Dealing With Criticism
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Week 14: How to Handle Criticism
I’m sure it goes without saying that, as a writer, you’ve probably endured your fair share of criticism. Some of it has been fair, some of it constructive … and then there have been those who leave messages so foul that you start to think that going on a Kill Bill-type revenge spree might actually be a good idea.
But hold on! Put down that katana for a second. I’m going to show you about the common types of reviewer and how to deal with them (and how reviewers can leave better responses too!)
PART 1: THE PROBLEM WITH CRITICISM
Look, criticism sucks. Trust me, I know this. I used to worry a lot about the things people would say about my hard work, and I still cringe whenever I get another effing rejection slip in the mail, dreading what “comments” the editors might have bothered to write down. (One of the last ones I got was, “I’m just not interested in it.” Seriously.)
And yet, criticism isn’t all bad. Whether you want to believe it or not, criticism is actually vital to your improvement and maturation as a writer. If no one ever comes up to you and says, “This is good, but …”, you’ll always be sub-par. If no one ever tells you that your plot is confusing, your story will never make sense. If no one tells you that your characters are dull, you’ll always have one-dimensional people in your stories.
If you write a story, and someone offers a polite and respectful critique (a critical review) or suggestion on how to improve it, that’s called constructive criticism and you should be happy and honored to get it. This means that the reviewer likes your story and wants to offer some input to help you improve for your future stories. Can’t get any better than that!
Buuuut, there’s also a whole lot of nimrods out there who are trying to help but they screw it up big time because they don’t know how to properly critique. And then there are the troglodytes that are just out there to make you miserable. That can make reading your reviews really hard to do.
PART 2: EBERT AND ROEPER THEY’RE NOT
I think I’ve identified the most frequent kinds of reviewers and I’ve broken them down into all their little nuances, which should help you to better understand where they’re going from—or, at least why they’re so stupid—and how you should go about in response. I also included segments directed for the reviewers themselves; I thought (hoped, prayed) that with a little bit of guidance, they can leave more constructive feedback. Pfft. Here’s hoping …
THE MARY-SUE WITCH HUNTER REVIEWER: This one pretty much speaks for itself; the Mary-Sue witch hunter reads a fic, then immediately leaves a bad message when they suspect your original character of being a Mary-Sue. It doesn’t matter if your character is a blatant MS or not, the reviewer makes the judgment call and disses the story and character. These types act as though they have some kind of vendetta against MS, and they can range from giving you a mild heads up (i.e. “Sounds Mary-Sueish to me,”) to out and out accusing of Sueism and telling you that you and your character both suck. They can be vicious and unforgiving, and they cause a lot of flame wars, and cause a lot of people to abandon writing altogether. I see them as an amalgamation of the Salem witch hunters, the Nazis, the Ring wraiths, the Dementors, and Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit all rolled into one.
FOR WRITERS: A Mary-Sue witch hunter is hard to fight. My advice to you is to ignore their messages, no matter how badly you want to fight them. You can’t. It’s best to lay low until they’ve moved on. If you feel the need to defend yourself, then do so carefully. Be the better person. Be respectful, even though we all know they don’t deserve it. Say that your intent was not to create a Mary-Sue and that you do not view her to me a Mary-Sue, though you can understand why they’d think so. Then, give them the link to this or any other pro-Sue blog or site and say, “If you’re interested, this is where I learned how to write my characters” and never talk to them again.
FOR REVIEWERS: You really should know by now that you’re going to find a lot of Mary-Sues/Gary-Stus in fan fiction … so why do you even bother at this point? If you read a story and see only a MS or a GS, you’ll never be able to enjoy the story. Unless you want to help the person improve their character (tricky territory, I wouldn’t go there if I was you), DO NOT LEAVE A MESSAGE. DON’T. YOU’RE NOT HELPING ANYBODY BY LEAVING HEINOUS REVIEWS. Instead of telling them that their characters suck, maybe you should take a little time to look back on all the characters you do like, and see the Sue and Stu traits in them. Then, take the time to read my blog or blogs like it—I’ve already had two people write to me saying that my blog has helped them both with their own writing and understand why people create characters like that. Maybe the blog will help you too.
