IWSG: Bad reviews are a tonic for the writer’s soul

First up, baby update! Mackenzie is now three and a half months old and is developing a wonderfully cheeky personality. Here are some recent shots…

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

Moving on…

For this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, I’m going to discuss how bad reviews can make you feel better. Yes, you read that correctly, I said better. Before you start thinking I’m crazy, let me explain. I’ve never felt better by reading a bad review of my own work. That always makes me feel a little hurt. But to remind myself that opinions are subjective, I will occasionally go and read negative reviews of a book I love.

For example, I adored Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall. When I reviewed it, I said, ‘I highly recommend… [this book] to teens as I think it could help them to identify – and maybe even challenge – the nonsensical conventions, relationships and hierarchies that exist within their own school.’

Yet, here’s what others thought:

“Literally the worst book I have read this year. After all the hype this book received, I was excited to finally get my hands on it from PBS. Let’s talk about a let down.” Review on Goodreads

“This book is entirely predictable. If you are an individual with any kind of empathy or soul, you know where this is going. The only question you ask yourself is why does it take so long to get there- that’s the first reason I had to stop reading.” Review on Goodreads

OUCH! Thankfully, nobody has said anything nearly that harsh about my work. But that’s not the point. The point is: people’s taste in fiction is incredibly subjective. Just because one person (or even a handful of people) didn’t connect with your work, doesn’t mean what you’ve written is bad. It just means it wasn’t to their liking.

Putting your work out there to be judged by the masses takes courage, and I think anyone who’s done it deserves recognition for their bravery. So if you’ve published something, give yourself a pat on the back for having the guts to put yourself out there. And if you’ve felt the blow of bad reviews, take heart – you’re in good company!

“I really do not like his style of writing at all … His prose is lumpy and I feel like it’s completely devoid of character.” Review of The Power of One

“I don’t actually hate this book or maybe I do; I can’t make up my mind. There were plenty of things in this book for me to hate about it, that’s for sure.” Review of The Time Traveler’s Wife 

“If I could give this no stars, I would. This is possibly one of my least favorite books in the world, one that I would happily take off of shelves and stow in dark corners where no one would ever have to read it again.” Review of To Kill A Mockingbird

What do you think?

Have you ever read bad reviews to lift your own spirits? (it sounds bad when put like that, doesn’t it?)



Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Writing

10 responses to “IWSG: Bad reviews are a tonic for the writer’s soul

  1. I actually do this, too, It reminds me how much people’s tastes vary!

  2. I do this all the time! It makes me feel better to know that even books I love get bad reviews 🙂 Mackenzie is such a cutie! 🙂

  3. I should try this. Maybe it will help me get over the negative things said about my book. Then I could finish the second one.

    Thanks for another great idea, and Mackenzie is as cute as ever.

  4. The best books in the world have bad reviews. Writing is subjective and not everyone will like everything. Once you wrap your head around that fact, it’s easier to handle poor reviews of our own work.

  5. Bad reviews do not lift my spirits at all when they are mine. I’m glad you can find a silver lining though. And as for bad reviews on uber famous people’s stuff like J.K. Rowling and EL James? Well they’ve got gazillions of dollars to seek out therapy.

  6. Arlee Bird

    I wouldn’t say I read the bad reviews to lift my spirits, but I sometimes read them to decide whether I want to read a book or not. Often the bad reviews have been the tipping point to make me think the book will be a good read unless there is something credible about the criticism. Usually I find the worst reviews to be the dumbest.

    Tossing It Out

    • Sometimes I find the worst reviews to be the funniest. Snark often makes me smile – but I would never write it myself because I wouldn’t find it very funny if it were directed at me.

  7. Even famous people get bad reviews. Don’t let them get you down!

  8. Um, yeah, I’ve done this too! I look at my all time FAVOURITEST books and can’t believe that there could be bad reviews of them. It’s definitely a great reminder that everyone has different reading tastes 🙂

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