Silver Moons and Paper Dreams

You guys, I got a bad review.  Not uniformly horrible, but definitely mediocre, and from a notable site I was hoping would help boost me up a little.  Apparently that’s not to be.

I haven’t really gotten a bad review before, and I’m honestly a little puzzled as to how to handle it.  It’s a little embarrassing, sure, and I was upset at first – at 7 in the morning after a terrible night’s sleep and a nightmare about being very brutally fired from a job.  I guess that was some kind of omen.

There are, of course, two ways to handle such a thing.  Number one is to get all huffy and pissy and shout to everyone that you refuse to believe that you’re anything but perfect.  The second is to quietly brood about it, tell no one and bury it in your brain…and refuse to believe that you’re anything but perfect.

But really.  What usually happens is that the part of you that’s convinced that you’re a flawless superstar rebels from the criticism, but the reasonable piece of you looks at the critique and is able to say, “yeah, okay, maybe he’s right about this or that.”

I’m usually pretty good at being objective after I get over my initial disappointment, and I’m interested to hear what other people think because no author is capable of being a perfect judge of their own work.  But I really don’t think there’s anything in this review that resonates with my inner critic.  I feel like this guy read the first 40 pages and then skimmed the rest, not really paying attention and failing to capture the nuance or take the journey with the characters.

He pretty much said the opposite of what all my other readers have said.  My characters are one-dimensional?  There are too many of them?  The story is “too heavy”?  I don’t even know what that means.   Should there have been 400 pages of Tev frolicking in the woods with some happy little animals?  Tev isn’t really into the whole frolicking thing.  And this isn’t a “first novel” in the sense that there’s a series following it.  It was intended to be a stand-alone, which definitely changes how you read things.

In any case, there it is.  It’s out there, calling me middling at best, and I’m going to have to deal with that in the best way I know how.  I read somewhere that if no one hates your work, you just don’t have a wide enough audience.  I love that quote (please tell me if you know who said it), and I’ve been taking it to heart ever since reviews started coming in.  Not everyone is going to love everything, and someone is always going to think you’re an idiot.  You can either take that in stride, or you can let it control how you do things.

A year ago, if someone had given me that review, I would have cried for a couple of hours and never picked up a pen again.  Right now, I’m just determined to make my next effort as strong and enjoyable as possible, and hope there are more positive responses than otherwise.

That’s actually a really huge step for me, if we’re talking about personal development.  I used to be hyper-competitive about things like grades and rankings and stars.  If I wasn’t the best, or close to it, then I was a failure.  That’s a really stupid way to live.  I’m not the best author that ever lived.  I probably never will be.  But I’m good, I have stories to tell, and I can only get better.

So if you think this guy got it wrong and a 7.0 is a little low, please leave a comment and your own ranking to set readers straight.  Obviously I can’t say anything on the site, and I really have no enmity towards the reviewer himself, but that would be really helpful.  A few words is all it takes.


7 thoughts on “Silver Moons and Paper Dreams

  1. I ordered your book yesterday in paperback from Amazon and I am really excited to read it! Soon I’ll be able to answer with my own review. 🙂

  2. It’s hard when someone criticizes your work, however warranted or unwarranted it may be. You’ve struggled to work out all the finer points, you’ve pulled late nights and early mornings and edited and edited and edited until you’ve gone crosseyed… but still, there’s that review. Don’t they know that’s your baby? Any work, your first or your thousandth, will be a genuine best effort on your part and it’s a bit gutting when it becomes more than an abstract idea that someone might not like or appreciate what you’ve done. The hard part isn’t hearing it, it’s when you realize you have to be OKAY with hearing it.

    But it’s okay. These are the experiences that help you grow as an author, and as a person.

    I know it’s easier said than done, believe me. I’m more of the “cry and never do it again” type myself. But every star Olympian has started out huffing and puffing somewhere in their history, and every failure in their training has taught them how to be a stronger competitor. Nobody wants to be compared to who they were a year ago, so just try to take the present in stride. Maybe a year from now you’ll see more faults in yourself willingly. Maybe you’ll learn to appreciate the people who have seen them too, because they weren’t just trying to be nasty when they pointed them out – they were genuinely trying to help you improve for the love of the game. It’s the stuff nobody really wants to confront, but hey… we all need to do it at some point or another. It’ll suck each and every time, guaranteed. Then you just have to ride that fine line between learning from that criticism, and still staying true to yourself and your own style.

    What you need to keep reminding yourself is that you are GOOD at what you do. And your job is to keep getting better.

  3. First off, I want to say I envy your ability to handle this type of thing which such grace. I still shoot smoke out of my ears anytime someone speaks critically about my efforts. I will say that a lesson I’ve learned modifying cars is that you can’t please everyone all the time. For every 10 people that think you’ve done beautiful work, there will be that one person who thinks every thing you put into it only made a bad thing worse. Art, in all its forms, will always be subjective. There’s no right or wrong, just opinions.

    From what I’ve read so far, I think your book is really intriguing and Tev is one of the most fun and exciting characters since Captain Malcolm Reynolds. I’m a slow reader, but it’s by no lack of interest.

    Keep up the great work, Jen.

  4. My opinion: a bad review gives you some credibility, especially if you accept it. Not to mention, writing is an art, and art is always subjective. You know the adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” You sound like you’ve handled it pretty well, as it is. I can’t wait to get a bad review on my work. I always take it as heightening my legitimacy.

  5. That wasn’t a bad review. The reviewer complimented many aspects of your book and actually used the word “brilliant” at one point. Go back and read the review again, now that the first flush of initial reaction has passed. I think you’ll find some useful criticism that, if you consider it, will help you as you continue writing. All of us want every reader to simply tell us they love our work and it’s perfect. But we don’t really grow as writers if that’s all we ever hear.

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