THE HUMAN ENCYCLOPEDIA REVIEWER: These people are sticklers for accuracy. Doesn’t matter if the story is 100% fiction and not intended to educate anybody at all, they still cannot stand it if you make an error. For example, in my X-Men story Nyx, we first meet Dara Gibson hitchhiking along a highway in Northern Canada in the midsummer. She’s stunned by how frigid it was, and she thinks back to a Jack London story she had read, about someone freezing to death on the Yukon. Well, damn it all if I didn’t get an email that very first week saying, “It doesn’t get that cold in the Yukon in July,” and then gave me some general temperature. Around the same time for my other X-Men fic, Tigress, I had a very irritable reviewer inform me that there is no “Chinese” language, there’s only Mandarin and Cantonese … imagine my disbelief later when I discovered that there’s ten established Chinese dialects and several mixed dialects too! What do you say to that, Mr. Rosetta Stone?
Why are these people so hung up on accuracy? God only knows. It’s one thing if you’re defending your culture or country, but it’s a totally different thing when you have no connection with it otherwise—the person who told me about the Yukon said that they had only been there once, and the person who ranted at me about the languages apparently wasn’t Chinese. When they report these things to you, they think that they’re being helpful, but their attitudes lead you to feel otherwise. In the end, they’re largely just know-it-alls. A truly helpful reviewer would be more diplomatic in their messages.
FOR WRITERS: Sometimes the information you get from these people is useful, and if so, you should thank them and use it, but don’t say anything like, “I should have known better,” because that’s usually giving them an opening to harass you about their intellectual superiority. If the information is useless or unnecessary, you don’t have to respond. If you do, say, “Thanks! I’ll remember that” and nothing more. If the information is actually incorrect, don’t say anything—if you correct them you’ll probably make them feel insulted, and that just leads to problems.
FOR REVIEWERS: If the writer has made a mistake and you wish to correct it, be respectful. I would have been more happier if that guy/girl wrote and said something like, “Can Nikku speak both Mandarin and Cantonese? When you said ‘Chinese’ I was thinking you meant she could speak both, but I wasn’t sure.” That’s an innocent way of telling me that I made an error (and apparently I didn’t!!) without insulting me or making yourself look arrogant. If the error makes no difference in the overall story (like the temperature of the Yukon in July), don’t bother saying anything about it.
THE OVERLY-HELPFUL REVIEWER: These are the people who otherwise like your story, but there’s one teeny weeny, insignificant, no-one-else-but-them-noticed-and-nobody-gives-a-crap-about-it-either-way detail in your story that they get so hung up on that they absolutely, positively must correct you on it. They think they’re doing you a favor, but what they’re really doing is (though they probably don’t know it) showing their knowledge of the subject, and revealing a control-freak mindset about something that they love. They’re particularly earnest in their eagerness, and the last time I ever came close to losing it with a reviewer was with this type three years ago. She sent me an email saying that she liked my Gargoyles fanfic very much, and generally praised my work, but there was one thing that bothered her—a lot. I had stated in the stories that the Gargoyles flew, but in the series Goliath explains that Gargoyles are incapable of flight, instead gliding on wind currents … which my reviewer made for damned sure I knew. I nearly flipped out—THAT was her big problem? Not the typos? The violence? The fact that I consciously chose not to use “glide” in a few select scenes was what irritated her so much? I didn’t think most of my readers knew about Garg-flight, and I didn’t want to use “glide” over and over again and make it boring. I think I thanked her, just to be polite.
FOR WRITERS: If you ever get reviews like this—particularly on a subject that you already knew about and made a decision on, like I did—you can either thank the reviewer and say that you’ll remember next time, or offer a brief explanation as to why you did that. The latter might be a good idea if you continue to write that way and this person has a habit of sending you notes about it. Always be unfailingly polite and thank them anyways. If it’s something you really didn’t know, thank them and use that info next time. Don’t be defensive.
