When I read the first negative reader review of my novel, I felt totally devastated. It wasn’t so much the criticism as much as the malicious nature of the review and the harsh words. Aren’t there more diplomatic ways to tell an artist—whether it is a writer, painter or musician—that their work sucks?
It took a long while for me to get past these seething reviews, but then one day I figured out a way to turn them around and make them productive. Instead of licking my wounds and wallowing, I read the reviews a second and third time and replaced the mean-spirited words with less offensive ones, without compromising or altering the crux of the criticism.
Instantly, I turned a personal attack into a writing workshop. Instead of trying to debate with the reviewers and dispute their claims, I took them at face value and embraced them. During this process, it occurred to me that an artist gains much more from negative reviews than he or she gains from positive ones. Don’t get me wrong. I cherish every kind and complimentary review. However, as a writer, I don’t learn from these glowing reviews.
As I write the sequel to They Never Die Quietly, I never lose sight of the criticisms I received. Each one in its own way has placed a spotlight on every word I write. I am more careful with language, characterization, plot structure and continuity. The proof, of course, won’t be known until Resuscitation is published.
So, to all of you out there who grabbed me by the throat and slammed me up against the wall, thank you. And for all you folks who wrote a positive review, you made my day. The negative reviews help me to improve my writing; the positive ones keep me sane.