PDA

View Full Version : Rhino-skin. Do you have it?



wordmonkey
10-25-2007, 01:27 AM
The recent Anne Rice (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=81276) thread got me thinking.

How do you deal with the inevitable emotional smack in the teeth that is a bad review?

I don't specifically mean like if you're on Amazon and get reviews there, could be anywhere, from a family member, to a beta reader, to whoever.

Let's be honest, you work hard, you pour your emotions into the work and at the end you might be tired but you've accomplished something that you hope speaks to others. And then you get the feedback. It was poor. I didn't get it. I didn't care. It didn't hook me. You stink, you talentless hack.

How do YOU deal with that?

III
10-25-2007, 01:34 AM
I'm VERY thin skinned, but blessed with a very short memory. Any criticism cuts me deeply but I forget all about it within 24 hours. So I have to wait till that day of depression and doubt has passed before I can actually do something to correct the writing itself.

Cranky
10-25-2007, 01:47 AM
I haven't developed it yet. I am at a point of mediocrity that sort of fizzles any complaints, really.

I've got most of the mechanics down, so no quibbles there. When they do crop up, it's hard to take personally. It's an objective error, easily corrected.

The rest is style issues, I suppose, and if something leaves you saying, "Meh, whatever?" are you really going to waste your breath/ink blasting it? Only if the author is an established writer, I think.

I need to write something really craptastic. Purely to toughen up. LOL

Seriously, though, maybe I'd learn something about why my work is missing the mark. At least you can say that about reviews that are bad...they point out what's wrong, and gives you a place to start fixing.

Maybe I'll change my mind once someone slaughters one of my babies. :)

rugcat
10-25-2007, 01:49 AM
I write down the reviewer's name, but it in a special box, and then, one day . . .

wordmonkey
10-25-2007, 01:49 AM
I'm VERY thin skinned, but blessed with a very short memory. Any criticism cuts me deeply but I forget all about it within 24 hours. So I have to wait till that day of depression and doubt has passed before I can actually do something to correct the writing itself.

I used to be like that, but I have a long memory, so I needed to toughen up.

I have been tempted to lash out and try to defend my baby, but I always hold off.

I also found it easier to stop thinking of my projects as my babies. Teenagers seemed to work better. You raise, 'em, try and make sure they play nice with others, then you send 'em and hope you did your job well enough that they can stand on their own. Their shortcomings are still my shortcomings, but it's a little easier to take.

maestrowork
10-25-2007, 01:52 AM
They sting, no doubt about it. So I either don't read reviews or I have to really force myself to realize it's only one person's opinion, and try to focus on the good reviews. And trust me, one reader telling me "your book really touched me" is good enough to wipe out 100 bad reviews (and thankfully most of my reviews have been pretty good).

As for crits, I am getting really good at receiving them without ending my life. I'm very careful, these days, in choosing critters -- not that I want a pat on the back. Quite the contrary, I want honest crits from people I can trust. A bad crit stings a little less than a bad review since it's just about a WIP which is far from being perfect, and I want to know how to make it better. But once a book is off the printing press and it's harder to hear bad news...

p.s. I don't respond to bad reviews. What's the point, really? I just secretly send them boxes of Brown Recluse spiders.

vfury
10-25-2007, 01:53 AM
I let myself have a few seconds of sputtering and grumbling. Then I look at it, see if the criticism makes sense and has context, and work from there. In the end, I want to improve my work to the best it can be, and I need criticism for that to happen.

Above all, though, I remember it's just one person's opinion, and someone's poison can be another's elixir.

BarbJ
10-25-2007, 01:55 AM
Badly. Then I accept that it's one person's opinion, then that they might, just barely might, have some justification for their half-witted and badly-expressed negativity - then I move on. I may occasionally go through some day-dreamed revenge, but it's usually so unrealistic that it helps. I finally reach the point that I can decide, kinda sorta objectively, if their comments are worth considering. But first reaction is hurt, teary, the-world-hates-me idiocy.

Chumplet
10-25-2007, 01:58 AM
I'll let you know if I EVER get a review. The one on Amazon doesn't count because it's a friend. My publisher sent copies to a number of reviewers (at least that's what I was told) and I didn't get a single review. Now I'm sending it out myself, just to get some idea whether I suck or not.

