How to keep writing when people tell you you suck

Overall, the reviews for We’re Both Straight, Right? have been positive.  But there have been a few readers — there always are, I suppose — who don’t like the story.  And even though I know, intellectually, that bad reviews are inevitable, it’s hard to shake them off.

The most recent one seemed to be implying that I wrote a cheap imitation of another book by a popular author, and people should just go read that book instead.  Of course, I’ve never read that book myself.  If I was “copying” anyone, it would have been Kevin Smith, but really I was inspired by porn clips I’ve seen online of supposedly straight college guys masturbating on film for money.  It seemed like a fun idea for a story, and several readers have agreed.

Even if this other story is mind-blowingly brilliant, is that a good reason to tell people not to “waste their time” with my story?  They’re both short novellas, for god’s sake!  It would take someone an evening to read mine.  What if someone reads this other story and says, “Boy, that was great!  I wish I had another story like it to read.”?  Well, then, they can read my story!  I know I do that all the time — finish something I really like, then immediately go looking for another story that’s similar.

And who knows?  Maybe they’d like it.  Yes, I know it’s the job of a reviewer to give other potential readers some idea of whether a story is worth reading or not.  But there’s a difference between “I didn’t think this was funny,” or “I found Larry to be pretty offensive,” and “I liked this other book better — go read that.”

That’s just crass.

Then there’s the other 2-star reviewer who not only didn’t get it the first time, but felt he absolutely had to go back and expand upon his review to try to convince other people to completely misinterpret the motivations of the characters.  Let’s go ahead and spread that misinformation like a virus.  Why not?

So my fellow authors at Dreamspinner have all been through this with their own books, and they keep telling me to take a deep breath and ignore the critics.  They know that isn’t easy to do, of course.  But there’s nothing else to be done, really.

It can be very difficult to keep plugging away at your current novel or story, when people are making bitchy comments about your published works.  It takes a lot of self-confidence to be able to keep writing, when there are people out there telling other readers not to bother with your stuff, and writers tend to be insecure by nature.

As Erich is fond of telling me, whenever I’m upset at the world, “I want you to take a deep breath.  Then I want you to imagine a glowing circle of white light surrounding you.  And in that circle of white like, you can see several tall spikes.  And on top of each of the spikes, you can see the severed head of one of your enemies…

“There.  Doesn’t that make you feel better?”

NOTE:  I don’t really collect severed heads.  But here’s an interesting bit of trivia — the ancient Celts had a word for “pile of heads outside my front door”.  It was, in Latinized spelling, “cenar.”  Have I mentioned that Erich and I make horror films for a hobby?

NOTE 2:  I got a 4-star review for We’re Both Straight, Right? today on Goodreads, so I’ve calmed down somewhat.

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Filed under Mystery, Occult/Paranormal, Writing

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