When I started this blog, I told myself I'd keep out of the "controversy of the day" as much as possible. But recently, a blog that has gone viral piqued my interest. I think the teacher in me began to see this as a "teachable moment."
This blog is a review of a self-published (often referred to as an independently published) e-book. The reviewer gave the novel a fairly good review on plot and description but was concerned that the grammar and sentence structure often got in the way of the story itself.
The author retaliated. Loudly. Rudely. And profanely. You can find the blog here.
What followed was a public tirade by the author herself, along with a multitude of responses telling the author to apologize, take the criticism like and adult, and be a little more professional. Obviously, for those of you who read all the comments, this did not sink in.
There are several lessons to be learned here:
1. NOT EVERYONE WILL LIKE YOUR WRITING, not matter how good it is.
This is a tough one for new writers (and some very experienced ones as well). This work is your baby, and someone is pointing out its flaws. How dare they?!
Having been involved in an "open" writing group for many years, I find this to be a very common problem. Many of our first-timers come not wanting honest critiques but rather lavish praise piled high upon their flawless writing. When they don't get that, they often get angry and defensive. Most we never see again.
The group is very gentle in its approach, often wrapping their criticism in excellent suggestions on possible fixes or solutions. That doesn't seem to help.
No writer is going to tell you that constructive criticism feels good, but good ones will tell you it's necessary. They will tell you it's a learning experience. And they'll tell you that you have two ears and one mouth. When accepting criticism, it's best to use them in that proportion.
2. EVEN THE BEST WORKS, PUBLISHED BY THE MOST REPUTABLE HOUSES, HAVE FLAWS.
That's why there are such things as second editions.
One "famous" flaw is the cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Harry is playing Quiditch without robes. And he's supposed to be wearing his cousin's clothes, but the cover shows them being skin-tight.
There's always room for improvement.
3. EVEN THE MOST BELOVED WORKS ARE NOT LOVED BY ALL.
Catcher in the Rye. Why anyone would to read a whole book about a self-absorbed, spoiled, whinny young man?
The Outsiders. I never have been able to understand its appeal, except maybe its young author.
Love You Forever. This a picture book given at almost every baby shower in the country. I see it as a manual for stalking. Every time we read this to young children, we say it's okay to do such a thing as long as it's done out of love.
4. WRITING FOR PUBLICATION IS A PROFESSION NOT A HOBBY.
When seen as a hobby, writers don't see a need to revise work. Don't see it as a business. Don't see the a need to charge for their services, or they undercharge for them.
What's the harm? Well, for those who do see this as a profession and try to make a living doing it, these writers devalue all writing. They flood the publishing houses with less than stellar work, causing the houses to close their doors to legitimate submissions. They run the price down so low on magazine and other pieces that it's no longer worth the time of professional writers to submit. And in the end, readers suffer. They don't get the quality they expect. They don't get the variety they need.
5. IN THE END, IT'S JUST ONE PERSON'S OPINION.
That's what it boils down to, really. Yes, it's on the web, or it could be in a national publication. Still, it's just one person's opinion. Lots of award-winning and/or financially successful books have received negative reviews. It happens.
Take the review with a grain of salt and move on. Don't retaliate, call the reviewer out, or create a negative public image to go along with the negative review.
Lessons to be learned indeed. But sometimes, even the best advice falls on deaf ears.