I managed to toughen up to crits fairly easily, so hopefully a bad review won't throw me off the deep end.

PeeDee
10-25-2007, 02:09 AM
I say -- in the privacy of my own head and nowhere else -- "Fuck 'em," and then I keep going. It makes me grumpy for about two hours, then it goes away and I think nothing more of it. And I never stop writing.

It applies to anything from a bad review, to just a passing negative comment on my work, to anything of the sort. It's a good way to keep going. (If not the nicest possible way.)

MidnightMuse
10-25-2007, 02:11 AM
I've never had a review, but I've had reader comments that made one eyebrow arch that way Spock and my Mom can do it - one great comment can wipe out all bad ones. And I was weaned by a nasty crit-type person who showed no mercy, and I came out the better for it.

I wouldn't say I have Rhino skin, more like - cow hide.

donroc
10-25-2007, 02:12 AM
"You're too kind," works for me while I note names in my mental black book of harsh retribution.

www.donaldmichaelplatt.com

Namatu
10-25-2007, 02:14 AM
I haven't yet received a review, just crits. I guess I've been pretty lucky so far in that the crits I've received - even the harsh ones - have constructively identified areas where I could improve. One critter refused to read the second half of a story because she hated the first half so much. Her feedback made a big difference, and her refusal to read the rest didn't bother me, but that could be because we're friends with a professional understanding: tear it to shreds, no mercy. Because of that relationship, however, it was probably easier for me to understand where she was coming from and not take it personally.

Shadow_Ferret
10-25-2007, 02:29 AM
I'm very sensitive. I take everything personally.

Rejections. They hate me.

A bad review? They really hate me.

And let's make no bones about it, it is me they hate.

I think I"d be in a fetal position for weeks over a bad review.

But then, like any personal attack, I'd seek revenge and it would be horrible and bloody.

Will Lavender
10-25-2007, 02:38 AM
MFA programs have fallen under the sword in the past few years, but this is why I like 'em: they toughen you up. (There are certainly other ways to thicken the writer's skin; I don't mean to suggest that an MFA is the only, or even the best, way to do it.)

I think a writer needs to subject her or himself to as much rejection and animosity and apathy as possibly during her or his formative years. Whether that's in a creative writing class or in an MFA program or a writer's group -- doesn't matter, just get out there and step into the fire. When bad reviews come, as they probably will, you can then sort of shrug them off and say, "That was tame compared to what they said about my work in school."

Toothpaste
10-25-2007, 02:38 AM
Oh I take it pretty bad. So I find a friend who I'll know understands and vent. Usually they'll get mad as well and we'll say illogical things about the person who made the review. Then I will feel much better, never read the review again, and move on.

WendyNYC
10-25-2007, 02:40 AM
I can't say for sure that a bad review wouldn't sting, but I have pretty thick skin in general. Crits and rejections don't bug me so much.

Although, I'd hate to be Alice Sebold after that review on Gawker. Jeez. That was just mean:

http://jezebel.com/gossip/critical-mass/alice-sebolds-almost-moon-almost-unreadable-311301.php

Marian Perera
10-25-2007, 02:56 AM
I had an online acquaintance once who, after a major disagreement, called me a "f***ing failed writer". That hurt so much I put him on my ignore list and never spoke to him again. A few weeks later he shot himself. I found out that he'd been going through serious emotional problems at the time we'd disagreed, and he really felt bad that we'd fallen out. Not that that was the last straw or anything, but it probably didn't help.

So if someone gives me a bad review, I'll try to be as nice as possible. No guarantees, but I'll always remember that poor guy.

Now that I come to think of it, the other really hurtful feedback I got was from Marion Zimmer Bradley, who is also not among us any longer. Good thing I'm not superstitious.

Monkey
10-25-2007, 02:57 AM
I used to take criticism badly.

Now, no one is harsher to me than I am to myself. I figure pretty much everything I've written up to this point is utter crap.

:)

Monkey
10-25-2007, 03:01 AM
I had an online acquaintance once who, after a major disagreement, called me a "f***ing failed writer". <SNIP> A few weeks later he shot himself.
<SNIP>
Now that I come to think of it, the other really hurtful feedback I got was from Marion Zimmer Bradley, who is also not among us any longer. Good thing I'm not superstitious.

