• Brush Off The Bad Reviews

Brush Off The Bad Reviews

It’s every writer’s nightmare: the dreaded one-star review. It crushes your soul and rips your heart apart. I remember my first one back in 2010 for my debut novel, Necessary Heartbreak. Ouch. It stung. Someone had the audacity to dislike my work.

Here are some of my favorite comments:

“I couldn’t get past the first line.”

“I couldn’t get past the first sentence.”

“I couldn’t get past the first paragraph.”

“I couldn’t get past the first page.”

“This is grade school writing.”

“This is high school writing.”

“This is bad college writing.”

You get the picture. There are many other versions of the above if you want to read them.

I pouted for weeks and sulked at every suggestion from other authors that everyone has to face negative comments with courage. Ha! I thought that was easy for them to say. After all, my work was far superior to theirs and everyone should see what I see – an incredible piece of literary art.

In hindsight, I was wrong. It was a good reflection of my hard work during that period of time. But it could have been better. I know this after writing my second novel, Everybody’s Daughter. I was fortunate to work with a great editor who took the time to spend numerous hours on the phone with me explaining the beauty of writing a great novel.

She was fierce too in her belief that I should pay attention to every word I write and not just write words to pile up a number.

Everybody’s Daughter was a solid work of art compared to Necessary Heartbreak. For the most part, it received quality reviews from bloggers and readers. Yet, there were several one-star reviews.

They still stung. It still hurt. I worked so hard on this novel. I wrote 23 different versions. I spent almost two years on it. My editor and I spent many months conversing about plot points and revising every page. I was so proud of this novel when I sent it to the publisher, The Story Plant.

I thought I had written the perfect story.

Yet some people had the gall to give me one-star reviews. Some were mean and nasty, too. I was angry. I wanted to fight back. I wanted to contact each and every reviewer.

Then I had a revelation one morning.

Did it really matter?

Why was it important to me to pay attention to the one-star reviews as opposed to the many more five and four-star reviews I received?

Was it my insecurity? My self-doubt? My belief that I wasn’t a real writer because I hadn’t sold a million copies like the “real authors.”

It was all that and more. We writers tend to be flawed when it comes to having a grip on reality. My reality was that I had landed a nice advance from Simon & Schuster for Necessary Heartbreak and had a great independent publisher in the Story Plant supporting Everybody’s Daughter. There were enough people in the publishing business who thought the story telling I did was pretty good. This should have been enough for me.

But it wasn’t.

I needed everyone’s admiration for my hard work. I wanted every single reader to approve of my skill level. I desired to have praise for every stinking word I wrote.

It took me a while to get over my own ego. I’d be in such a mood after a one-star review that it would ruin my day, my week and even the month. How stupid I was to depend on some stranger’s opinion whether my work was worthy enough to be on public display.

I’ve realized reading a book is a subjective process. Not everyone is going to fall in love with my work nor should I spend time worrying why they feel this way. What is important is how you feel about your work. It’s not a sprint, as they say. It’s a marathon.

I’m in this world of writing to run my marathon.

Along the way, some will offer you that cup of water to keep you going, the encouragement we all need to get through the dreary days of loneliness.

There will be moments of uncertainty, doubt, even, dare I say, depression. It happens to all of us – even to those who don’t write. Stay faithful to your heart.

Our hearts beat with life when we write.

One-star reviews are just a blip in the negativity everyone faces. I received another one-star review today. The reviewer said my writing was terrible. I laughed. It was a great feeling to do so. I suggest anyone who receives such a review to do the same. We know best how hard we work to make it a great story.

So, bring on that wrecking ball.

I’ll keep on writing.

9 thoughts on “Brush Off The Bad Reviews

  1. iamatwin77@aol.com'Linda Rahaim

    wow Mike… what a beautiful testimony.. sounded so much like me!! Always wanting the approval of others… I am now learning, that doesn’t matter anymore. You have done your best, and you should be proud of that!!! Don’t let others destroy your enthusiasm in writing just because they didn’t like it. fyi ~ remind you of a dream somewhere? 🙂

    1. Michael john Sullivan Post author

      Yes, we must all learn to be happy within ourselves and what we do. Once we have achieved this, the opinions from others won’t matter and you can truly be free and happy. Yes! I remember that dream vividly. 🙂

  2. selenarobins@yahoo.com'Selena Robins

    You’ve come a long way, Mike. Writing has an ever lasting learning curve, with every passage, every chapter, ever book we always improve and evolve.

    Yes, negative reviews sting, but they do not define you as a writer. They are a reflection of someone’s view of their own world, where they either want to read something that is as quick as a commercial on TV, or read something that reflects their own beliefs, and how they see the world.

    When a book elicits such a strong reaction, either positive or negative, then YOU’VE DONE YOUR JOB. You evoked emotion from the reader. There is NO book in the world that has ever been universally loved, and never been criticized, because it is impossible to please all the personalities out there.

    The most important person to please is the author inside you, who loves writing, wants to share his creation with others. It’s a test in self-discipline and letting go of control, because once it’s out there, we surely don’t have any control over what is going to happen.

    People say that some have a fear of failure in the arts. I say, we have a fear of success. If we are successful we fret whether we can duplicate the success and keep pleasing our audience/editors/publishers.

    Writing is like life, it has it’s ups and downs, it’s challenges, it’s positives and not so positives, Which is a good thing, it keeps us on our toes. 🙂

    There’s a lid for every pot, and there’s a reader for every single type of book out there.

    Write on!

  3. cdeanne956@msn.com'C. Deanne Rowe

    I love your comment ‘Our hearts beat when we write’….what a great way to think of it. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I’m try to convince myself there will always be someone who doesn’t like my work and it’s their loss.


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