If there’s one thing we as a people cannot avoid, it’s critiques. The little monsters are everywhere. They judge us by what we wear, how we talk, who we know, and what we are. The list is long and laborious . . . and completely unavoidable.
As a writer, I have to add another kind of critique to the list: book reviews. These are monsters of a different color.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love book reviews. They are another form of creative expression that, as a writer, I cannot resist. They are a way to connect with other authors and readers. They present a moment to vent or praise in written form, which is my very favorite kind of form. They allow us to express exactly how angry or overjoyed a book made us feel. I enjoy manipulating words beyond measure, and book reviews? Well, they simply give me one more opportunity to do just that. No wonder I spend the majority of my time with words! They don’t mind being manipulated. And they don’t talk back . . . unless I let them. Ha!
But first, let’s discuss the reviews I receive for my own works. Reviews, at times, full of praise and adoration that give me chills and send my heart soaring above the clouds. My book has been called a “Sleeping Giant.” I’ve been told I write from “Mariana’s Trench.” Wow! Really? Those are compliments I will never forget. Compliments that humble this writer to her core because I see none of that in myself.
And then, there are the not-so-pleasant reviews that cause me to cringe and doubt my abilities. I’ve been knocked down a full star for a “handful of errors” and told “after an author has slaved over a work, the least they could do is completely perfect it.” I’m sure many other authors will profess . . . it is a difficult task to find every single error, and after you think you’ve found every single one, another will creep in on you unnoticed.
The point is, we do slave over our works. We read and read and reread our books so many times that often we are sick to death of the story by the time it’s published. Our works are our babies, and we put ourselves through the painstaking exercise of revisions and edits because we want them to be perfect. But, news flash! Nothing is perfect. And as much as we may try to get every single little tiny detail just so, there will always be things we missed, points we wish we had made, errors that slipped by right under all five of our copy-editors noses. It happens.
But I will admit . . . no matter the outcome, there is something quite satisfying about seeing that yet another reader has finished my book and now has something to say about it. It’s exhilarating! Do I feel a bit nauseous every time the little number beside the five tiny stars moves up a step? Of course! For this indicates the moment of truth: You either nailed it with this reader, or they nailed you! Oh boy!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from it, it’s this: reading preferences vary so much that conflicting critiques are inevitable. My books have satisfied multiple readers on many occasions, and the same books have disappointed a time or two as well. After all, my reading audience is diverse. It is filled with people from all walks of life, and I can’t hit the mark every time with every one.
So how do you cope with such a conundrum? Here’s what I do: I bask in the positive feedback. After reading a negative review, I immediately go back to my favorite 5-star and read it . . . and read it again. And I remember that I am far from perfect, but I love what I do. I remind myself that I have given some readers the treat of a lifetime, and I revel in this.
And then, I sit down . . . and I write another book.