BEWARE: Do NOT give Queen of Swords a bad review. Or any crap. You don't want to be swimming with the fishes.

qdsb
10-25-2007, 03:15 AM
Whoa.

Backing away from Queen of Swords.


I've got trick Rhino-skin. I wish I could learn to control it.

Sometimes criticisms roll off my back, especially if I see that they're accurate, that they see where I'm trying to go and help me in that direction. I embrace those. I crave those. Honestly, I'm a feedback junkie.

But my rhino-skin disappears when I get crits that are aimed at me, not my work. Oh, and when my Beloved says something negative about my work, I get writer's block for days.

Siddow
10-25-2007, 03:16 AM
I'm bound in leather.

The first time I asked for critique, my critter ripped into me hard. Apparently I couldn't stay in POV, my tenses were all over the place, and my language was high-falutin'. I saw what he was talking about, and I've applied what I learned to everything since then, but I still sold that story as-is.

So I guess I learned early that there's something to gain from criticism, even when the person giving the criticism is wrong. :D

Namatu
10-25-2007, 03:17 AM
So I guess I learned early that there's something to gain from criticism, even when the person giving the criticism is wrong.
That is so true. One reason I don't mind if someone doesn't like my work is that I tend to feel bad for them and their poor taste. :D

OmenSpirits.com
10-25-2007, 03:26 AM
I never get a harsh critique. A critical one from a friend, yes, but harsh, no.

Besides, I've Titanium skin. ;)

badducky
10-25-2007, 04:44 AM
I always think rejections and bad reviews are funny ha ha. If they don't get my awesomeness, they deserve my quiet ridicule.

And, the only bad review - to me - is one that either spoils the ending or misspells the author and title.

joyce
10-25-2007, 04:53 AM
My skin seems to be getting thicker as time goes on. Since I'm harder on myself than anyone else could be, it's hard trying not to beat my own self up. I tend to have a long memory so I allow myself a few days to bathe in self pity. Then I have to kick myself in the butt and pick up the pen and start over again. Being here and seeing so many others going through the same painful process also helps ease the pain of rejection. Hopefully one day soon my skin will be bullet proof.

Hillary
10-25-2007, 04:53 AM
No one is crueler to me than I am to myself. So while it hurts like hell when I get bad feedback, I'm 100% convinced I deserve it. I have to keep a couple trusted friends nearby to tell me whether or not I actually do or else I'd just melt with every negative comment.

DamaNegra
10-25-2007, 04:55 AM
Dammit!!! Something weird's happening here!! First, it was a triple post and then all got deleted and merged into one. Or something like that. *eyes can of beer* Uh... at least I think that's what happened.

Anyway, I'm very sensitive about criticism, but I've always been able to tough it out. That, and my short memory. Oh, and beer. That helps too.

WriterGirl2007
10-25-2007, 05:10 AM
Ah, criticism. I have had so many things happen in my life that were far worse than a bad review or harsh criticism that both scarcely bother me anymore. If I get a harsh review of some sort I immediately think, "Well, at least it wasn't such-and-such that happened before," and go on with my day. ;)

wordmonkey
10-25-2007, 05:33 AM
Anyway, I'm very sensitive about criticism, but I've always been able to tough it out. That, and my short memory. Oh, and beer. That helps too.

As a wise man once said:

"Here's to alcohol, the cause of—and solution to—all life's problems."

Homer Simpson

JoNightshade
10-25-2007, 05:52 AM
I am pretty thin skinned when it comes to criticism. I have to really make sure I'm ready for it before I post on SYW. According to my husband, BTW, I might as well not even have any skin, it's so transparent! :)

But that disappears when something's published. I hate sharing stories and novels with people before they're published, but after someone puts that stamp of approval on it-- BAM, GOOD ENOUGH TO PRINT-- I could care less what anyone has to say about it. You think my story sucks? Good for you. Your opinion means jack because IT'S IN PRINT. No matter what anyone says, you can't deny that. It's validation enough for me. :)

brokenfingers
10-25-2007, 06:16 AM
Let's be honest, you work hard, you pour your emotions into the work and at the end you might be tired but you've accomplished something that you hope speaks to others. And then you get the feedback. It was poor. I didn't get it. I didn't care. It didn't hook me. You stink, you talentless hack.

