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First Reviews and Worst Reviews

Thank you so much for all the kind words about my first ever story sale. They were much-appreciated.  I’m especially grateful to those who graded my story and left kind comments over at Every Day Fiction. 


I even got a couple of bad reviews, which gave me a taste of what it feels like to be a writer. 


First, best and worst, when it comes to reviews, these are the ones writers tend to remember most. At least, that’s how it is for me. To this day, I can’t see the words 'Illiterate halfwit' without thinking of my old gran, and her critique of my first novel. 


None of the negative comments about ‘Wild West Justice’ were quite as bad.  That said, I think it’s safe to assume the person who wrote ‘Trite. Cliche. Sophomoric. Does this place publish anything of substance?’ didn’t give it a five star rating.


Not that I’m complaining, mind. The occasional bad review comes with the territory, right?  And unless this turns out to be the peak of my literary career, I need learn to live with all manner of feedback, even the bad stuff. At least in this case, the negative comments were very much in the minority. My job in the future is to make sure that ratio of good to bad stays the same.


After yesterday's excitement, it's time to get back to the grindstone, and the short stories I've been working on.  After all, good reviews are nice, but acceptance letters are better. 

How about you? 


What was the worst review you ever got? 


What do you do about the negative stuff?

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( 45 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 15th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
Ouch! It's hard not to take those comments personally. Luckily, my old gran spent years preparing me for this sort fo thing :)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 15th, 2009 05:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 15th, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 15th, 2009 03:27 pm (UTC)
The occasional bad reviews come with the territory, right?

Absolutely true! No worries...
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:07 pm (UTC)
I suppose bad reviews are like rejection letters. If you aren't getting at least a few, you're not doing it right. :)
(no subject) - peadarog - Jul. 15th, 2009 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 15th, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
Sorry about the review. From someone who used to be heavily into the reviewing game (Tangent, The Fix) let me say that a bad review is better than no review at all. The worst thing for a writer is to go unnoticed and be ignored.

My first review was not kind, and I was annoyed by it for a while, but I was new to the game then. Now I just shrug them off, even blog about them in a positive way like you did here, Jon. In the end, the good reviews more than make up for them. I think being a reviewer and handing out my share of "black eyes" has helped me gain perspective here. In fact, a couple of my good online friends became such after I gave them a less-than-favorable review. Boy that impresses me when that happens. Shows they're a pro.

Edited at 2009-07-15 03:34 pm (UTC)
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
'... In fact, a couple of my good online friends became such after I gave them a less-than-favorable review.'

That's another benefit from critiquing the story, not the writer :)
Jul. 15th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, the bad reviews will come. The important thing is to have at least a single good review of the same story to offset it.

Worst review? There are quite a few stinkers, but the worst was probably this one: http://futurefire.net/archive/ookami.co.uk/jupiter_xvii___callirrhoe.html
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:12 pm (UTC)
Ouch! Still, at least he liked some of the dialogue :)
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Jul. 15th, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 15th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Jul. 15th, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Jul. 15th, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 15th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 15th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
My worst review was from Lois Tilton in IROSF, for "In This City" at Fantasy Magazine:

"A fable. There is a city. A reclusive young architect lives in the city, shutting out its flawed reality behind his closed blinds, obsessed with his plans to remake it according to his own vision of perfection. Ghosts also live in the city, and one of them appears in the architect's apartment, forcing him out into reality where he learns his Lesson.

This is one of those stories that is mainly about admiring its own prose.

In this city, there are buildings made of woven silk and mirrorwood. They fold themselves around one another like lovers, and their passionate sighs are the wind in the subway.

This is pretty, but what does it mean? What does it really tell us about the city, about the imperfections that the architect sees in it? Aside from the author's concluding moral, what are we being told?"

While I'll accept there is a strong argument for the "admiring its own prose" line (it's the most consciously "beautiful" thing I've written, in that sense - and I'm sure that's why it sold when I've had over a dozen rejections from that market) the capitalisation of Lesson and the "author's concluding moral" make it clear that her vision of the story and mine are a loooong way apart.

In general I think I've been fortunate, in that most reviews have been favourable, a few meh and none really excoriating. However as is pointed out above - there's no such thing as a bad review, and I certainly don't seem to be getting reviewed as much as I'd like. I guess I'm not selling to the right markets.

As for how you deal with negative reviews: well, no-one on this PLANET, in the entirety of human history, has been popular with everyone (let's say Shakespeare is the most popular dramatist ever. How many people are there out there who have never seen one of his plays? Who don't WANT to see one of his plays? Who have seen one of his plays and was bored stupid?). To expect only praise and bouquets is simply unrealistic. You just have to understand that, as in life, not everyone will like you.
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC)
'... there's no such thing as a bad review...'

Maybe not, but I suspect there are quite a few spiteful ones.

Thanks for sharing, and for what it's worth, I liked that 'In this city...' line :)
Jul. 15th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
All the good comments outweigh that little trite comment. Congrats again, it's a great flash--not easy to do.

