Scathing vs. Constructive review
I totally understand where you're coming from. Letting strangers read your fiction is a big leap--you have no control over what they're going to say or how they're saying it.
Sometimes, reviewers might not know how their feedback sounds to others; they can't use their facial expressions or the inflection of their voice to show you what they think. So, consider this first: did the reviewer just got carried away with the nitpicky-ness or was he or she plain mean-spirited?
My advice is to find a way to say "thank you"--they did spend time reading and reviewing your book--but you have the right to let them know that you didn't appreciate their tone, and point out the ways in which they could have been a bit gentler and more thoughtful. This way you'll actually help them improve as reviewers, too. We are all learning.
It's a completely different case if a reviewer were insulting to you. If you think that a reviewer is in violation of our Community Guidelines, please let us know by clicking on the "Report Abuse" button that appears under the review or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an interview for the blog, one of our veteran members, Mike, said this to me about the workshopping process on BC: [T]he reviews I got were totally contradictory—so I
had to really dig into them and figure out how to reconcile the
contradictory parts. That has changed the way I read reviews of Geekomancy: I acknowledge the criticism and try to figure out which bits of feedback to take to heart.
Hope that Mike's words give you some food for thought. Happy writing & let me know what you think about all this.
--edited by Nevena Georgieva on 10/6/2013, 11:22 PM--
Apropos "scathing" reviews, former president Harry Truman once observed, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Writers by nature are thin-skinned, extremely susceptible to suicidal tendencies when their creative endeavors are reproached and dismissed out of hand. Having a firm understanding that all criticism is subjective, and therefore biased, seldom has the impetus to assuage the writer's apocalyptic grief. Rave reviews given less deserving work smack of a mutual admiration society, the mindless back slapping doing the yearning beginner a grave disservice.When I review, I strive mightily to remain objective, resisting all temptations to assume that my treatment of the work-in-progress would be better. A big help in achieving this disposition is to never characterize any writing as bad. All writing, even when its adjudged completed, is a work-in-progress; the Bible in its many regenerations bears witness to the validity of this claim.I am most put off by verbosity, overuse of adjectives and adverbs, and overblown descriptions telling readers what they intuitively understand.
A particular pet peeve of mine in this Cybernetic Age is the tendency of young authors to overload their creative writing with hip "tweeting" jargon. Some is okay, especially in dialogue, the way people on the Web speak, but the quickest way for a writer's oeuvre to disappear is by using too much influence of the Zeitgeist that will eventually give way to new hip trends and a sure way to have your writing completely forgotten. Novels with strong, memorable characters will survive. Old Shakespeare's oeuvre has been around for five centuries because of the profound, unforgettable characters he created, not the detailed presentations of the Zeitgeist in which they performed. Four movies have been made of The Great Gatsby; the novel continues to sell seventy years after publication. It became synonymous with the Roaring Twenties, a strong Zeitgeist but one that never dominated the enduring characters Fitzgerald created.
I'm assuming you mean the reaction to a posting here or on a site like this. Like and dislike should have nothing to do with it. The idea is to help make your writing better, and if the one evaluating the writing is letting personal likes and dislikes enter into it they are not doing you a service.
Let's assume that you're attending a university and taking a commercial fiction writing course. Should the teacher grade your story writing assignment based on if he or she likes or dislikes the work? Hell no. They judge it on how well it was written, and how well the writer used the compositional skills of fiction for the printed word. Those skills are very different from the nonfiction techniques we learned in our school days. And that's all you should be critiqued on. Reviews are for readers. Critiques are for the writer.
Your story is your story and the one critiquing has only the right to say that they saw factual or logic errors, not if the plot is one they favor or hate. Your voice is your own, too. All someone can comment on as far as that is if they found it off-putting, and why.
But the thing we all share, the learned part of writing—the part that the no-talent hacks use to sell their work—is the craft, and the compositional skills dictated by the printed word medium. That means matters of structure, like the flow of the scene as tension increases to the climax or disaster that ends it (or failure to do that). That can be measured and analyzed.
If they say they hated it, they did. They're a reader and you cannot argue matters of taste with your reader. Certainly you can't argue them into liking it. All you can do is analyze the reasons they disliked it so much and see if there's a way you can satisfy them without losing the rest of your audience, because you can be certain there are others who feel that way, but who remain silent.
Be careful, though, because the reason a person gives for not liking a given piece of writing is only why they think they disliked it, and may not be the actual reason.
As an example, often when someone says they wanted more detail, the real problem is a failure of POV, so the reader doesn't own the protagonist's context for what's being done/said and felt they were missing information.
In the end, though, be they helpful or no, someone you don't know took time they didn't have to give you to help you write with more skill. For that they deserve a thank you.
Something else to keep in mind. The comments people make on a specific area are always useful in that the writing is supposed to mesmerize your reader. But it clearly didn't in that spot. So forget the words they used. Think about why they weren't ignoring the little problems because they were so deep into the story. If you can figure out what knocked them out of the story and fix that...