Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bad Reviews, I Scoff At Thee

by Sophie

I'm not much for celebrity. I'm not a very good "fan girl". I don't care who a person is in a media/fame context - at least, not nearly as much as I care who they are on the inside...

Anyway, I think today I'm going to use one of the "Get out of jail free" cards that were issued to us Pens upon incorporation, a limited number of instances when we are allowed to ignore the topic of the week and instead address the subject burning most brightly in our minds.

Today I am thinking about reviews...specifically, bad ones.

It has been an interesting exercise, to say the least, waiting around for my first bad review. I knew it was coming - all the Experienced Authors told me so - but it took its sweet time. But the other day, I checked around and there it was in all its snarky glory, a reader who did her job and read the book and was most unimpressed, which if you believe in the author-reader contract at all, you must recognize is her right and privilege.

I read the thing, took a deep breath, and waited for it to destroy me. While I was waiting, I found another negative review, someone who thought even less of my book than the first reviewer did.

I knew what to expect next, because I had many years of rejections on which to practice, many agents and editors who expressed their skepticism of my potential with form letters and the occasional laundry list of ways my writing was inadequate. Oft was the time I dissolved into a puddle with the pain of it all and rued the day I took up a pen.

I kept waiting for these reviews to sink in so I could get going on the misery process, so I could have a good wallow in the hurt and get it the hell over with. Only, it just wasn't happening. I read the reviews again, focusing hard on the parts where they were possibly just a little bit meaner than strictly necessary, working it like a loose scab and waiting for the blood.

Finally I got bored and distracted and spent the afternoon doing something else. Much later when I remembered that I was supposed to be having a wretched day, I had a realization: I have done all the handing over of my self-esteem to complete strangers that I am going to do.

And that was a revelation worth celebrating. The ability to let the negative stuff slide - well, that's like high-grade heroin in the publishing business. It just feels so damn good. I don't know how many authors have been stymied in their literary ascent by negative criticism, but I think it's probably lots and lots. I'm thrilled to know I won't be joining their ranks.

I think I got my confidence the hard way - by burning through my considerable self-doubt bit by painful bit over a long and hard journey. Still, if I could bottle it, I would, and I'd have a giant party and give out sweet little beribboned bottles of confidence as party favors to all the other writers.

. . . . . .

Okay, I am feeling a little guilty about skating on the whole fan girl thing. So here - and it pains me greatly to divulge this list - are a few folks who could probably get me all hot and bothered by their mere presence:

Daniel Woodrell
Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Pablo Casals (yeah, he's dead, I get it - you ever hear of time travel? LGC, Gigi, somebody write this story!! And make me the heroine!)
Alan Rickman
Elizabeth George
Nathan Fillian, but ONLY if he renounces that mortifying stint on Desperate Housewives

Nathan Fillian: hot, but only as Mal


Juliet Blackwell said...

Ooooh, those bad review blues. Nice to know that, as grown-ups who've been through plenty, they really aren't all that bad. I always think of all the negative reviews Stephen King gets, and he's the most published author in the world!
Oh and Nathan Fillian...h-o-t HOT!

Unknown said...

Re: Alan Rickman. I fell in love with him after seeing Truly, Madly, Deeply. He's such a dear! Rent it if you haven't seen it!

Re: bad reviews -- we were just talking in the office (software, but I make 'em talk about all kinds of things!) about how dull it is to read a review by someone who is trying to be clver more than they are trying to share what worked for them, and what didn't.

Glad to hear the cranky ones haven't scared you away!!!!

Anonymous said...

And re: bottled, review-proof confidence. Does it come in boxes, like cheap merlot? I'll take two, please.


Daisy Bateman said...

Well, the cheap merlot can have a similar effect. . .

Great post, Sophie. Wish I was there with you on the confidence thing. :-S

Sophie Littlefield said...

Ah, excellent idea, steve - confidence-in-a-box, with a spigot you can lie underneath on the truly desperate days, mouth gaping open like a gasping fish...

mysti, i don't think of alan as a "dear". a man like that, with a voice like that...well. ahem.

and daisy - you *will* be, I guarantee it! Why, you're just a wee bit less seasoned. (less old.)

Rachael Herron said...

I love this. I can't wait to try it myself.

Tawny said...

GO you on the awesome handling of your reviews!! What an incredibly healthy attitude and great way to hold on to the writing-love.

But... I'm going to disagree with you. Nathan Fillion is hot as Castle, too. Hotter, I do agree, as Mal, but he's still pretty freaking awesome as the charming scamp of a writer.


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