Monday, February 25, 2013

The Writer's Pain: Bad Reviews

I’m in pain, my friends. Horrible pain!  And not from a cavity that I just had filled.

By the way, have any of you had a cavity filled in your back molars only to have it feel as if you couldn’t close your mouth right?  My teeth don’t seem to be lining up correctly and it’s killing my jaw muscles.  Have you ever had that happen?  I’m not sure if I should go back to the dentist or not.  God knows, I don’t want her ripping out the filling and putting in another one!

But back to the sermon…

I’m in PAIN, my friends!  Horrible, HORRIBLE, PAIN!

My stomach is all twisted.  Cold sweat is trickling down my sides. My throat is dry. I want to vomit. 

Ugh!! When will the misery end???

I suppose I should start at the beginning.

Yesterday, one of you wonderful people told me that you liked my book. 

WOW!!!  This was surprising because I didn’t realize that it was out yet.  It isn’t due to be released until tomorrow. The reader explained that she got an early release copy because she reviews books.

Anyway, on a whim, I checked the various book outlets—Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and so forth.  None of them were offering Riddle in Stone.  HOWEVER, I found that goodreads DID have a page up for it!  Moreover, it had two…count them TWO…reviews! ONE…TWO!!!

One review was wonderful.  Clearly the reader actually read the book. He talked about the plot and the characters and how the book really wasn’t a “fantasy,” but more of a character-driven novel.  [Those aren’t the reviewer’s exact words, but I think they are close enough.]  What is better, the reviewer gave the book FIVE STARS! Count them…FIVE!  One, two, three, four, FIVE!!!!!

Holy cow!!!  Really! Wow!  I sat there in front of my computer, just blinking at the screen, wondering if I might be misreading it.  But there it was!  A wonderfully written review with FIVE FAT STARS!  FIVE!

What’s more, the second review gave my book FOUR STARS!! Not five, mind you. But I’ll take it!  Four and five stars!


I know that this sounds like a cliché, but I honestly couldn’t sleep last night.

I didn’t have delusions that my book would “make it big” or that I’d become a best seller. Still, I allowed myself to dream that I might not suck as a writer after all!!!


By 4:00 in the morning, I still lay in bed, smiling…and trying not to wake my wonderful wife with my tossing and turning.

Two reviews…. Four and five stars….

This morning dawned cold and dark. 

And I checked goodreads.

Bad, bad mistake.  Horrible.

Somebody had rated Riddle in Stone one star.  ONE STAR!  One.

I’m crushed and devastated and…hurt.  Really, really hurt. 

To my credit, I haven’t cried yet.  YET.  But honestly, the only thing that would hurt worse than this is disappointing my wife.   (And maybe being kicked in the testicles.  MAYBE.) 

To quote Dr. Smith from Lost in Space, “Oh, the pain. The pain.”

I want to be clear here.  I don’t blame the reviewer.  Hell no!  She was just being honest and trying to help other readers by warning them away from the hideous monstrosity that is my work.  And if any of you rate Riddle in Stone at one star, believe me, there’ll be no hard feeling.

I blame myself for not being a better writer. 

Look, I know many of you wonderful people have said that you’ll buy my book.  And I hope you do (no pressure!), but I KNOW I’m not brilliant.  I hope that I will be some day, but right now…I’ll settle for good, even “decent.”  I’ll even take “surprisingly average.”

But one star!  

KILL ME OH GODS OF THE WRITTEN PAGE! Kill me now and spare me this hell you’ve thrust me in!!!!

(I’m beginning to see where I might have earned the one star.)

I know that I should shake it off.  I know that I should focus on the TWO other good reviews!  After all, I can’t please everybody.  And people DO have different tastes.  Some people don’t like the Beatles or Tolkien or Carrot Top!  Many people undoubtedly won’t like my work, for both good and malicious reasons.

But I can’t push it out of my mind.

One star…

One star…

One star…

In truth, what I think bothers me most isn’t the one star review…but all of the other one stars that will undoubtedly come at some point in my writing “career.”  And they will come.  That’s just how the world is.  Some people like chocolate. Some people like strawberry. 

This is part of being a writer. 

The worst part.

So what am I going to do, you ask???

Well, first off, I’m not going to look at goodreads or Amazon or any other place that might have bad reviews!  You think I’m kidding or that I can’t do it.  But I can!  Robby has a tremendous ability to be oblivious to things around him.  Just ask my wife.

