’t write, at least do some editing or blogging
to keep the juices flowing. J
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Keep at it. I know it’s easy to compare yourself to other
people and their journeys, but don’t. Your path is what it’s supposed to be.
Keep taking the next step. You never know where it’ll lead you. I’d never
planned on being an author. It’d never been an aspiration of mine, but look
where I am today…it’s because I took the first step (which was really scary)
and then just kept on taking the next step.

Tainted (Wasteland #3)
Even death can’t stop true love…
After over four hundred years as a Guardian, Durk Langdon rebuked it
all. Walked away from everything when his mate, Jessica, was brutally murdered.
Yet he has no recollection of anything since that gruesome day.
Nothing alleviates his longing for Jessica or his disdain for the
Guardians until a former brother in arms joins him and his cause. Visions of
his lost love start appearing in the most unlikely places, until Durk learns
she survived.
But when he sets out to find her, demonic obstacles he never could have
imagined tear them apart.
If only he had trusted her…
“Tainted delivers
a hot tortured hero that will keep you turning pages late into the night…” –
Lisa Kessler, author of the award-winning Night
Series.

Can You Help? A Chance to Win.

Hi all, Gina Holmes here. My third, and best yet I think, novel, Wings of Glass has released. I’m trying to get the word out and can use your help. If you can participate you will be entered to win 1 of 3 prize packs, which include autographed copies of all 3 of my novels: Crossing Oceans, Dry as Rain and Wings of Glass.

Here are some ways you can help and enter:

1. If you’ve read the book, leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Lifeway, CBD, B&N, Books a Million or other online bookseller or site.

2. Write a review for your blog or website. If you’d like one ready to go, we can probably get permission from another reviewer to repost.

3. Ask your library to carry it.

4. Post on facebook, pinterest, twitter or other social media site that Wings of Glass has released.

5. Post an interview with me. I have one all ready to go. You wouldn’t have to do anything but post.

If you participate, please let me know so I can enter you for the prize. Anytime from now until March 15th is great.

Thanks so much! Gina

PS. Today, the Lifeway blog posted about Wings HERE. 
and Novel Crossing HERE. 

The Top 5 Clichés Used by Christian Writers

blah-blah-blah Did you hear about the Christian writer who responded to a rejection letter by telling the editor she was “rejecting God” because the story “came from
God”?

Welcome to the world of Christian writers.

So what’s
the difference between “Christian writers” and every other kind of
writer? For starters, they’re forever dragging God into the biz. And
usually hanging the blame on Him, too. Like the person who believes
God’s “called” them to write (#5), but not provided the schedule to do
so. Because of the kids, their job, their health — whatever — they just
can’t follow through. They’re “waiting on God” for the “right timing” (another Christian cliché).
Listen, if God’s really  “called you to write,” He wants YOU to find the
time to do so. He “called” Abraham but didn’t do the walking for him. Maybe you should stop “waiting on God” and put one foot in front of the other. That’s just one example of the unique, sometimes screwy
approach that Christian novelists bring to their craft.

Having frequented Christian writing circles for some time now, I’ve
heard all the spiritualized slogans we believers like to regurgitate.
Here’s my Top 5 clichés that Christian writers use.

5.) “God’s called me to write.”Funny
how God never “calls” Christians to be sales assistants, lay reviewers,
work in circulation, be an advertising manager, or write obituaries for
the local newspaper. You’d think that writing novels was the top of the
Christian publishing holiness hierarchy.
4.) “It just wasn’t God’s will that I… (fill in the blank).”
“God’s will” is a favorite “out” for Christian writers. Most often, the
saying is followed by things like “find an agent,” “sell a lot of
books,” “finish the manuscript,” or “advertize aggressively.” Poor God. I
wish He’d get His act together so your career can finally flourish.
3.) “Marketing is not my spiritual gift.”Then
you might reconsider #5. Unless God’s also “gifted” you with spare
change to hire publicists and marketing strategists, it’s best to assume
that if God wants you to write novels, He also wants you to find
readers. Funny how hard work can make up for the absence of “spiritual
gifts.”
2.) “I want to glorify God in my writing.”Usually
this is code for “clean,” alternative, G-rated fare containing
redemptive resolutions, biblical references, salvation events, spiritual
themes, or subliminal Bible messages imbedded in the story. The
question I have is whether God is also “glorified” in a good,
well-crafted story. If we can only “glorify God” by specifically writing
about God, we reduce God-honoring lit to religious tracts.
1.) “I write for an audience of One.”Sounds
great. But unless He’s also giving you direct revelations, critiquing
your novels, correcting your grammar, dialog, characterization, and plot
elements, and buying your books, all this means is that you never have
to answer to anyone but yourself.

So there you have it! A quintet of cop-outs. My advice to Christian
writers: Maybe it’s time to stop over-spiritualizing the craft and just
start digging in. Anyway, can you think of some other overused Christian
Writer’s Cliches? 

* * *

Mike Duran is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin’ Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike’s novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea  You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.