Ignore! Now Write!
This new exciting post is about authors and how they advise new authors on how to deal with negativity whether it comes from online trolls, bad reviews, and family and friends who are either not very supportive or interested in their writing goals. If you plan on being an author yourself, this information I hope will help you. If you don’t plan on being an author, I hope you find this info at least interesting. I had gotten this information from many Q&A’s I’ve done with bestselling authors.
Allison Brennan (New York Times Bestselling Author; Genre: Romantic Suspense)
Negativity doesn’t stop once you are published. There will always be people who don’t like your books and leave bad reviews. While you’re aspiring to be published, I can offer two pieces of advice that helped me: First, you have to love writing. If you love what you’re doing, if it brings you joy even with all the ups and downs in the publication journey, then that will help sustain you when negativity reigns. Second, learn how to discern constructive criticism from negativity. You’ll be rejected by agents, editors, readers. That is part of the business. But there is a difference from someone offering constructive criticism with the goal of helping you to be a better storyteller, and someone who just wants to tear you down. Discerning this can be difficult. If the advice HELPS you, then listen. If it doesn’t help, ignore it.
Paige Shelton (New York Times Bestselling Author; Genre: Mystery)
Ignore, the best you can. For sure, don’t read reviews. Never, ever, ever respond to a review. Think of them as none of your business. As for unsupportive friends and family members, I’ve been very lucky in that department, so I don’t have any firsthand experience. I guess, if you want it badly enough, nothing can stop you. It took me thirteen years to get published after I started taking it seriously in 1997. I quit writing almost every day, but by the evening I was usually back to it. I know authors who got up early or wrote in the middle of the night to get their words (most of them practice words) in. Keep writing.
Marissa Meyer (New York Times Bestselling Author; Genre: Young Adult)
The first two are easy(ish) – avoid them at all costs! I never read reviews of my work, good or bad. They will live in your head forever, and make you doubt yourself and your voice at every turn. Find editors and critique partners you trust, and after that, try to focus on the readers that do enjoy your work, knowing that it’s all subjective and not every reader is going to love what you do. You’re writing who will!
Willow Aster (USA Today Bestselling Author; Genre: Suspense)
I usually advise to not read too many reviews, but there are times you can’t avoid it. Sometimes you’ll get tagged in negative reviews or you have to go through reviews to post on your Amazon page, etc…and it’s really hard to not take the negative reviews to heart, no matter how many positive ones there are. When I read an especially painful review, I’ll message another author friend and we’ll vent about it until we’re laughing again.
And with friends and family who aren’t interested in our writing goals…there are people in my life that I know to never bring up anything book-related. This is a vulnerable profession to begin with, sharing your thoughts with the world, and to have people in your life who aren’t interested in being part of that, or who think romance books are stupid, or that you’re wasting your time on a “hobby”…well, it just stinks. But I’d guess we all have at least one if not many people in our lives who aren’t going to cheer us on, and to that I say, ignore them and write what your heart wants to write.
All that said, it’s so lovely when you have people in your life who are encouraging and supportive!
Johnathan Maberry (New York Times Bestselling Author; Genre: Suspense)
Like all writers I used to read reviews and, also like my peers, perversely focused too much on the negative stuff. Bad reviews could crush me for days. I know, it’s shocking that writers are moody and emotional. But then I realized the truth that an opinion is only that –one person’s opinion. This became very clear to me one day when I had two back-to-back reviews for a zombie novel I’d written. One was a 5-star review that said it was the best book ever; the next comment was a 1-star that said it was the worst book ever. I know that the book is neither the best nor worst book ever written. The reviewers had individual emotional reactions to the same work. Why, then, would one review carry more weight –or possess enough hurtful force—than the other?
So, I stopped reading reviews.
The opinion of close friends and family on our writing –positive or negative—has to be viewed through the filter of intent. Those who love us and want us to succeed will praise our writing perhaps beyond its merit. Those who feel it’s necessary to warn us away from (as they see it) a path to obvious literary failure because it’s hard to make a buck as a writer. Neither can claim objectivity, and therefore their reviews are suspect.