FOR REVIEWERS: Please keep in mind that writers do sometimes use poetic license in order to tell a story. Sometimes writers omit details because they don’t know how to explain them. If they’ve clearly made an error or are uninformed, please be polite and diplomatic. Start with something like, “I was just wondering …” Never just leap right out and make a direct statement like my reviewer did (“Gargoyles don’t fly, they glide!”) because it sounds aggressive and accusatory. If in the end the thing that’s bothering you is actually something really minor, don’t bother bringing it up.
THE ZERO TOLERENCE TO CULTURAL IGNORANCE REVIEWER: In my original draft for Tigress, I wrote that Tigress had several mentors, one of which was an Indian mystic who helped her connect to and control her tiger side. Back then, I didn’t exactly have access to name books that were just brimming with Indian boy names, so I didn’t know what to call him. By happenstance, I was reading a novel where the main character met a man who was Indian or described as Indian in appearance and dress and with an Indian accent. This man called himself “Wahid.”
I don’t think I had ever heard of “Wahid” before (though at the time it didn’t strike me as typically Indian), but hey, later on the guy said that he was from Indian and I thought, “Aha! Problem solved! Now I have a name.”
A friend, “D,” read the fic and immediately emailed me, saying that I have to change Wahid’s name, that it wasn’t Indian, it was Muslim. I was surprised and asked her if she was sure and explained why I picked it. A day later D said she IM’d me and said that she checked with her ex-boyfriend who was, according to her, a Brahman (yeah I know, I wasn’t too sure about that either, but I don’t know) and he was livid that I would use that name and said some bad things about me. I wrote back, “ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, FINE!!! I’ll change the goddamned name! Maybe then I should hang myself because I made a mistake!” I got an apology from both (did not accept,) but since then I now own no less than five name books, one of which is divided by culture.
People get too sensitive about things like this sometimes. While I’m not saying that victimized people should just give up, I am saying that people across the board need to be more tolerant and cooperative. D and her ex-boyfriend could have said, “Oh, here’s a person who wants to write about India but has some of her information wrong. Let’s help her out,” but instead they chose to react emotionally. D understandably didn’t want anybody to be upset, which I commended her on, but when her ex flipped out, she took his side until I called her on it.
Needless to say, we’re not friends anymore.
FOR WRITERS: If this ever happens to you, always remain calm no matter what they say. Write, “I’m sorry if you were offended—that’s not what I wanted. I found the name in a book and I assumed it was Indian because the character said that he was from India and had an Indian accent. I’ll look into it and change it if I have to. I don’t want anyone to be upset.” Do not write more than that. If they continue to be abusive, report them and block them. There’s no way to reason with them and it’s senseless to try.
FOR REVIEWERS: First of all, CALM—THE—HELL—DOWN. People make mistakes. People are uninformed or ill-informed. Odds are good that what they wrote was an error, not a deliberate attack on you or anyone else. Yes, you should inform them, but be respectful and patient. If what they wrote looks deliberate, report it. Don’t get personally involved.
THE POLITICALLY CORRECT REVIEWER: The politically correct critic is pretty much just that—politically correct. About everything. Even things that aren’t real.
I will never forget a series of emails I got about seven years ago. This guy wrote to me about my Gargoyles fanfic, and again, while he generally praised my work, among his list of grievances was the fact that I had decided to employ the fan word “Gargress” to describe a female Gargoyle. He told me that he had a serious problem with that and thought that it was wrong to divide the female Gargoyles apart from the male Gargoyles based on their sex.
I nearly threw up.
Even now, I couldn’t believe what he wrote. I mean, I’m a feminist, but … seriously?! I started using “Gargress” when I reread my drafts and saw that by just referring to them as “Gargoyles” when there were actually males and females in the same group was really confusing. It’s like saying, “Everyone went to the dance, but the humans hung out with the humans and the humans went and hung out with the humans.” For a while I tried saying, “male Gargoyle” and “female Gargoyles,” but it was extra work, repetitive, uninspired, and well, clinical. When I discovered “Gargress,” it made everything so much easier and—or at least I thought so—added an element of culture to the Gargoyles, made them more like a people instead of just creatures.
