Chuck Wendig describes here the five ways an author should respond to a bad review of their work. As always with Wendig, it is a good read and the point is made – but for those with sensitive ears (eyes), you should stay away.
I wonder what authors are thinking when I see things like this. The instinct to defend oneself from biting words is natural but the reality is this: if you work in any kind of artistic or entertainment industry, there is going to be someone who does not like your work. Always. Even the consensus best works of all time have their detractors. And the way the western world is structured, legally, if they don't like it, those detractors are allowed to say so. Loudly. Profanely. In the most scathing and insulting manner they can. And there is absolutley nothing you can do about it.
As I see it, an author has three options when they chance on bad reivews of their work:
1) engage with the reviewer and either a) get in a pissing contest, where they will always look like a loser (the saying about wrestling a pig in mud comes to mind) or b) try to respond nicely which – while okay – is probably giving the reviewer exactly what they want: fuel to keep slinging poo.
2) Let it chew you up and obssess on it until you curl into the fetal position on the floor, mumbling the reviewer's name over and over.
3) Or develop a thick skin and get back to work.
In just the last few months, there have been some big hacking scandals, where dozens of celebrities (mostly actresses) have had nude photos of themselves released. While I am sure that is upsetting and feels violative to them, I have not heard a single one say they were going to stop acting because of it. They nut up and soldier on. If I can't do the same when someone basically says my work sucks and so do I (which has happened) then I need to hand in my author card.
If you read a bad review of your work, my recommendation is:
– Defer the hurt. Ignore it.
– Look to see if there is any truth in what they wrote. This is the hardest but most crucial part for a writer – that is, self-honesty. If someone says only a fat moron would write a plot this trite with all these Oprah-sized holes, ask yourself: is it trite? Are there holes?
– Pick up a pen and get back to writing,
– If you still hurt, get a punching bag or go for a hike.
And as Wendig says, the last thing you should do is respond, unless you are absolutely in control of yourself.
Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled programming.