Amanda Wen @AuthorAmandaWen
Whether it’s a scathing contest critique or a bad Amazon review, every author will eventually run into that (hopefully) rare (and clearly misguided) reader who doesn’t like their work. Some reviews or critiques can make you want to curl up under your desk, hide under a fuzzy blanket, and never write another word for public consumption again.
Not that I have done this.
As a professional musician, and now an author, I’ve had my share of criticism, and here are a few tactics I’ve found helpful:
· Take it to Jesus. Before you react or reply or do anything else, walk away and pray. Jesus knew this bit of bad news was going to hit your inbox even before you did. He can handle your tears and your complaints about how off-base that reviewer was, and how they’ve obviously never read a good book, and therefore, wouldn’t know one if it bit them in the behind. (Again, that may just be me).
· Feel your feelings. Criticism can pack a wallop, and pretending you’re not upset about it isn’t a healthy way to cope. Whether you’re sad, angry, discouraged, or all three as a result, your feelings are valid, and the only way to move forward is to move through them. However, as valid as feelings are, they aren’t always true. If your feelings are saying you’re worthless, purposeless, hopeless, or anything else ending in –less, they’re lying. God has a plan for you and your writing, and even a harsh critique can be woven into His beautiful story. (Romans 8:28 gets thrown around an awful lot, but it’s true!)
· Remember that all art is subjective. Just as you don’t love every book, song, show, or movie, neither will anyone else. Something that turns one reader into a flailing fangirl for life might totally turn off another. We’ve all got our favorite genres, topics, and writing styles, and we’ve also got genres, topics, and writing styles we steer clear of. That person who dinged your book on Amazon? As much as it stings to admit, your book just might not have been that reader’s cup of tea.
· Critique the critic. Once you’ve felt the initial sting and you can be more objective, look at the critique again and see exactly what the reviewer didn’t like. If someone hated your romance “because I hate kissing books,” that is a bit unfair, but it also means there’s nothing you can do about it, and you can dismiss it as an unhelpful critique. If a review says something like “The hero was difficult for me to relate to because I thought he was too self-absorbed,” then that might be something to consider when writing your next hero, especially if you hear it from more than one reviewer. Sometimes the harshest critiques contain nuggets of gold, and the wise writer can learn much from them. This is where prayer and a trusted friend or critique partner can come in handy. I’ve asked writing pals many a time if a critique was off base. Sometimes the answer was yes, and sometimes it was “Okay, the way they said it was a little harsh, but what they said? They’re not wrong.”
· Know thyself. If a negative Amazon or Goodreads will derail you and cause you to question your life choices, then it’s probably best to just steer clear. Although we can learn from bad reviews, consumer-site reviews are primarily for readers: to help those who are looking for your type of book to find it! That’s it. But if positive reviews provide needed motivation, you can always enlist a trusted friend or family member to screen your reviews and share the uplifting ones.
· The critic is not always right. Many famous authors, including J. K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss, received scathing rejections of works that went on to become mega-selling classics. And several less-famous authors can recount critiques that were proven wrong. After winning a handful of writing contests with one project, I entered a different project in a fairly-big-deal contest. That project, one that was near and dear to my heart, received some very harsh criticism from the first-round judges, along with the lowest scores I’d ever seen attached to an entry of mine. But that’s the book that became my debut novel.
So don’t let a negative review or harsh critique derail you as an author, my friends. If possible, use it to learn and grow as a writer. But even if there’s nothing you can learn from it, even if it’s a harsh personal attack, trust God to weave it into His perfect story.
Amanda Wen is an award-winning writer of inspirational romance and split-time women’s fiction. She has placed first in multiple writing contests, including the 2017 Indiana Golden Opportunity, the 2017 Phoenix Rattler, and the 2016 ACFW First Impressions contests. She was also a 2018 ACFW Genesis Contest finalist.
Wen is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and regularly contributes author interviews for their Fiction Finder feature. She also frequently interviews authors for her blog and is a contributor to the God Is Love blog. Her debut novel is Roots of Wood and Stone.
In addition to her writing, Wen is an accomplished professional cellist and pianist who frequently performs with orchestras, chamber groups, and her church’s worship team. Wen lives in Kansas with her patient, loving, and hilarious husband, their three adorable Wenlets, and a snuggly Siamese cat.
To find Amanda Wen’s blog and short stories, visit www.amandawen.com. Readers can also follower her on Facebook (@AuthorAmandaWen), Twitter (@AuthorAmandaWen), and Instagram (@authoramandawen)