Tuesday, September 20, 2005

DR: Reviewing Reviews

I’m stinging a little right now from a less than glowing review of my new book. Never mind that this reviewer did say a few nice things about my story. Never mind that another publication gave the same book a bunch-and-a-half of stars. Never mind that I just got a letter from a reader who said “[after reading your book] my heart is full of God's love, forgiveness and redemption as I haven't experienced for a while.” Never mind that I know in my heart that my worth is not tied up in what one reviewer thinks of my book.

For now, all I can think about are those few pithy phrases that call my talents as a writer into question. It doesn’t help that one of my overly adverbized and adjective-ized sentences straight from the book is glaringly quoted right there in stark black and white, shockingly proving the acutely perceptive reviewer’s point. And it sure doesn’t help that the review came out the day before I got on an airplane and headed to a conference to teach an eager group of aspiring authors how to write well. Ouch.

What I’m trying to remember is that reviews are part of the territory for writers. Most of us have received at least one or two unflattering—or even scathing—reviews in our careers. This wasn’t my first and it won’t be my last. In the past, whether I’ve agreed with the reviewer or not, I have to admit that my writing has probably improved far more as a result of what I took to heart from bad reviews than what I took to heart from rave reviews.

If I choose to believe every praiseful word of the occasional reviewer who thinks I hung the moon— Whoa! Stop right there. That’s a dangerous place to go in itself. For you see, (and I’m sure this comes as no surprise to many of you) I did not hang the moon. But oh, how easily a few flowery words can persuade me that maybe I had a little something to do with it.

You know, my editors could say the very things this reviewer said and I would cheerfully run to my computer to fix my mistakes…before anyone else could see them. Ah. So now I see the source of this sting. It’s pride. Yep, full circle, back to my pride.

So I reluctantly conclude that I’m far better off taking the glowing reviews with a grain of salt, and paying sharp attention to the reviews that remind me there’s room for improvement and I have not arrived, nor probably will I this side of Heaven.

Will someone please remind me of that next time I’m pouting about a bad review?

Deborah Raney, author of A Nest of Sparrows and Over the Waters


At 9:32 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

At the conference I had several editors, and authors tell me I was super talented on for big things. And then one person said my writing was weird and walked away.
Ouch. I promptly ignored all the praise and hung to that. How weird? Weird in a Stephen King way or you belong in an insane asylum weird. Oh how silly. I concluded I needed to ignore the voice that says I'm an amazing writer, and ignore the voice that says my stuff is weird and focus on the voice that says 'I love you because you're fearfully and wonderfully made by me.'
Thanks Deb.

At 6:01 PM, Blogger michael snyder said...


I really enjoyed your workshops and getting to chat with you in the hallway.

Now about that reviewer...maybe you could sic that sweet lady from the back row on the reviewer, you know, the insulin expert...

Okay, so Gina's advice is better than mine. So what.

Thanks again for your insights and perpetual smile.


At 8:03 AM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

Hey, Gina and Mike,
It was so great to see you guys in Nashville. Nobody had more fun in my classes than I did. : ) And I was SO impressed with every attendee's desire to study the craft and make writing well a priority.

Thanks for commiserating with me on the review. Um...Mike... You might have gone a little overboard. LOL!

At 12:45 AM, Blogger Illuminating Fiction said...

Reviewers are cruel people. I know, because I dabble in that line myself. :-)

Honestly Deb, are you sure you didn't hang the moon?

Now I really wish I was at conference to give you my hug in person (please tell me Cheryl give you my hug?).


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