Wednesday’s Work-in-Progress: Negative Reviews on the Brain
On my mind lately: negative reviews.
The topic came up during my recent visit to the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program, not just within the book-reviewing discussions I had with students, but also in a presentation by another faculty member, who told us that he was fired from one of his freelancing gigs (as a food critic) after negatively reviewing a restaurant whose ad dollars helped fund the publication he was writing for.
It came up again when I returned home and discovered a new, negative (two-star) review of Quiet Americans on Goodreads (go ahead and look for it if you want to). I didn’t mind quite so much the disdainful adjectives the reviewer applied to my writing style–everyone’s entitled to an opinion–but I was bothered (and stunned, really) by one other judgment about its substance. If I were to engage with the reviewer (which I won’t; we all know authors should NOT follow that understandable impulse), I would ask for some specifics. That’s one thing about negative reviews–it’s especially frustrating when the reviewers don’t provide details, examples, or other evidence to support their arguments. It’s not all that dissimilar from getting a negative workshop critique that offers painfully little (if anything) to help you understand what, exactly, the critiquer objects to.
And then, last week, I read a negative review that seemed exemplary: sensitive, thoughtful, detailed, and evidenced. Read it here, and be sure to read through to the end, which offers some powerful closing lines (yes, I’m always reading as a writer!).
Meantime, just this past Monday, David Abrams’s always-interesting Quivering Pen blog presented, as part of its “My First Time” series, a guest post by Doreen McGettigan on her first bad review. Which brought back memories of my own similarly-themed “My First Punch-in-the-Gut Review” for the same feature.
So, yes, I have negative reviews on the brain. Any thoughts on the subject or relevant links you care to share?