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Reviewed September 19, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, writing.

This is a hard one. Do you read reviews of your own work? Or not? The temptation is great to hang on every word, but should you?

Let’s start with a different question. What would you say to someone who told you your writing had changed his world for the better? Great to take credit for that, but would you be as eager if someone said your writing had ruined his life? How much responsibility should you take for that? As hard as it is to give up responsibility for the first, you ought to–because you have no more altered one life in the first case as in the second. (Change this slightly to a kid playing a video game who murders his parents–is the video game responsible? Nope. No more than you with your writing.)

Slide back to reading your reviews. Good ones can make you feel good, but should you stop trying to do better? No. The bad ones can hurt. Does this make you want to quit? Shouldn’t. These are one person’s opinion. Writers ought to want to please a big audience since we are in the entertainment business (and nothing more) but the background of those reviews is basically unknown to you as a writer.

I had a short story collection snidely reviewed by the local newspaper a few years back–the reviewer didn’t know the difference between a unicorn and a minotaur. Obviously he was not the one to write a review of a fantasy collection if the basics of writing, the very foundations of fantasy, were not accessible to him. He got a paycheck and thought he was clever. I think he got a paycheck.

Amateur reviews often share the same trouble. Reviewers have an idea of what the book should be and if it doesn’t meet their expectations, it is bad. No, it just means they weren’t entertained. That’s a fair comment but not too useful to anyone else not sharing that reviewer’s braincase. Are the mechanics bad, was it technically poor? Those aren’t the usual criticisms. “I didn’t like it, so it’s no good” is far more common. And what use is it to you as a writer? None.

I try not to read any reviews and always attempt to do better with my next book through what feels right to me. But then I’ve never found a reviewer that shared my likes/dislikes (except for one, a movie critic named Judith Crist–she was 100% 180 degrees out of phase with me. She liked, I hated, she hated, I liked.) So how much weight should you place on a review, either good or bad?

None. But YMMV. Good luck.



1. sheldon russell - September 19, 2011

Thanks. I needed that.

2. bobv451 - September 20, 2011

I have the problem of hating the bad reviews and thinking the good ones aren’t good enough. So I’ll pick some other game to play.

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