Giving and Receiving Gracefully

I wouldn't say I'm an authority on the subject of reviews, but I have been hanging around this site for a while, and have made some observations. I'm not saying I'm perfect, I've done some of the things I suggest you don't do. That's how I know not to do them. This is my advice, take it or leave it.

Receiving Reviews

Once you've written and posted your story, the wait begins. Questions fill your mind…Will anyone read your work? Will they like it? Will they appreciate all the time and effort you put into it? The wait can be exciting and sometimes a bit nerve wracking.

If you don't get any reviews at all, don't despair. While disappointing, it probably has nothing to do with the quality of your writing. Fictionpress, according the homepage, is a community of 118,000 writers. One lone voice can easily be drowned out amongst so many. Also, if you're not getting reviews, perhaps that is because you don't give many. If you leave a helpful review of someone's work they will often reciprocate. You shouldn't expect everyone you review to review you in turn, since your work may just not interest them, but if you review often enough you'll probably find a few want to check out your work, since if you liked theirs you probably have similar interests.

When you do get reviews, don't expect them all to be completely positive. You might get some readers who just think your story is fantastic, in which case, good for you, enjoy it while it lasts. Sooner or later though, you will draw some criticism. That's part of being a writer. Professional authors all get crucified by critics at some point in their careers.

Sometimes criticism is referred to as flames. I'm no aware of any clear and final definition of what a flame is, but as far as I'm concerned, not all criticism is 'flaming'. Flames are abusive 'reviews' which just say something unhelpful like 'ur story sux', criticise the writer personally eg.'ur gay u & ur &$ and your mother does too u &', or some sort of combination of the two.

Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is where the reviewer points out parts of the story they didn't like, or think could be improved, and makes some suggestions. Unfortunately, a review that is intended to be friendly and helpful might be unintentionally cruel, or may cause offence to someone who isn't used to criticism. Sooner or later you will probably be hurt by a review. What matters is how you deal with it. Getting a bad review is your opportunity to show what you're made of. You can let it put you off writing for good, or you can come out of it a more mature, better writer.

If you're offended, try to keep calm. If the review pointed out mistakes or suggested improvements, look your work over. If you agree with the reviewer, make some changes, and if not, leave your story as it stands. It's up to you. However, if you do decide to make the suggested changes it doesn't make any sense to stay angry with the reviewer about suggesting them, since you obviously you think they were right. Remarks like 'Okay, I've fixed all the spelling mistakes Miss Smarty Pants' are childish, and likely to put people off bothering to review your work in future.

Make sure to take note of the good things reviewers say too. If a review says 'Your story was great, except for…' don't skip over the compliment in your hurry to get to the part that upsets you. If you get too defensive you'll miss the good things people say about your work.

No matter how upset you might be about a review, resist the urge to leave a 'revenge review' of one the reviewers' stories. Instead, try to follow the Golden Rule of Reviewing: review as you would like to be reviewed. It's not polite to leave replies to reviews you received on another person's review board. If they have an email address, use that to reply to them. However, try to resist the urge to email them with abuse or death threats, both of which I've received over the years, for terrible insults like suggesting somebody add a comma.

Remember, no one has to take the time to review your work. You ought to be grateful when they do, even if they don't say exactly what you want to hear. Maybe especially then, since a review that just says 'That was great!' might be an ego boost, but it doesn't help you grow as a writer. That someone bothered to review your work at all is a compliment, especially if, like me, they won't leave reviews if a story is so totally abysmal that they can't find anything good to say about it. Enjoy reviews and learn from them. Keep on writing!

To sum up:

When receiving reviews:

Expect and accept, the good with the bad.

Stay calm.

Take note of the good things reviewers say as well as the bad.

Don't leave 'revenge reviews' or messages.

Don't let bad reviews put you off. All writers get them.

'I suppose you could say that I'm a sucesseful filmmaker- in that a number of people speak well of me. But none of my films have received unanimously positive reviews'

Stanley Kubrick

'I have always been pushed by the negative. The apparent failure of a play sends me back to the typewriter that very night, before the reviews are out. I am more compelled to get back to work than if I had a success'

Tennessee Williams