And furthermore, we divide EVERYTHING up by sex: woman/man, girl/boy, mare/stallion, lioness/lion, tigress/tiger, leopardess/leopard, cow/bull, hen/cock, queen/tom, doe/stag, bitch/dog, jenny/jack, vixen/reynard, jill/hob, nanny/billy, goose/gander, ewe/ram… so the argument against “Gargress” has no merit! After discussing this with my reviewer, he did admit that really, it was only his opinion and not such a big thing after all—he just didn’t like it. I thanked him anyways and we parted on good terms.
FOR WRITERS: If you ever get a review like this, try not to take it personally. Yes, it is annoying, but in the long run it’s nothing important. Some of these people have an overdeveloped sense of right and wrong when it comes to certain topics (like that debacle a few years back when there was a move to change the term “manhole covers” to “peoplehole covers” because somebody thought it was offensive to women since they go into sewers too. I am not making this up.) Others think that you’re just ill-informed and they want to educate you. But mostly, they’re just control freaks who want their way. Say thanks and that you never thought about it that way, but leave it at that. If they write to complain again, ignore them.
FOR REVIEWERS: Please take a moment and consider the situation before you mention anything in your review. Is this really a serious topic that needs to be addressed, or is this just something that aggravates you personally? Is the writer making a serious error in their choice of words, or is it really just something that you yourself don’t like? If it’s not a serious matter and really only affects you, please do not complain about it—even if you think you’re being helpful. You’re not. You’re annoying the writers and you’re (maybe intentionally, maybe not) pressuring them to write the way you like. Writers have poetic license, and unless they’re intentionally writing something harmful or derogatory (that is, something that they’re presenting as truths and not something that is integral to the FICTIONAL story, i.e. a misogynistic villain saying something revolting to the heroine so we know how evil he is), don’t email to complain about it. Feel free to ask polite questions if you’re curious, but don’t complain.
THE EASILY RILED, QUICK TO MISUNDERSTAND REVIEWER: I have seen this on a number of other people’s site and pages; somebody reads a story, completely misunderstands something, then leaves a nasty message. Who knows exactly what it is that sets them off, but 99.9999999% of the time they’re the ones that are wrong, not you. Your story is perfectly fine but something—maybe the ending, maybe the way you portrayed a canon character, maybe an honest mistake you made about a culture or person, maybe, God help us all, you created a Mary-Sue—made this reader angry and they just had to let you know.
FOR WRITERS: As outraged as you might become when you read their responses, DO NOT RESPOND IN KIND. I know you’d feel better if you did, but trust me, nothing good ever comes out of a situation like that. You can either ignore the response completely, or offer a brief, polite explanation. If you explain, it might actually clear things up, and because you were respectful in your response, it should soothe any psychotic feelings and might actually get you an apology. If they’re still a jerk, don’t have anything further to do with them.
FOR REVIEWERS: MAKE ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY SURE THAT YOU’RE NOT THE ONE MAKING A MISTAKE. It’s easy to misunderstand something, but try rereading it a few more times before you wig out completely. Chances are you missed a vital word or sentence, or didn’t fully understand the context of the situation when you first read it. If you found something genuinely insulting, take a second to evaluate it: maybe the writer was confused about something and didn’t realize that it would come across as insulting. If it’s something that is blatantly offensive, it’s better that you go to a moderator and report it then to leave a vile message, which will only make things worse.
THE REVIEWER WHO CRIED “THIEF”: I’ve seen this a few times; somebody writes a story, another person comes along, reads it, then declares that the author either stole their character/idea or another writer’s character/idea. The irony of fanfic plagiarism aside, this is a painful one, the accusations aren’t always warranted. Yes, some people do swipe other people’s characters, but that’s somewhat rare in fanfic (character designs in art, however, happen more frequently.) The accusations are usually leveled at new writers who are just learning how to write and draw heavily on established characters. Therefore, if two separate people each create a fan character for The Lion King (let’s say Simba’s grandson) and they haven’t learned how to properly evolve and define characters, instead drawing upon what they know of Simba as a cub, their characters are going to look really similar. There was no theft here, just coincidence, but somebody’s going to immediately jump to the conclusion that you ripped somebody else off and drive you crazy about it.