My worst review came from a person who has given a glowing one for another story.

"Deception” by Z. S. Adani focuses on Almion, a telepath separated from her small sect, in a world prejudiced against her, trying to prove that an organized galaxy tournament is really a cover for people sucking the literal souls from the places where it’s held. This story has alien overlords, conspiracy, and even a plague. However, it is mostly world explanation through character reflection, then plot explanation through dialog, leaving it feeling like a full novel boiled down to a summary, rather than a full bodied short tale.

It stung, but I respect her opinion.
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:16 pm (UTC)
'It stung, but I respect her opinion.'

You forgot to add; 'Then mentally let down her tires' :)
(no subject) - alaneer - Jul. 15th, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 15th, 2009 06:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 15th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
This is from about 2003/2004 - "And so to the final story in the magazine, Old Songs. Catherine J Gardner's tale begins by plunging us into a compelling vision of a modern, videocentric Hell but becomes a rather busy piece about a return from that afterlife. Your reviewer had trouble figuring out what was going on in the story and hence some trouble caring."

I don't imagine it's the first, or the last, time I'll leave someone scratching their head. :D
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:19 pm (UTC)
The end of that review reads like he/she was trying to sound clever at your expense. Funny how some people think they sound their smartest when putting others down.
(no subject) - catephoenix - Jul. 15th, 2009 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 15th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:03 pm (UTC)
Worst review I ever got said they didn't get it and my story didn't know what it wanted to be (on a short story). Worst EMAIL I ever got accused me of promoting terrorism (on a novel).

: )
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
Promoting terrorism? That seems a little harsh, unless they were talking about that 'Idiot's Guide To Blowing Things Up' book you wrote in the nineties ;).
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, I wish I could find the review because the guy's words were brutal--not about me or my writing, but about my character. He hated my favorite character. Haha. And what he said was somewhat true about him. On the good side, it made me realize that I needed to quit being so hard on my character to ensure some reader empathy.

As for these general reviews on sites like Every Day Fiction, I think some people go to forums and expect to read the kind of writing THEY like without considering genres and audience. When I read horror or humor or romance, I try to review it within the expectations of that genre rather than comparing it to literary or sci-fi, etc.
Jul. 15th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
Oh I agree. I assumed it was someone who'd had their 1,000-word story rejected, 'cause after all, who in their right mind wouldn't like my work, right?

Gotta go, I'm twitching again :)

(no subject) - clarionj - Jul. 15th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 15th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 15th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
Your old gran didn't really say that about you... did she?

I'm such a newb that I haven't gotten any reviews yet, good or bad.
Jul. 15th, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
I could tell you stories about my old gran...

Who are you pitching stories to at the moment?
(no subject) - mongrelheart - Jul. 15th, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jul. 15th, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 15th, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC)
A more experienced pro than I once gave me a very useful piece of advice: when you get a particularly good or bad review, stop and make a cup of tea; you have until you have drunk the tea to either congratulate yourself on your unique genius or rail against the reviewer who failed to appreciate same. When the tea is gone, go back to work.
Jul. 15th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a good plan :)
Jul. 15th, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC)
My first story ever submitted was accepted, (the ratio fell somewhat after that,) and was also reviewed.
The review said that it was not thrilled with the technical quality of my story and then got worse. ;)

Later, much later, in the critting section of a certain writing site, I noticed a certain member constantly fighting with people who had reviewed his work, resulting in a fair few locked threads. The name of said member rang a bell. I checked. Yes, it was my old friend, my first reviewer. Seems he could give it, but he couldn't take it. :)
Jul. 15th, 2009 09:52 pm (UTC)
Hah! Isn't that always the way?

Thanks for sharing :)
Jul. 16th, 2009 09:01 am (UTC)
I think I've been lucky so far and not had any awful reviews. I hope that should it ever happen, I'd take the high ground and not turn into a screeching banshee of vengeance as some authors have done. You've got to extrapolate the useful criticisms and try not to dwell on anything else.

PS - I missed the sale, but belated congratulations!
Jul. 16th, 2009 10:33 am (UTC)
Thanks, I look forward to your review of the RNA conference :)
Jul. 16th, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC)
Meh, they can't all be good. I only have the one review so far (thank God it was a good one). I think I've grown thick enough skin with the rejection letters that I could handle a bad one. Mind you that depends how bad.
Jul. 16th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
I haven't had any official reviews - the ones at EDF were only comments, but it's all good practise :)
Jul. 19th, 2009 04:43 am (UTC)
Congratulations on your first sale! :)

As for negative reviews...I'll admit a few really get my goat, but honestly I tend to let things just slide off my shoulders. Or I try to, anyway. I figure that people have different tastes, and unless they deliver something really pointedly insulting (i.e. snipes at me directly, rather than my work), well, I just kind of ignore it.

Jul. 19th, 2009 12:16 pm (UTC)
That's a great attitude. As you say, unless it's personal, it's just their opinion about something they read.

Thanks for sharing :)
( 45 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



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