Monday, February 11, 2013

Opinions Are Like Noses--Jan Blazanin



 Opinion: noun 1. A belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty. 2. A personal belief, attitude, or appraisal.

When Fairest of Them All was published in 2009, I thought the hard part was behind me. My book’s future would be filled with sunshine, lollypops, roses and an outpouring of praise from reviewers and readers alike.

How could they feel anything but awe and admiration? I’d revised and rewritten it more times than I could remember based on the sage advice of my agent, editor, and friends. The manuscript had been honed to a fine point, copyedited and proofread to perfection. Critics would gush, and awards would pile up.

My published friends warned me, “Don’t take the bad reviews personally.” What bad reviews?

The first reviews were good. Teens Read Too awarded me the Gold Star Award, early bloggers seemed positive. My confidence rose. The book was a success.

But not everyone dished out five star reviews. Four star reviews. Or three.

Some readers couldn’t identify with my main character. Some out and out disliked her. My writing style was annoying. The story was “too different” from the YAs they were used to reading. There wasn’t “even a hint of romance.”

The kicker was this one star review on Goodreads: I really didn't like it, it was boring to be frank. I couldn't get into it and it was a book I kept putting off reading. i'm not punishing myself anymore, I read for enjoyment not for torture.”

Ouch!

A hundred words of praise couldn't take the sting out of the disparaging reviews. My friends reassured me. It was one person’s opinion, basically meaningless. Maybe so, but that one person hated my writing and, by association, hated me.

When A & L Do Summer came out two years later, I braced myself for the unenthusiastic reviews. There were some, and they hurt. Then I began paying attention to the reviews of books I’d loved. Brilliant books I wished for the talent to write. Guess what? Some readers hated them. Some reviewers panned them. If those books didn’t get 100% glowing reviews, what chance does my writing have?

I still haven’t learned to dismiss negative reviews. How can I when my books are me? But I’m trying to be more philosophical. Writers pour their hearts into their work and each of us gets at least an occasional awful review. I'm drawing solace from the excellent company I keep.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Jan. I'm bracing myself for my first bad review and trying to keep your advice in mind. I've looked at other reviews on Goodreads--bad reviews of books I love, like Poisonwood Bible and books by Anne Lamott and John Green, and I think, Geez, if there are people who hate those books, then certainly it's okay for some people to hate mine.

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    1. No saying is more true than, "You can't please everyone." I hope your less-than-glowing reviews are few and the praise is long and loud!

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  2. This is a great post. Bottom line, everything is subjective. If we wrote to impress everyone then we shouldn't have bothered. I just posted about this recently myself (not the reviews, but the fact that everyone is going to have a totally different opinion about books). As you say, no one loves everything, not even the "best sellers". Bottom line, writing is about expressing what's on our hearts! :)

    Jessica

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    1. Excellent point! Can you imagine trying to please every reader? Authors would be crazier than we already are! :-)

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  3. I read all my reviews--the good, the meh, the horrendous. I pay attention to patterns that emerge, and to reviews from readers who connected with the book but still offer some ideas for improvement.

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    1. Good point, Holly. Constructive criticism helps us be better writers.

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