FOR WRITERS: I think the best response here is no response. It’s likely that they’re just a barking dog that will meander on when it realizes it’s not getting any attention. If they persist and even go as far as to alert the person that they think you “stole” from, state firmly—but without insult—that you had never plagiarized from anyone, but you understand that there are similarities between your character and somebody else’s and that the similarities were unintentional. Many sites keep a record of page visitors for the authors to see, and you can invite you accuser to look at the list of visitors and see if they can find your name anywhere there. Also ask them to check the posting dates on your story and the other author’s story. It’s entirely possible that you posted your stories first—there’s no way you could have plagiarized in that case. Personally, I was a little concerned that someone might think that I was stealing ideas with my Gargoyles story, Newa 12, so in my Author’s Notes I stated that I did not intend to steal characters and that it was all coincidental. No one said anything about it, so I can only assume that it worked.
FOR REVIEWERS: Really stop and take a minute to think about what you’re about to do. Plagiarism is serious—are you certain you want to wreck somebody’s reputation over something that sort of looks or sounds like your/someone else’s character? If the similarities are few, don’t waste anybody’s time by accusing somebody of stealing. If the theft is obvious, you’re better off alerting a moderator than starting a scene.
THE NIT-PICKY REVIEWER: Once I got an email about a Witchblade/Gargoyles crossover I did. The reviewer liked the story, but he couldn’t get past the fact that when Sara Pezzini turned into a Gargoyle, her skin was red. He wouldn’t leave it alone, so, just to be solicitous, I wrote that due to time constraints it wasn’t really necessary to explain why Sara had red skin, but maybe I should have explained it. He wrote back, “Yeah, you should have.”
‘Scuse me while I bang my head on my desk in despair.
I’ve avoided nit-picky reviewers as best as I could since then. Generally, they’re polite enough, but they need explanations and clarification on the randomest things, things that no one else cares about or that they already understood when they first read the story. The nit-pickers are exasperating at worse, but since they’re more polite than most and seem to like my stories, I’ve learned not to worry about them too much …. But if I ever explain anything, I NEVER set myself up by saying, “Maybe I should have done that,” or anything like that, because then they jump in and admonish me for not doing that in the first place. I don’t think they mean to be rude, but it’s irritating nonetheless.
FOR WRITERS: If you get a nit-picky reviewer, you can answer their questions if you like, but never say that you screwed up. If you want your fantasy character to have wings and somebody doesn’t get it because you didn’t “explain it,” big deal. Don’t say that you should have explained it (especially if this is a world where it’s been established that people can have wings!) because they’ll jump on you and tell you to do better next time … even though you didn’t do anything wrong in the first place.
FOR REVIEWERS: So the character has red skin. Whatever. Is that really an issue? Think about it; maybe the author likes the color red. Or, maybe the character herself has a “fiery” personality. Or maybe that’s the way the author imagined it and doesn’t need to explain anything, damn it all. Don’t go looking for backstories and imagery that isn’t there, and don’t scold the author for not providing you with an “explanation”; more likely than not, one wasn’t needed.
THE “PURIST” REVIEWER: These people are somewhat rare, but no less annoying. They’re hero worshipers, and they know everything about their favorite canon character down to their sun sign and shoe size, and they’ll come down on you like a hammer of God if you don’t get it right. For instance, Wolverine in the comics is frequently portrayed with blue eyes. That’s how I wrote him. Imagine my confusion when I saw my stories on a website and realized that somebody had gone through and changed all references of “blue” eyes to “brown.” I asked my friend (it was her site) about it, and said that she was the one who changed the eye color to brown. Why? Because Hugh Jackman has brown eyes … BUT I WASN’T WRITING ABOUT THE HUGH JACKMAN WOLVERINE AT THE TIME!!!
