What to do with reviews

I owe all the ingenuity of this blog post to my husband. He came up with a great idea of what to do with the reviews for my book The Widow’s Redeemer, and before you think it, no, he did not say ‘Don’t read them’ or ‘Throw them in the bin’.

You see, it is exactly because he didn’t say those things, that the idea he had is so good – but more about that in a minute. Generally, I have been over-the-moon about the reviews I have received, in fact, it’s almost weird to have people writing about a work which was, for so many years, only read by about two people! Now it has seen the light of day, and people are giving their opinions on it.

Now of course, it’s never going to be a particularly nice sensation when you read someone’s opinion of your work and it isn’t: ‘Wow! This is the best book in the world, I am amazed and astounded at the authors intelligence, I will never read another book again because the standard is just too high now. This is better than Austen and Dickens!!!!!’

Okay, so that was a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea. Whenever us as humans get criticised in life, whether constructively or destructively, we don’t jump up, shake the person by the hand, slap them on the back and say, ‘Thank you so much that was the best thing I’ve ever heard.’

There are some humble and quite inspiring people who can take criticism very well. They don’t get indignant, or angry, or sad. They just take it, say thanks, and use it. Now how many people do you know like that?

Well, I’m not one of them. I am rather too proud for my own good and my ego regularly needs taking down to size (mostly done courtesy of my husband). However, one thing I have learned through writing over the past few years, is that if you want to get published or pursue writing, you will be criticised and you need to learn to take it.

I guess it’s true that opinions are subjective most of the time. Me for instance, I like romances (duh!) and so I wouldn’t necessarily think a book without a romance in it, is a great book (not all the time, there are certainly exceptions). It’s worth bearing subjectivity in mind when people are criticising your work. However, subjectivity does not usually extend to: plot-holes, grammatical errors, and a few other things 😉

My conclusion to the above couple of paragraphs is that when it comes to criticism, you take from that criticism what you believe applies to your work and can be used and the rest, you leave. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt a little to hear, and it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t get indignant, but thankfully I can vent those irrational feelings to my husband and then react with common-sense (not all guaranteed).

So, back to the ingenious plan of my husband’s. I was speaking to him about my reviews and saying how there are certain parts in them which give constructive (note my use of that word) criticisms. I said (with much more common-sense then I thought I had) that I would be using them to help me with my next novel (exciting). His great plan was that not only should I use the tips and advice from the reviews I have received but that, where possible, I could incorporate them into a blog series as I progress through my second story and it’s edits! How cool is that?!

So, that’s what I shall be doing. It won’t exactly be every single week that I do it, but I will, as I work through my novel, be putting up posts about how my reviews have helped me to improve my writing (hopefully)! Exciting times – oh, and also, I have added 5,000 words to the MS for my next story, I just wanted to boast about that – see how big my ego is – the only thing is, I still need to add  35,000 more before it’s actually the length of a novel……..PAHAHAHAHAHA!

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12 thoughts on “What to do with reviews

      1. Barbara Monajem

        I did this a lot with contest feedback before I was published. The raves were great ego boosters, the pans were “she’s not my reader,” but the stuff in between was really really helpful.

  1. Linda Root

    I am aware that am hypersensitive to reviews.The 5 stars are mood elevators.The single poor one I received shows by its language and grammar that it was written by a semi-literate reader who should not be adult books. In between comes the somewhat lukewarm review my debut novel received on Bookworms,written by an old college acquaintance. Her comments go to 1) length and 2) editing. When I sat down and read every one of the 738 pages, I saw that every word she wrote was true, including her recommendation that it was a book that members of the Marie Stuart Society would want to include in their personal.libraries. Every word she wrote was true. So then,the two three star reviews, at first devastating, echoed the Bookworm reviewer’s criticisms–a bit too long, too heavily into history, and in need of professional editing. My third book The Midwife’s Secret: The Legend of La Belle Ecossaise is picking up in sales but so far,no reviews. It is only half as long, less historical detail and hopefully, far fewer errors. I am still wincing at the less than stellar reviews, but I am taking them to heart as well as taking them in stride.

    Reply
  2. Grace Elliot

    Reviews and how to cope with them are always a tender / sensitive topic.
    It’s all too easy to forget that a 3 star review, is actually a good review, it’s just not a blaize of glory one! The best constructive criticism I ever recieved was from a 3 star review and I am forever grateful to that reviewer for speaking out and casting a light on a glaring mistake that I was ‘word blind’ to. It allowed me to correc that mistake and make sure it never popped up in my writing again.
    What is unhelpful are the troll like reviews …and also, my personal hate, those that villify British spelling as mistakes (from US reviewers)
    Grace x

    Reply
    1. Barbara Monajem

      I rather like that there are alternative spellings, and could never understand why the schools my kids went to (in the US) couldn’t acknowledge that, when it seemed to me they should encourage it. I use American spelling in my US-set paranormals and British spelling in my Regencies, and I like the way it keeps me on my toes. Not that I always get it right, but I try, because it’s fun.

      Reply
  3. Darlene Elizabeth Williams

    I look forward to hearing what you learned from your reviews, Philippa. It will be helpful for all of us authors, especially newbies like myself. Like Grace, I have the same problem with British vs. US spelling. As a Canadian, we use mostly British spellings. I will, however, be writing my novel in US (which sometimes I have to check) because it is set in North Carolina. Happy to hear you are busy at work on your 2nd novel. So much for that down time you didn’t know what to do with!

    Reply
  4. Pingback: My Next Novel | Philippa Jane Keyworth

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