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 .