I told her that. She insisted that the eyes were brown, not blue, and wouldn’t budge.
But there are people worse than that—God help you if you ever say Batman is as tall as Superman because he’s not, and somebody will be quick to educate you on that. If you spell a name a particular way that isn’t spelled that way in that story (that happened to me; in my Legend fanfic I spelled it “Lili” because that’s the way it was spelled in the credits, but apparently in the closed captions and the DVD case it’s spelled, “Lily,” so I got crap for that), somebody’s going to whine.
FOR WRITERS: Unless they’re right, just ignore these messages. If they insist (like the “Lili/Lily” controversy), explain why you chose that, and be succinct. You don’t owe them a lengthy explanation. If they actually demand that you make changes, ignore them or block them if it helps.
FOR REVIEWERS: Get a grip and give us a rest, will ya? What you're obsessing over doesn’t mean very much in the long run. If it’s totally incorrect, then yes, we would appreciate polite help, but if it’s a tiny detail, we don’t care, and neither should you. Calm down.
THE “HEY, YOU CAN’T DO THAT TO MY FAVORITE OC” REVIEWER: Hmm … apparently Gargoyles fans are touchier than other fanfic readers, because, once again, it’s another Gargoyles fanfic review that I got—a personal one, no less! Sent via email!—and I’ll tell you, this particular reader was not very happy with me. Why? Well, he didn’t like how I was portraying Elisa Maza, the human friend to the Gargoyles.
In my fanfics, Elisa was about to have Goliath’s baby—a rare human/Gargoyle hybrid—but my OC villain discovered this. The villain wanted a new body, and thought that a human/Garg child was absolutely perfect. She sent her demons to attack the pregnant Elisa and steal the baby. Elisa barely survived, and the attack left her physically unable to have children. In a rage over everything that has happened to her—all those times she nearly died, Broadway shooting her, her brother becoming a mutant, a clone made of her, being apart from her family and friends for months while she was traveling with Goliath, Angela and Bronx, the Quarrymen stalking her, Demona hunting her, being unable to live a normal life, giving up everything, even daylight, for the Gargoyles and now this … it was finally too much. In her mind, she blamed Goliath especially because he had always promised to be there to save her, but he wasn’t there that night. In the hospital she was delusional (operative word: delusional) with pain and rage, and when she recovered, she realized that she was still angry and left the clan, dealing with them as a detective, not a friend.
This guy told me I was wrong. He said that even when she was in the hospital, hysterical over what happened to her and her baby, she would never hate the Gargoyles. I disagreed, saying that a human being can only take so much before they snap, and when Elisa said she wanted the Gargoyles to die, that was trauma-induced psychosis—when she recovered, she didn’t want them to die, she just didn’t want anything to do with them. He still insisted that she’d always be their friend. I pointed out that cartoon Elisa might always be their friend, but my story—which is much more adult than the cartoon and showed all the characters as much more complex and human-like than just animated drawings—is different. He still didn’t like it. Finally, to put an end to the nonsense, I said that I had been going through a difficult time and I might have been taking it out on Elisa. He seemed to like that explanation and said that he’s done the same to his characters before. I assured him that everything was going to work out fine with Elisa, and he was satisfied. I, meanwhile, felt like putting my fist through the computer.
I’ve said it before; some people just do not like it when you mess with your favorite characters—especially when they think that you’re trying to get rid of a character just to set up another canon character with your original character (which, shortly afterwards, I wondered if this guy thought I was doing that. I wasn’t.) They take it very personally if something bad happens to their favorite CC, and those that are particularly rabid about something like this. They see the attacks on this character as an attack on themselves and/or someone they love (who’s not freakin’ REAL!) While there are writers who pick on characters, the great majority don’t, and the rabid fans can’t tell the difference, so they rush in to defend the character.
