Oh reviews, you tickle me pink!

Reviews are important. There’s no point denying just how much a review affects us, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. Even if the review is generally positive, we still find ourselves paying attention to that very last less-than-good remark the reviewer included as an afterthought. The “If only the author had done this, the story would’ve turned out much better”, or “It’s a good book, but [include bad remark here]“.

That said, however, I actually feel surprised whenever a complete stranger reads my book and compliments it. It’s as if I cannot believe that all that praise is for my obscure novel. I almost want to tell the reviewer, “Hey, are you absolutely sure you’re not reviewing the wrong book?” Haha.

I’ve been lucky so far in terms of reviews. I am still waiting for that negative review to come along. Every time I see someone add my book to their Currently Reading shelf on Goodreads, I try to prepare myself mentally for the possibility that this new reader will absolutely HATE my book and give me a review so horrible I’ll sit in a corner and cry. But it has yet to happen. I almost want it to happen so I can stop worrying about it. Is that weird?

Recently I received two lovely reviews from Patricia and Richard Bunning for Puppet Parade, and I can’t tell you how happy they made me. But amidst my squeals of delight, there was this niggling voice in the back of my head that could not believe these two lovely people were talking about my book. Why is it that we so readily take criticism to heart and yet find it difficult to accept that yes, maybe our novel is really worth all that praise?

Is it perhaps because we’re our own worst critic? Do we lower our expectations so much that we can’t readily accept a glowing review when we see one? Or maybe because we think that there are books out there that are more worthy of the praise we received? Or is it that we don’t think very highly of our books?

It’s not just reviews either. Whenever I receive an award here on WordPress, I feel touched and surprised that people think of me and perceive me deserving of such awards, or decide that I’m interesting enough to be spotlighted on their blogs.

What do you think? How do you react when you receive a review or an award? And what do you more readily accept, the positive or the negative?

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29 thoughts on “Oh reviews, you tickle me pink!

  1. It’s a lot of things, I think. Self-doubt is the main culprit. Our knowledge of good writing expands and drives us on to do better. Whatever, it still feels awful good when somebody says they like our work. Is it better than chocolate? Oh yeah.

    • I agree that self-doubt plays a major role. We keep thinking we’re not good enough for these reviews. And you know, I agree with you. Praise like that is worth a large amount of chocolate!

  2. I agree. It’s great to get reviews and it’s hard to believe the good or accept the bad. I keep asking myself if I expect EVERYONE to respond well to what I’ve written. – No, duh. So then WHY is this a problem? I guess it’s only human, and sometimes that constructive criticism really IS constructive so……..

  3. Dunno, Zen. I have pretty much a skin of stone when it comes to reviews. Almost all reviews I’ve gotten so far have been “Good writing, but not my type of story,” and then three stars, sometimes four. I’m still waiting for MY readers, who are right for me, to discover my work. And then maybe I’ll be emotionally affected by what they think, or maybe not. I do go through cycles where I read a story I wrote a month later and think it’s crud and then read it again a month later yet and think it’s brilliant. In both cases I make some edits to make it better, and overall it works out.

    • Hmmm. But how would you know which readers are right for you? They may like one story of yours but dislike others. It’s entirely subjective. Though I do know what you mean about reading an old story and thinking it’s not very good!

  4. I feel the same surprise when somebody reads something I’ve written and expresses a great deal of admiration for it. It’s always, like, “Really?” That being said, it’s certainly a good surprise.

    Conversely, I always take even constructive criticism harder than I should, something I really ought to work on…

    • That’s my same reaction. It’s difficult for me to believe that someone who doesn’t know me at all would be so nice!
      I don’t think it can be helped. Even if you take constructive criticism for one story well, it might be quite different with the next novel, especially if the plots and ideas are completely different.
      Thank you for the comment!

  5. I am in agreement with you Zen. A negative connotation is so easily orchestrated and I believe it is because we are so often prepared for the worst. Yes,. I agree we are our harshest critic, but it could also be that we are strategically thinking as to prepare for the worst whilst hoping for the best. I always tend to think more negatively than positively – at least then when and if a negative occurrence does transpire, I am not at all surprised by it. I have prepared for its inevitability, and I can accept it, but when the alternate situation happens and I am graced by a sense of positivity, I am almost at a loss temporarily as to how I should proceed. Great post that made me think.

    • I do that as well. While I’m generally optimistic, I do try to prepare myself for the worst, especially when it comes to other people who I know nothing of, so I don’t end up feeling crushed with disappointment.
      Thanks! I’m glad you like my post. =]

  6. You’re so right, Zen. We can see our faults and doubts about things and we’re surprised when others don’t.

    Soul’s Child (that recently won the Book of the Year Award) was up on You Write On for several months for other authors to review. Some of the reviews were hideous, but most of them were great. As authors we have to expect this because not everyone is always going to like what we write – if this was the case, the world would be a very boring place indeed :) If you get a review that gives you low scores or the reviewer flat out doesn’t like your book, just go with the thought that it wasn’t for them and this doesn’t mean it’s not going to be enjoyable for others. :D

    • You’re right! There’s a book out there for everyone. Even books like Harry Potter which are generally loved by the readers have a number of 1-star reviews here and there. If professional writers themselves can receive negative reviews, then we are most definitely not exempt. I wonder how famous writers feel when someone gives them negative reviews though…

  7. I know what you mean. I also agree with you when doubt takes over. I love reviews, comments and feedback. However, I also want to hear the other side of the coin. I do tell myself, not everyone is going to like my story.

    In any case, I did enjoy reading it. It was magical!

    • Exactly. Someone out there won’t like my book and I almost want to hear what they have to say, even if it might hurt my feelings.
      Awww, thank you so much Patricia, I really appreciate that. =D

  8. Someone doesn’t go into my silly, pink books thinking the words will be majestic and/or whisk them away to a unique experience. My reviews are good, but they are mostly on the entertainment value of the book(s). I’m ok with that. When a bad review comes along, it will likely be because someone thought the story was dumb rather than poorly written. It helps to have enough feedback now to know that there are people out there who like my books, so I will just continue to hope they find me through my meager marketing efforts. Now that you have several 5-star reviews – and know that you have put out a good work – has your anxiety level gone down some?

    • Well, it does help to know that there are people who will like my stories, so to answer your question, my anxiety did go down a bit, yes. However, I think I’d be anxious all over again with my next book, because my books all differ from one another, haha.

  9. I haven’t written a book yet but I received an award…from you. I was so excited. Prior to this I hadn’t told anyone about my blog (I didn’t want the friends and family followers I wanted to see if I could get followers on my own) and after I told everyone. I would say “it’s no big deal really, it’s like a chain letter award” downplaying the fact that I was completely thrilled. :)

  10. Totally with you on this and it IS very strange. Reminds me of that bit in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, where he talks about feeling like a cheat and a liar because he pretends to be grown-up and cool and whatnot but is secretly afraid someone will find out that he used to be a snot-nosed kid who is caught, for all eternity, on a photograph in his mum’s house, wearing a purple windbreaker. Okay, this is paraphrasing it quite a lot, but I can’t remember the words any better right now. The point is, I totally get it. Most of us have this picture in our heads of ourselves as awkward/shy/insecure kids or teenagers and when the world perceives us as confident, self-assured adults, we feel like looking over our shoulders to check if there really is nobody standing behind us that those people could confuse us with.

    • From what you said, I think Nick Hornby put it perfectly! I’m always anxious that somebody will come and make me out to be some sort of fraud or a person with zero talent, or that they’ll realise something about me that even I don’t know. We really put our neck out there once we have something published.

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