Stop Criticizing Me!
I knew going into this whole thing that Collapse would not be everyone’s cup of tea. People’s tastes are particular. I know my tastes are particular. I’m a huge fan of the TV show Game of Thrones, however, I can’t stand the books. I find them difficult to follow along with the dozens of characters. I tried to read the first book and had stop about a quarter of the way into it because I just didn’t like it. I think Martin is a fantastic writer, I just don’t care for his books.
Do you remember your first negative review? I know I do. The funny thing about it – it was a three star review. The reviewer was not kind, claiming that my writing style was horrible and that my dystopian thriller was aimed at twelve year olds. Not sure how a book with graphic violence and language, a racist skinhead, and the victim of Richard Dupree’s crime was material aimed at twelve year olds. That particular review bothered me a lot. It raised my blood pressure and upset my stomach enough to warrant some pepto. Then another negative review, another three star mind you, came just minutes behind the first one. This review made the claim that Dupree’s escape from the courthouse was lifted completely out of Silence of the Lambs. This upset me even more because I couldn’t see the parallel at all. Dupree didn’t cut someone’s face off and wear it as a mask or dress up a corpse in his own clothing to confuse his captors. I chomped on some more pepto tablets and realized I had a serious problem to contend with. If three star reviews bothered me so badly, how on earth was I going to cope with one and two star reviews?
Then I got my first two star review. My stomach started churning and I could feel my heart pounding. My hand was actually shaking when I clicked the mouse to see what horrible bashing was in store. Was a grown man about to cry?
It didn’t bother me in the slightest. In fact, I had nothing but respect for the reviewer’s opinion. Collapse was just not his cup of tea. He was expecting a different type of book. He thought the book would be geared more towards survival fiction in the same vein as James Wesley Rawles Patriots. He also wasn’t fond of the main characters. I totally get that. To each his own.
Did I write this blog post to garner your sympathy? Am I fishing for your complements to boost my ego? Not at all, far from it. Well then, Mr. Stephenson, what is your point you may ask? I hope that by sharing my experience that other indies will learn the simple fact that you are going to get a lot of negative criticism. That fact might be obvious to everyone, you might even be waiting on your first negative review at this very moment confident in the fact that you are prepared for it. I thought I was prepared and ready, but I was not ready for criticism that just defied logic and reason. I was prepared for criticism about a great many things. Towards the end of the book I wrote a love scene that I knew would offend some people, I was prepared for that. I wrote several scenes containing graphic violence that I knew would offend some, I was prepared for that as well. Much of Collapse requires the reader to suspend belief as a lot of fiction does, I was prepared for people to not being able to make that leap.
What I was not prepared for was criticism that, in my opinion, came out of left field and just flat confused me. I had to fight the urge to leave comments on those reviews and engage the reviewer in debate, explaining my side of things and hopefully change their mind. I decided against it because in my experience, once someone has made up their mind about something, it is often an exercise in futility to make them agree with you. It often makes the situation far worse and in my opinion, is just not worth the time.
My advice, prepare yourself for anything. Get ready for criticism of all types -constructive criticism that is tactful and polite, criticism that makes you ask yourself “Did this person actually read my book?” Be ready for criticism that is harsh, rude, and even says your writing style is terrible.
Even better, if you can resist the temptation, don’t even click on the ones and twos. ;)