These fans can be pretty vicious in their comments, but once you realize that they’re just psychos rushing to the defense of somebody WHO DOESN’T FREAKING EXIST, you shouldn’t take it personally.
FOR WRITERS: There are four degrees of rabid fans: the ones that have a gripe, the dimwits, the psychos, and the super psychos. The ones who have a gripe are bothered by what you’ve written, but they’re usually respectful and mature when they write to you, so if you write back, say something like, “I decided to do it that way because (insert reason.) I don’t hate (character) at all, but for story purposes, it’s important that it happens this way. Don’t worry, everything will work out for (character) in the end. I promise!” The dimwits leave stupid, goofy messages—ignore them. The psychos really are pissed and leave messages that are mean and insulting—ignore them and delete them. The super psychos say really horrible things about you—report them, and don’t hesitate.
FOR REVIEWERS: Remember what I said about poetic license? Also understand that the way you view a character might be totally different from the way somebody else views that same character. This is not an attack on your favorite character. This is not an attack on you. This is somebody’s interpretation, and the things that are happening to the character are integral for the story. If you don’t like it, tough. Find a new story, and don’t leave a review.
PART 3: LAST MINUTE RULES FOR BOTH SIDES
Just a few things I didn’t work in earlier:
1. Always think it through before you respond to a nasty message. Ask yourself this: if I reply in the same way, is it really going make things better, or is it going to make things worse? Am I willing to endure a huge flame war with no end? Am I okay with looking like the loser, or looking like a jerk in front of my readers?
2. Reread the message several times in several different ways. It’s really easy to misunderstand a simple message because it was misinterpreted (this has saved me a few times.)
3. If someone misinterprets your message and fires back, reply calmly and re-explain everything. Say something like, “Oops, I think I accidentally got you confused. What I mean was …”
4. Never be defensive. That’s like blood in the water for sharks. You start lashing out over something, they’ll come flocking.
5. Some people keep negative comments, saying that it helps them get tougher. Don’t be afraid to delete something you don’t like.
6. Never hesitate to ask a moderator for help or to report abusive behavior. That’s not tattling; that’s calling in the big guns who will make sure that the bully doesn’t harass you or anyone ever again. And don’t tell the reviewer you’re going to report them, just do it.
7. Don’t leave bad criticism. If you don’t like getting it, I guarantee the author you’re reviewing doesn’t like it any better. Be respectful be polite, be constructive, and be fair.
8. Don’t sweat it over a few bad reviews, especially when you have so many good ones. In the end, they’re meaningless, and you’re never going to meet the reviewers, so why care? (If they’re totally out of line, block them or report them.) All they can do is leave stupid messages. They can’t hurt you, and they can’t stop you from writing.
9. Some people write bad messages to get a reaction out of you. Don’t give it to them.
10. There are people who steal other people’s identities and leave bad reviews to get them in trouble. If you respond to them, you might actually be harassing a totally innocent person.
11. It’s really best to ignore bad messages—if you respond to them, you’ve just given them a whole day to come up with a painful reply.
12. Always thank your readers. You want them to feel appreciated so they’ll leave more reviews in the future.
Cool! That’s done—I was actually looking forward to this one, and thankfully it was easy to write. Next week’s blog, on the other hand, I don’t know where to start (groan). And, since I think I’m going to be busy this weekend, I probably won’t get the blog done by Monday, but seeing as how I’m going to be busy again the following weekend, I’ll try to get it posted by Tuesday of Wednesday at the latest.
Next week (I hope): Getting Rid of Mary-Sue in Your Original Writing!
More by this Author
Mary Sues are not beyond saving--sometimes they don't really need to be. Plus, why you should never ever take a Mary Sue Litmus test. You'll thank me.
Did you know there's such thing as a Mary-Sue villain? Yup, a villain that's incredibly evil and impossible to stop and has zero depth or motivation. If you have an MS villain, time to fix it!!
A common accusation regarding Mary Sues is that they're just a stand-in for the authors themselves. Hey, guess what? That's not a bad thing--and a lot of famous authors are guilty of the same thing.