How do YOU deal with that?To be honest, I’ve never really had a problem with it. As a matter of fact, I prefer harsh criticism. To me it’s like training to fight. I want to train against the toughest, hardest, meanest SOB around because in my mind’s eye, that’s the only way I’ll be able to improve my game.

Ideally, when I’m done I want my piece to be able to bounce off anything and still stand true, like a diamond.

I want an editor, agent or publisher to take it between their teeth, clamp down on it, make a face when it doesn’t yield to their bite and then remove it from their mouth. I want them to look at it and smile.

Of course, it also depends on who’s doing the critting/commenting. Some sources I’ll ignore because in the end, it’s my call and also because sometimes it’s a subjective thing or they’re clearly inexperienced.

But even the harshest comment from the most revered source (and I’m extremely harsh myself on my own work) will only give me cause to pause and re-examine my work – like a craftsman with a piece of work he twists in the light, seeking out the flaws and imperfections and wondering how best to bring out the sheen of the natural beauty within.

JamieFord
10-25-2007, 08:44 AM
I don't take myself too seriously.

Plus, I worked as an advertising creative director for years. I had far more work rejected than accepted on a daily basis, and dealt with all kinds of critical people--that's just the way it is. Definitely not a biz for the faint of heart.

maestrowork
10-25-2007, 09:04 AM
It's kind of like dating... the rejections make you feel lousy, but after a while, when you have more numbers than you can put inside your wallet or women trying to call you at odd hours hoping for a booty call... you kind of forget about the few that dissed you. Now, if it's one you really want, and she ditched you, that would really sting. But life goes on, and you know "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me..."

aka eraser
10-25-2007, 09:38 AM
I've been fortunate so far I guess. I've been rejected plenty of times but never had my work (or, by association, myself) roundly criticized - by experts that is.

Occasionally, in my teens and early 20s, I'd show my best friend something I'd written. He'd glance at it and contemptuously pronounce it crap. I was pretty sure he was kidding. But not positive. I mean, how could I be positive? Just because I'd been chosen to write newsy school bits for the local newspaper didn't mean I really had chops. Maybe it was a fluke, or I was a teacher's pet. (As if!)

Anyway, I decided maybe I'd best sell something to shut him up. That's when I started getting serious and began submitting.

And getting rejected.

Most personalized rejections contained elements of encouragement. Like all of us early in the game, I treasured those.

The form rejections I simply assumed were a bad fit. It happens. Move along. Not so much developing rhino skin I don't think, as it is just accepting reality. You can't please everybody.

But maybe you can please the next one.

I (eventually) did. And when I showed my buddy the cheque I think he was as happy as I was.

If you have some talent and work hard at improving it, study the markets and submit to likely ones - your success, as measured by publication, is inevitable.

If you live long enough. ;)

jodiodi
10-25-2007, 05:46 PM
I've never had anything reviewed (not published in novel-length fiction yet), but I've been critiqued. At first, I was horrified and thought life was over, but now I'm a little better about it. I try to use it as a learning experience, though I'll still probably cry and use the little 'crit and rejection dolls' I keep locked in an old case. If I ever get published, I'll have to get some 'review dolls' to go with them.

My skin is tougher than it was, but still wounds easily.

Jamesaritchie
10-25-2007, 06:20 PM
Well, I never let anyone other than agent/editor read my fiction before it's published. Can't think of a reason why I would. I'm not going to listen to anything non-agents/editors say, anyway, and unless they can do what I'm doing better than I can, they need to wait for the published piece. Then they can complain all they want.

And as far as I know, I've never had a review that I'd call bad, but I gave up reading then after my first novel was published. There's nothing I can do about what's in a review, and as someone said, if you believe the good, you're morally bound to believe the bad, as well. So I just ignore them.

I do not write to please anyone else. It's great when my writing does please others, and fan letters thrill me to death, but I honestly do not care what anyone else thinks of what I write.

No matter what they think, I'm doing the best I can do, writing as well as a I can, and if this isn't enough, tough titty. Let's see you do better.

RTH
10-25-2007, 06:30 PM
p.s. I don't respond to bad reviews. What's the point, really? I just secretly send them boxes of Brown Recluse spiders.

