A question that often pops up in the writing community is how to handle negative reviews. True I’m yet to receive a negative reiew, or a critique so nasty as to inspire my ire, but I have a system in place already for dealing with all that you wish you could say to a negative reviewer, but first, let’s look a the types of negative review. In my opinion there are two types of negative review: the critique and the troll.
You welcome the critique. Throw open your arms for it, because while this person didn’t like your piece, they will detail for you what it was they didn’t like and often even why. This is a learning experience. You may listen and work on it, or you may count this person as not one of the people you are writing for. Either way, this person has put thought into their response to your work and I find myself often able to say thank-you even if I totally disagree.
You despise the troll. This is the person who writes a one star review on Amazon or Goodreads and just says “This book was shit, go back to your day job”. There is no thought or quality to their review and more often than not they are hurtfully phrased. Why? Because that is what the troll lives for. They want to make you feel like excrement and go cry in a dark corner folded into the fetal position, or even better they want you to fight back. Admittedly most of the time the troll is a disappointed customer. They bought your book (or at least you hope they did, why act so nasty with you if they didn’t waste their money?) and didn’t like it. They forget that you are a person too and if someone came into their place of work, knocked over their pot-plant and said “your spread-sheet on the P&Ls for last month was a veritable craptacular, Troll.” that they would probably hide under their desk for a little sob too. Then again sometimes the troll is just a troll, an angry bitter person who wants everyone else to be miserable too.
How do you not get caught up in the troll’s evil web of hate? Well, this is what I do. I open Word and type out a letter. It can be as snarky as I want it to be in the first draft. Once it’s completed I edit it. Remove all swear words. Remove all name calling. Fix up that grammar. Try and put a hook into the sentence structure, or make it snazzy. Fix up the vernacular, make it witty and verbose and catchy. Then save it into a folder called ‘snark’ or ‘trolltastic’ and move on.
I find by the time I’ve edited my reply letter to a solid state of quality I’m often much calmer and I usually look at the letter somewhat impressed with how articulate I can be. I never, NEVER send the letter out into the world. This is hate mail. You don’t want to send hate mail out into the world. It’s a karmic thing. Apart from the karma reason think about your professional image. If you’re seen ranting and raving at a negative review you will not improve your professional image at all. Twice now I’ve received links from other writers sending me to hilarious and shameful outbursts and every time I remind myself to never let that be me.
The letter is also a useful tool for arguments with friends or family, or for you fellow retail store assistants out there when you have a nasty customer who you can’t get out of your head. It just pushes all the anger out and onto the page(so you don’t have to hurt those you love or lose your job) and then just file it away.
Best of all is these trolltastic letters are great for recycling all of that well edited anger into conflict between characters(though do remember, conflict isn’t always about arguments!).
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