Handling Reviews: How does one deal?

Reviews, this is something not entirely new to me, however, it is something I’m trying to get accustomed to. In saying that, it is not the easiest thing to do by any means. Its one of those things that come with writing anything and publishing it to the public forum I guess, whether I write here on my blog, or self-publish a work, I’m opening up to scrutiny.

I self-published my first novel back in 2013 on Kindle, and I don’t know what it was that I set out to achieve. The obvious comes to mind, obviously, that as any writer will tell you, amateur and professional alike, feedback, comments, constructive criticism, or any kind words to keep you writing go a long way into how we motivate ourselves (and truth be told, at times, severely doubt our merits). Yes, that’s it, I set out with the dream, that impossible dream that perhaps I publish my work, someone reads it, then another, then another, till it’s reached an audience bigger than I would have thought it was capable of reaching. That, the pipe dream of becoming a writer in someone’s eyes, having them enjoy the world you’ve weaved is a sense of achievement that can only be described as satisfying, and at times terrifying. What if they don’t like it? What if the story is full of holes? What if there are mistakes you missed, and the editors missed, and you’ve combed and combed, but those fatal mines are left behind just waiting to tear your efforts apart. BOOM. One mistake, and you lose the audience the story worked so hard to capture.

Forget about those hours you spend thinking and planning, forget about those hours you sit there writing, forget about those tiresome hours, weeks, months, and even years of editing, and scouring over the story obsessively. It all means nothing if that one stray mine will implode the whole thing.

How do you deal with that kind of criticism? Afterall, the egos of artists, any artist is fragile. Guess what? DEAL WITH IT! That’s right, deal with it. It’s live, learn and move on as one of my best friends said to me today. Live and learn.

What’s brought this on? I sometimes Google my books, not to see how they are ranking or whatever. I’m a small fish in a giant ocean. In fact most times I’m not expecting much. Nevertheless, I go on these scavenger hunts to see if I can find any reviews lurking about on that big web. It’s amazing that Amazon has all these sites, dedicated to different countries, but none of these reviews are collated in its main page. Which is a shame really, not so much for me, but for Amazon itself, because between it’s multiple sites, reviews don’t transfer, so potential readers have no idea that they can read available reviews on another of Amazon’s sites. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about those reviews, and how I am learning from them. Yes, learning.

Today, I stumbled upon one I was not aware I had for Charming Mr. Stewart. A review that has forced me to think of battle plans going forward with my next novel (in progress), and battle plans for how I can improve on the books I’ve already made available to the public. Afterall, as humans, we are always on the lookout to improve ourselves, and the things we do. To become masters of things we love.

I don’t pretend to be good at what I do, which is write from my heart. I don’t even pretend that I’m any good at it. I’m riddled with doubts every single day, with every single book, or post, or stories, or even poetry. Are they any good? Am I any good? Should I even be doing this?

You might not believe this but I’ve come a long way from the days as an anxiety-ridden teen who used to write these stories, sometimes on paper, but mostly in my head and only had an audience of 1-2 that I shared them with. In fact, the reason I dared not write them down on paper was the fact that yes, I enjoyed weaving stories, but I knew nothing of how they were written, the process, the knowledge, the expertise they require. I was not confident in my writing, mainly because, English is not a natural language for me. I have much to learn. Yes, my stories have mines, mines I’m not equipped to detect. Mines I wish I could deactivate.

So why did I ever decide to start a blog, or publish my books? Why do I continue to write more? It’s my way of building courage, building enough confidence to know that I can improve only if people can read and are able to comment. I am nothing in my own bubble. I did it because I needed to come out of my shell. I did it because there was no moving forward alone. I don’t handle reviews well. I fret over them and obsess because I know and I wait for those to detect those mines that I have missed. I wait, anxiously still to learn from them pointing out holes. I’m trying to learn from them. To know that its there to help me if I can be helped. To get over that fear of being criticised.

Charming Mr. Stewart’s received a few reviews thus far. Most have been 4-5 stars. Some a 3 star. The one which got me thinking about how to deal with reviews was a 3. What did this review say that’s got me thinking about how we handle reviews?

“Eva’s style is easy to read, so I could have really enjoyed this book as a quick and enjoyable distraction. Unfortunately it needs editing. It is riddled with grammar, spelling etc mistakes. More importantly, celebrating a child’s 4th birthday then later referring to her as 3 is a turn off. Eva could be a better writer than this book shows.”

But that last line of the review has stuck with me: “Eva could be a better writer than this book shows.” I take that dear Kazln, reviewer, as an encouragement to keep going, keep trying, keep improving, so in a way, I thank you, for giving me the courage to share it with my corner of the world, so that the next time I release a book, I learn from this experience and give it my all.

 

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