Originally published in 2009, this is one of the highest-traffic posts of all time at Cynsations.
I'm sharing it again today because it's a new year and we have new debut authors.
I'm so sorry you're feeling blue.
Please know that:
(1) it's not exclusive to you. Our most critically acclaimed writers have fielded rather clueless, self-indulgent, overly personal, and unprofessional attacks on their fine work.
What's more, over the past couple of years, I've received several phone calls and emails from distraught first-time authors about mean-spirited online reviews and comments. In addition to their publishing debuts, many were dealing with personal challenges ranging from divorce to lost day jobs to living without health insurance. All had poured their souls into their manuscripts and made substantial sacrifices in pursuit of their writing life and career goals.
(2) not all of the "noise" matters. Negative reviews in general don't matter in the long run, let alone mean-spirited ones. Besides, not every voice is of equal/any influence. In particular, anyone calling themselves "anonymous" is way at the bottom of the movers-and-shakers list. Really.
the very successful (by anyone's measure) Sara Zarr.
(4) maybe rethink comparing responses to your book with those to other books. It's impossible to get a global bead within the first year anyway, and you're too close to it to see the big picture.
(5) a lot of interesting, quality work that advances the body of literature generates the most extreme (positive and negative) responses; it's probably less stressful to shoot for bland writing that doesn't challenge, but is that really what you want to do?
(6) move on to your next project, and put your focus, energy, and emotion into it instead.
(7) if it's hard to have faith in yourself, remember it's not all about you. Don't forget your home team--your early readers, your agent, your editor, your publisher. Believe in their judgment, their contributions, their faith in you. (And, hey, didn't you get some positive reviews too?)
(8) you are player, a contributor to the conversation of books, an exciting newcomer to a circle of storytellers that stretches back before the first fireside gatherings. Draw strength from that tradition.
(10) focus on becoming your own best cheerleader. Take care of you!
This post was adapted from my comment on a stellar debut author's locked post and shared with permission.
Certainly, more seasoned writers also might feel stung by overly personal and malicious online reviews, but it's mostly the new voices that I'm hearing from. Mostly.
Photo by Vera Kratochvil at PublicDomainPictures.net.