Reviewing the Reviews

Reviews.

Oh how we love the good ones! We read them repeatedly. We share them on Facebook; we link them on Twitter. We post them on our blog sites. We read them aloud to our families. Sometimes we print them out.joy

Oh how the bad ones can bring us low! We read them repeatedly. We share snippets of them on Facebook with trusted friends, but we don’t dare link them on Twitter or our blog sites. We cry about them to our families. We wake up in the middle of the night with those unkind words haunting us, causing us to doubt our dream and our calling.despair-and-alone

I don’t care who you are and where you are in your writer’s journey, the good reviews give you a high and the bad reviews bring you low. We are human. Our reactions are normal, natural and expected.

I hear/read from several authors who exhort, “Don’t ever read reviews!”

Oh, please. That’s like saying, “Don’t look in the mirror.”

Do look in the mirror, because you might need to comb your hair or wipe mustard off your chin. Do read reviews, because you might find a comment that actually causes you to craft a better book next time.

What the self-proclaimed but unwise advise-givers should say is, “Don’t obsess over reviews.”

Realize what each reviewer offers, good or bad, is merely opinion. Consider those opinions with an open mind. If you have twenty reviews and eighteen of them say something like, “Too many characters made this story confusing” you should certainly think about why you populated the story so heavily. Maybe in your next book, you can consolidate minor roles into fewer characters. If out of those twenty reviews, seventeen of them say something like, “The cast of characters in this book helped to create a compelling, entertaining story” then you probably hit the right balance. Strive to continue doing that. My point here is this, if more than two or three reviewers point to the same area with basically the same comments, chances are good that area needs work.

Ignore these statements: “This is absolutely the best story ever written!! Not one word should be changed! I loved it from the beginning to end!!!! This author is pure genius!!” The person who wrote this adulation is probably your mother, sister, cousin, or best friend. SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA As much as you love these people, their reviews can’t be trusted as Absolute Truth, so appreciate and enjoy their praise, but don’t let it go to your head.

Also ignore these kinds of proclamations: “I hated this book. I absolutely detest Western romances set on an Idaho potato farm. I will never in my life ever buy another book by the author of Spuds and Love Near Boise. If I could give this book minus 5-stars, I would.” This is not a review. This is merely someone’s taste in books. And as funny as it seems here, I’ve read “reviews” like it. Books should not be reviewed on the merit of personal taste in reading material. If someone dislikes zombie detectives, he should never read books about undead private investigators. And he certainly should never, ever write reviews about those books.

I’ve noticed there are some reviewers who don’t like anything. I don’t know why they spend time reading because they obviously hate every book that comes into their hands. burn books If you look at their other reviews and notice this trend, roll your eyes at their ignorance and obvious lack of class, then get back to writing.

Another thing. If you have nothing but 5-star reviews, it looks like the only ones who read your stories are your family and best friends. Nothing but glowing, positive reviews are huge red flags to discerning readers. You don’t have to like or even desire 1-, 2- or 3-star reviews, but they are a sign your book is getting into the hands of the reading public, and we all want that. Chances are, for everyone who posts something negative, there is someone else who enjoyed your story and did not bother to post anything.

Reviews are not fatal. The negative ones just make you feel that way sometimes. And, please understand that the glowing ones do not mean you are God’s gift to the literary world, so try to keep a level head on your shoulders. bighead There is always someone whose books are better than yours.

That thought should keep you well-grounded and humble and still able to move forward in your writing career.

If You Can’t Commit, Try Willpower

I have been on a popular weight-loss program for the last few months. I participated in this same program a few years ago and made it to my goal, then kept the weight off for three years. The secret to keeping the weight off was simple: consider what I was going to eat and make choices each time I faced food. I did great until choosing to eat empty calories got me off track. Once I made the choice to pop a few doughnuts, candy bars, and chips for two or three weeks, it was easy to slip back into habits that had caused me weight gain. desserts

Today I talked with my weight-loss consultant about this subject, and as always, she asked thoughtful questions that require insightful contemplation from me.

When I mentioned that I felt a key to being successful in turning away from unhealthy choices was willpower, her question was, “Do you think it’s willpower, or do you think it’s commitment?”
My immediate response: “It’s the same thing.”
My on-second-thought response: “I’m a commitment phobe.”
My on-third-and-later-thought, “No, I’m not commitment phobic, I just don’t like making promises I can’t keep.” (When I’m asked to speak to groups – something which I love to do, by the way, it’s such fun and I have no phobia about public speaking – my physical reaction is one of feeling trapped and suffocated simply because I am now committed to that date, time, and place.)

So by this time, I’m completely confused by her question and my inability to respond with confidence. I think I confused her as well. confused

Logophile, I am. I needed to study these two terms: willpower and commitment. I looked up their dictionary definitions and gave them both a good long think.
1) Willpower: “Strength of one’s will, esp. in the exercise of self-control.” That is definition my dictionary offers. Simple. And it puts the responsibility squarely in my hands. If I succeed or fail, I h Continue reading “If You Can’t Commit, Try Willpower”