As for trolls…and in the age of social media there are a lot of them…giving fair and insightful reviews are seldom their goal. There is a small but very vocal portion of the social media crowd who are emboldened by the ‘safe distance’ afforded by being literally out of reach of whomever they wish to attack. They tacitly invite the attacked writer to respond, and the ensuing fight is what feeds them. We know this. Everyone knows it, and yet trying to reason with them is a common trap. Don’t bother. They want the conflict and nothing you can say will change their hearts or minds.
It’s hard to move past the traps and pitfalls of reading reviews; harder still not to take them personally –as if those reviewers were somehow omniscient. But distance is a goal worth working toward.
Cathy Maxwell (New York Times Bestselling Author ; Genre: Historical Romance)
Negative people will always be with us. Family members can’t picture us writing a book or worry that we will have our feelings hurt or wish we’d do something more productive with our time. Critics are exactly that, critical. Someone asked their opinion and they have one. Trolls are the most annoying because they really have no agenda except to be jerks. Reviews can be disheartening because it is tough to be judged. I’ve had bad reviews I’ve agreed with and good ones that made me scratch my head. The same is true for critiques.
Here is my secret: I wrote the book. I accomplished something that none of those you mentioned have even attempted for the most part. No matter what is said, my book is out there. I’m living my life on my terms, I’m doing what gives me pleasure, and I’ve shared a story with the world. While most people are sitting on their living room couches watching television and critiquing, I’M CREATING! And no one can take that away from me. My book will be standing long after the reviews and harsh words are gone and buried.
By the way, any writer who pushes genre or creative boundaries has been criticized. Books we consider genre classics today were once denigrated for not conforming, for being too whatever. Some of those being dismissive were editors. Learn to trust your gut. Push those boundaries. Don’t conform because you think you must. Write your book.
And keep writing. We grow stronger by doing what we love.
Joe R. Lansdale (Author, TV/Film Writer)
My family supports my writing. Always have. I don’t pay attention to trolls, and sometimes a bad review I write. Believe the good ones, you have to believe the bad ones. You can learn from both, but shouldn’t become that enamored of reviews. I like to read good ones and share them and use them for promotion, but beyond that it’s always just one person’s opinion. I think reviews matter, but they are not the end all to what makes a book successful.
J. Daniels (New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author; Genre: Romance)
Oh boy. Look. Social media is both a wonderful and terrible thing. If I didn’t need it for my career, I wouldn’t use it. It stresses me out. And a lot of times, I feel like it’s feeding off of me and not feeding me, if that makes sense. What I do love about it is how I’m able to interact with readers. Without my readers, I wouldn’t be able to write full time, so it’s important to me to show my appreciation as much as I can. But I don’t get online as much as I used to. And there’s certain sites (like Goodreads) that are more for readers IMO, so I don’t go on there unless I need to add a new book. I think you just need to protect yourself and your creativity. I’ve been tagged in some pretty nasty reviews, and they’ve knocked the wind out of me. They’ve made me question stories I’ve been incredibly proud of. They’ve made me doubt myself and every decision I’ve made. And that doesn’t benefit me creatively, so I don’t expose myself to it. Online trolls are going to stick around no matter what I do. I don’t feed into them and neither should anyone else. I just try to keep my head down and write.
Conclusion & Important Lessons To Learn
The advice from these authors may differ in some ways but are similar in others. Regardless there is a lot of agreement. In a perfect world people would follow the mantra If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. There will always be trolls and people in our lives not supportive of our goals. The important thing is to not let those voices impact us. Ignore bad reviews if you can, but if you happen to see any, don’t respond, you will never meet these keyboard warriors that hide behind a computer. Decipher though what’s constructive criticism and what’s pure rudeness. We’re all guilty of saying or writing something we shouldn’t. Remember art is subjective, one person may hate what you wrote, and another person may enjoy it. If you know anyone who is a family member or a friend who isn’t supportive of your goals, don’t talk about your writing with them. Prove them wrong by writing what’s in your heart making your story as best as it will be and get it out into the world.