As an expectant parent, there are lot of things to worry about. You lose sleep hoping that your baby will be healthy and strong. You are terrified by the horror stories you’ve heard from other parents. You are stressed out about all the things that could possibly go wrong. But there is one thing you never worry about: people hating your baby. I mean it’s a baby! Even if your baby has an squishy alien face, people are not going to hate it (although they may say it’s ugly behind your back…it is sort of true, but you’ll never believe it about your baby). You won’t worry that people will ridicule your baby, or call it stupid, or blame you for all the mistakes you made when you delivered it.* But people will hate your book baby. Reviewers will make fun of it, they will ridicule your failings as a writer, they will poke holes in your plot, they will say mean, nasty, vicious things about your characters. They will not care about the years — much longer than it took to grow a real baby in most cases — that it took to get your book published. They will not look at your book as a deeply cared for, intensely personal life experience. For readers, a book is a product to be dismantled and torn a part and vilified. And they have every right to do it. I know it sucks, and (am learning, unfortunately) how painful it is. I can imagine that it compounds so many of my writer friends feelings of inadequacy and depression. There are so many brilliant posts about how to deal with bad book reviews (and I’m bookmarking them all in case I need them one day), like this one Writer Unboxed. And they all boil down to two things:
- Don’t read your reviews.
- If you do, pretend you don’t (while complaining to someone in private while consuming copious amounts of food or alcohol).
I think that is probably the best advice for most everyone, but I saw something on Maggie Stiefvater’s facebook page and I wish I could find it again (I looked). I’m summarizing here because I don’t want to misquote her, but she said she reads her reviews because they help her see the things she can do better. Maggie is a brilliant author. If you haven’t read Scorpio Races, you probably should because it’s genius AND going to be made into a movie. Maybe it’s masochistic, but I like Maggie’s point of view. I totally recognize that people are going to hate my book and say mean things about it, but I hope that some of them will hate my book…ummm…thoughtfully? Maybe give criticism that is both painful and constructive? I hope to continue to grow as a writer, get better at my craft, and write lots of good books. Not to say I won’t love good reviews and beam when I’m given praise. I’m hoping for lots of reviews of the that type, but will accept the other type too. Hopefully. *Sadly, this does not last. People will hate your children and be awful to them. It is, in my opinion, a million times worse than bad book reviews.