So I will no longer pay attention to reviews!!  THIS I VOW!!

But I’ll also keep writing, and keep trying to get better.


  1. First, you need to go back to the dentist. That pain will only get worse. It usually happens when the filling wasn't polished down to the right level.

    I imagine it will be really painful when I start getting one star reviews, but they WILL happen no matter how good you are. There are just contrarian people out there, and nasty ones as well, along with those who genuinely just don't like something. There are people who will one-star Moby Dick or Lord of the Rings. It's easy to say, but you just have to thicken your skin. From what I have read, the most important thing is to NOT respond to criticism online.

    1. But I don't WANT to go back to the dentist!!!! Oh, okay!

      And thanks for the support Ted. If only I had thicker skin. You would think it would be plenty thick with how often I beat myself up and everything.'s difficult.

      The goal is to just keep an eye on the people you love, I suppose.

  2. Without having an actual written out review for that one star rating you have no way of knowing exactly why that person did so. It might have been in a genre that she does not often read and therefore doesn't understand.

    I will also state that I very much dislike that Goodreads doesn't allow for half-stars, because my four star is actually a 4.5, because I enjoyed the realism of the characters, and while sometimes Edmund's stuttering was slightly grating to read, it was true to his character and to some people in life, so I appreciated the attention to realism. The main reason for the downgrade of that half-star for me was that it seemed like Edmund spent so much of the story on his own and I did not really like all the isolation. Still, it was a great read. I adored Thorax and Pond Scum, and as a librarian myself, I loved that Edmund was a scholar/librarian-type character.

    I'm glad that you will keep writing, because I will keep reading.

    1. Oh, Danielle, please...don't worry about your review!! Even if you hated it. Please, write what you believe. I really mean that!

      And thanks for your kind words about Pond and Thorax! Hopefully you'll enjoy the second book as well.

    2. Oh, I always write what I believe. And I wholeheartedly enjoyed Riddle in Stone. I just wish it was available in more places than just the iBookstore. I don't have an iPhone, an iPad, or anything like that. I do have an extensive collection of books though, both "dead tree versions" and e-book on my NOOK.

      As an aspiring author myself, I try to make my reviews well-balanced, saying what I liked as well as what I didn't, because I know that is what I would like for my own novels in the future.

  3. I checked out Goodreads to see what you were talking about. I couldn't find where she actually wrote a review.....

    1. She didn't. Which is fine. And again, my whining has nothing to do with the reviewers. God love them for being honest. It's my issue not there's. I e-mailed back and forth with the reviewer and she made some very accurate comments about the book. Her feedback will help me make Book Two, Betrayal in the Highlands, better!!

  4. I review a lot of books, businesses, and products. I also read reviews before I buy something and have learned to read between the lines of people's reviews. Some people are just not good at reviewing things. You have to remember that. I think it is wise to not read reviews. They are often filled with people's problems and it shows. Rarely are they objective.

    Every bad review hits harder than 3 good reviews, but don't bother with that. I haven't read your book yet, but I did order it and look forward to it. And I will review it as a reader not as a writer. Just keep going and imagine that most people will not get your genius. :)

    1. My genius! :) Well, let's not go that far. I'm striving for "goodness." But right now I'll take "fairness."

      And you're right, the bad reviews hit much harder than the good reviews. That's my fault though. I need to tough up and just accept things as they come.

      Thanks Vy!! I appreciate your support!

  5. Robert, you must've missed one. I see two 5 star ratings for your book. If you need to cry, do it and then go back to working on the next story. To be a writer, you must and will develop thick skin. We do all have different styles and the more you write, the more unique your style will become.

    1. Yeah! Actually, there are three or four five star reviews. So I shouldn't complain...I SHOULDN'T, but I probably will!!! :)

      Thick skin, thick skin!! :)

  6. Meh, that's one star with no review. You know full well you've suffered worse at AW.

    You know full well...

    (sending you tea and shortbread bikky's)

    But more importantly, can I not buy your book? Everywhere I look I see the dollar sign. I'm in the UK :(

    1. I believe it's available on the UK Amazon website. Can you find it?

  7. Robert,

    What people enjoy is subjective. Keep that in mind and you'll be fine. :)

    I can think a story is really well written and someone might think the opposite. So, just remember that just because someone gave you a one star review, it doesn't mean that your story was awful or you're a bad writer. :)

    It's only one person's review after all.