By Jeff Salter
I first encountered Sarah on her reviewing site after Renee Vincent thanked her on Facebook for the wonderful review of Raeliksen. I must have made a comment about the review – don’t actually remember – but somehow Sarah and I began communicating. Before I knew it, things seemed as if Sarah and I had been friends for years. She has that kind of warmth and openness about her.
And if you ever need a laugh, check out some of her blogs. Sarah is a hoot! I’m extremely impressed that she wrote a novella specifically for a charity fund-raiser and all her proceeds will go to disaster victims. Classy lady.
With no further intro from me (but check out her bio at the end), here’s Sarah!
Surviving the Heat of Bad Critiques & Reviews
By Sarah Ballance
If there’s a drawback to entering the ranks of published authors, it’s not bad catering or the watered down drinks. In fact, short of food poisoning those things are darn near agreeable next to the real downside of getting your words in print: public embarrassment, otherwise known as a bad review. But before I tell you what’s so great—yes-I-said-great—about a bad review, let’s digress a little.
Bad reviews may be cringe-worthy, even in their greatness, but a bad crit is another story. So much so, in fact, I can say quite honestly that I relish them … as should you. Whaaaa? Yep. Here’s the thing about your writing: it’s not perfect. This is why you need a good crit partner—and by good, I mean one who isn’t the least bit concerned with being nice. That’s a fine line of epic proportions, but it’s an important distinction to make.
To explain, a good crit partner giving a bad crit shouldn’t be confused with a “mean” either of the above. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to want to stab your CP between the eyes with a fork (and for that very reason, preferable to crit from a great distance, lest you provoke someone into wielding a utensil of their own.) Crit partners worth their salt will refrain from personally disparaging remarks such as “What were you thinking?” and “Is this a joke manuscript? Do you have a camera on me or something?” They may grant one of your characters TSTL (Too Stupid to Live) status, but a good “bad crit” will refrain from assigning the same designation to you, the author.
They will not, however, EVER withhold from making any suggestions at all. If you want praise, ask your mommy if she likes your writing. If you want to avoid a public slaughter, find a CP who is more butcher than bleeding heart. There should be a worldwide shortage of red ink after a good crit because let’s face it: you have a choice. The negativity can stay right there between the two of you (crit) or it’s there for the whole world to see (review). Which—after you thank your critter—brings us to the bad review.
Of course, there’s something to be said for the anonymity of the e-diss, but being able to pull that review link up a few dozen times to see if it really was as bad as you thought can turn tragic if you discover—again and again—the flogging was every bit as bad as you first read (and nowhere near as delish as an actual flogging … if you’re into that sort of thing, that is).
Yeah, a bad review is public. And yes, if it’s online, it’s there forever. But aside of making you crazy with its sheer permanence, it’s an important tool in your arsenal of writing survival (and, um, surviving writing). It’s a common—and perfectly correct—adage that a review is “one person’s opinion,” but it’s also an opinion less epically concerned with your feelings than even your cleaver-laden crit partner should be. Therefore, no matter how cringe-worthy, a bad review is worth a second glance.
Reviewers are there to entertain their audiences, so the best thing you can do with any review—good or bad—is to look past the garnish and rhetoric. Try to be totally honest with yourself: does the reviewer make a valid point? Sometimes the truth stings, but if you stop wincing long enough to take a good look inward with those words, you just might find you’re a stronger writer on the next go round. And strength does things way cooler than making your next book more epic than the last.
It’s also pretty darn handy for stabbing crit partners with forks.
Sarah’s ‘World out of Ballance’
Sarah’s latest release, HAWTHORNE , is now available exclusively from Astraea Press for just $3 with all profits donated directly from the publisher to benefit Japan earthquake disaster relief. Please consider supporting this great cause by grabbing a copy of your own, and do tell a friend! Meanwhile, to observe Sarah from a safe distance, visit her at her blog or check out her website. Blog topic disclaimer: No crit partners or reviewers were harmed during the writing of this blog. (Sarah misplaced her fork.)
A stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of six, Sarah has two other available titles: RUN TO YOU—a romantic suspense that will have you rethinking that trip to the beach—and her debut DOWN IN FLAMES, both available from Noble Romance.