Monday, August 15, 2011

Writer should be spelled W-A-R-R-I-O-R

Wow. I've slogged through the blood, guts, muck and mire over at one of my favorite boards this weekend. I feel just as bruised and battered by the experience as those who lived through and posted it. People in tears over 1-star reviews, writers vowing to quit, another episode of "vote that bitch down" AND the reviewer from hell can make anyone, even leather-skinned me, want to come in from the cold. 

Word of advice to you would-be published writers: bring your armor (your rational half), your best sword (your best BOOK) and your best shield (those people who will still love you even if you never write another word) when you step into this arena of publishing. You will need it all for your sanity. Arm yourself with a bit of patience, common sense AND business sense too, and you'll survive. 

What's waiting for you? Your worst nightmare. People who do not give two shits of a rat's ass who you are, what you think you've written and why they should read it. These trolls folks thrive on a writer's misery and guess who they'll eyeing be someday?

What's a writer-warrior to do?

1. Stop thinking of your book as your baby. A parent will do anything to defend their baby against all harm. Granted, even the fugliest baby in the world has parents who adore it. But's that all about your heart. I'm asking you to bring your HEAD to this fight. Your book is your BUSINESS. Sometimes, business stinks. Learn to recognize that it's about the book, not about you. Stop making things personal. Focus on the book - not the one you put out that the critics have almost slashed to death. It's already out there. The other side has seen it and judged its worth. Time to put that rusty sword away and come out swinging with another one, an even better one.

2. Stop giving other people control over your emotions just because they didn't like your book. I say this as someone who's received wonderful and piss-poor reviews in turn, so believe me, it will feel like crap when you receive the latter kind. Just remember you're in good company; all the great writers have a 1-star review too. Do not let anonymous or mean comments from people whom you will never meet or interact with face-to-face make you anything other than who you are. If you drop your armor, that rational side of your brain that should say, "This is one person's opinion," they've already won. Your next adversary, self-doubt won't be so easily defeated.

3. Stop judging your self-worth by your books. If I had to, I could walk away from self-publishing tomorrow with full confidence and no regret. Why? Writing is not my full-time career (not yet!) and it sure doesn't define my existence. It is a portion of the sum of my parts, not my whole being. Writers are so wrapped up in the lives on the page that sometimes, we forget the other people. You know, the real ones? The folks who loved you before you even thought of writing. Who will still care about you even if you stopped. Remember them? Keep them at your side cause they don't judge you by what you can do or write, but for who you are. You'll need them when the first form rejection, first bad review, first pittance in royalties comes in. Trust me, they are your best shield against what's out there.

For now, I'm waiting for you in the trenches. Come out fighting!           


Christine Murray said...

This is a great post, I especially love the advice on separating your emotions from your business. Hard to do, but necessary.

Consuelo Saah Baehr said...

I agree with Christine. Great post. I've had some one-star reviews and each time it takes a couple of hours to settle down. One review had the headline "worst book ever." I considered that one funny because if it really was the worst book ever it would have a distinction, like the movie Ishtar or Waterworld.

Listen to Lisa.

Michelle Gregory said...

it seems like there are more and more stories about authors ranting over bad reviews. sheesh. if you're going to put something out there, you're going to get criticized. it's just a fact of creative life.

on another note, when i hear about bad reviews, i always think of a quote from the food critic Anton Ego in Ratatouille - "… In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."

Lisa Yarde said...

Christina, Consuelo and Michelle, thanks as always for your comments. While I appreciate and, of course, understand how negativity pierces the heart of us, we just have to get past that in positive ways. I try to learn what I can from my bad reviews, while accepting that there are just some people I'll never please. I can live with that.

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