Or, if you don't want to go to jail for as long, you could just send them a nice new sweater you've rubbed with poison ivy. ;)

RickN
10-25-2007, 06:32 PM
I have pretty thick skin, but only one critique really got to me. "Your writing is like rotten fish: you can smell it coming and the stink lingers long after it's gone."

It made Christmas that year pretty awkward; Mom and I hardly spoke.

ShebaJones
10-25-2007, 07:01 PM
No reviews yet, but several years ago, I got stung by critiques. It sucked, but so did my writing. I haven't had anything critiqued lately, but that's because I haven't been producing.

I'd like to think I could take it as well as I can dish it out.

Azure Skye
10-25-2007, 07:21 PM
Things like you suck or my four year old writes better than you or things of that nature mean absolutely nothing to me. I'm not even sure if I would find it offensive and be hurt about it. It's not going to help me, that's for sure. If it was just one or two people, then I wouldn't let it bother me. It's all subjective. On the other hand, if I had 35 reviews and all of them were bad, I would grab a bottle of vodka and crawl under the house. That would hurt.

But, I can handle constructive criticism. If someone says, this passage isn't working because... or this doesn't really make sense so maybe you could try... that I would like. Sure, it may sting a little because I'll take it personally (like I do most things) but more than likely it will help me see things differently and possibly make my work better and the end result, if it's good, will help heal the little jabs.

I hope I answered the question.:o

Sassee
10-25-2007, 08:02 PM
Alright, this doesn't apply to writing, but I believe it fits the topic.

I used to have wet paper bag skin. Breathe on me hard enough and I'd fall to pieces.

Then I started taking leadership positions in online games. My hide is now so thick I'm a freakin' blubbery whale.

Sounds silly, doesn't it?

Except as a group (guild) leader in online games, every one of your moves is questioned. People read what isn't between the lines. They look for consipiracies. They second guess every decision you make that has the teeniest impact on their daily game activities. Suddenly, because you have power over them, they view you as some sort of person who would kick them from the guild for saying you have a booger hanging out of your nose, regardless of how nice you were before you became leadership. If you disagree with them it means they got yelled at. You answer a question and they don't like the answer, it means you blew them off. Over issues in a virtual world! It's insane. I had to toughen up pretty quick or risk my sanity.

When I became more active in my writing and wandered over here to AW, I was treated with an adult area where I could have intelligent, (somewhat) calm debates with people and not have them think the world was over because I might disagree. I enjoyed seeing people who weren't afraid to express their opinion for fear of retribution. I loved seeing sarcastic remarks be laughed at and returned in kind rather than taken literally. And reading over the crits in the SYW forum has let me see exactly what I can expect from any future agents/editors/readers. I view crits as a challenge to improve myself, not as a broad "you suck so stop writing" statement.

I've learned to accept that not everyone will like what I do/write. I've learned to tell the difference between constructive criticism and an emotional rant. Honestly, it's not worth getting all worked up over. Life's too short for that crap. I have my down days for sure, but I don't let them rule my life.

So what would I do if readers gave me a scathing review? Skim for the useful bits and ignore the rest. I might be depressed for a day or two but I'd get over it.

KTC
10-25-2007, 08:09 PM
I've never gotten a completely bad review from readers...I've gotten suggestions to improve certain areas, etc...but no kick in the teeth as of yet. I will let you know . I'm sure it's bound to happen sooner rather than later.

Stormhawk
10-26-2007, 12:00 AM
Given that I think I'm a hack who should give up writing, I take almost all negative opinions/reviews as constructive criticism and look for ways to improve/go in new directions in the future. Of course there are always the "screw you" moments, when it's completely uncalled for/irrelevant.

The only time a negative opinion has really, really hurt me was when I was (don't hurt me now...) writing fanfic. I had a couple of co-writers for a series I was doing, and thought everything was wonderful.

At college one day, a friend of mine was talking to one of my co-writers, whom I will call "Z". They were having a convo, and I was occasionally glancing over (my MSN was screwy, otherwise I would have been joining in). Z asked if I was around, and my friend said no.

Z launched into a tirade about how much she didn't like my work, how better she was than me, how unhappy she was with the direction of the series, how she should be in charge, and how much like a 4th grader my writing was.

Up until this point, I'd never suspected - I went outside and punched a downpipe.

My skin got a lot thicker after that.