If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

So Mystery Men was on TV last night. Now, I love that film. I find it amusing and entertaining in equal measure. OK, it’s no Shawshank Redemption or American Beauty, but it’s good old-fashioned entertainment. It makes me laugh, I enjoy watching it (‘I am Pencilhead!’ ‘I am Son of Pencilhead!’) Yet over at the IMDB, it gets an average viewer rating of 5.9/10. Only 5.9. I’d happily rate it an ‘8’ on my personal score, but that’s where the whole thng falls down of course.

Films – like books, foodstuffs or music – are an entirely personal thing. What one person loves and thinks is THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD may not appeal at all to someone else. I seem to find that I frequently fall into the category of ‘person who liked the thing that nobody else seemed to’. Maybe I’m just easily pleased, I don’t know. What I do know is that I have no problem at all with someone else having a differing opinion to me. What I have problems with is people who essentially say ‘you don’t agree with me. I am right, therefore, your opinion counts for absolutely nothing.’

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, absolutely. And those opinions don’t always gel. For example, here are two separate comments from two separate reviews of one of my novels from Amazon:-

It’s wonderfully written, contains cleverly crafted space battles and hand to hand which when all brought together gives the reader a story that they’ll remember for quite some time.”

vs

In some parts it was good, characters gelled the story flowed, then out of the blue it would become stilted and jarring, over-long or poorly placed descriptions, bad dialogue, poor plotting, then it would switch again.”

So immediately you can see that these two people (both of whom spent the time to review my book – for which I am immensely grateful, thank you both if you’re out there and I’m directly quoting you) disagree. If you put them in a room to discuss their differing opinion, I feel sure that the conversation would be mature, sensible and lively. I like to think so, anyway. Whilst no writer enjoys negative feedback on something they’ve written, that was nonetheless politely worded and contained at least a trace of usefulness. Compare that with this ‘opinion’ taken this morning from one of the Warhammer fora regarding another novel, by a different author:-

But [the novel] is….Not good,i’ll leave it at that.”  [sic]

That kind of comment is hardly useful by any stretch of the imagination.

I’ve tried, really really hard to avoid reading reviews or getting online opinions of my work. This may seem somehow counter-productive, but when the majority of comments you see tend to be in the format of the forum example given above, you learn very quickly to just not bother. Every so often, I’ll get an email or message from someone who says ‘hey, you might want to read this review’ and I’ll always oblige. But I no longer ‘ego surf’. I believe it was someone awesome like Marilyn Monroe who said (and I parrot-phrase) ‘you only ever remember the bad reviews’. It’s absolutely true. You could have ten people praise your stuff and then see a comment like the one above. And that’s the comment you remember.

People often ask what it’s like to receive negative reviews. Well, if it’s non-constructive and simply dismissive in nature, it’s a little like getting gut-punched. No matter who you are, you’ve poured your heart and soul into the finished product. You’ve had sleepless nights over it. You’ve torn your hair out over it. You’ve made changes given to you by your editor that you later notice someone saying ‘xxx should have happened, not yyy’ and you can’t help shouting at the computer screen saying ‘but xxx DID happen originally’… and so on.

By contrast, constructive criticism is welcome. That way, you can learn from your mistakes and hopefully improve. Snark is not appreciated. If you don’t like something, justify it. ‘Not good, I’ll leave it at that‘ is genuinely silly and attention seeking. It smacks of ‘go on, ask me why I didn’t think it was any good’ and in its brevity, hints that nothing, absolutely nothing you can say will change that person’s mind.

I feel that I’ve been quite lucky and have avoided out and out nastiness, apart from over at a couple of Warhammer fora where they seem to have taken against me. And despite some of the incredibly hurtful – and occasionally personal – comments that are made, I no longer find myself bothered by them. Because at the end of the day, those people don’t know me. I also suspect that they wouldn’t imagine saying those things to my face were I standing right in front of them. Remember… always remember… the Internet Fuckwad Theory.

This is completely and utterly correct.

To the people who have read and reviewed my works, positively or otherwise – thank you for taking the time to do so. I appreciate it.

Right. Time to stop procrastinating and get back to Project: Carpark and the edits on Project: Comeuppance. And to email an editor to clarify something about Project: Needles…

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3 thoughts on “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

  1. AJ says:

    You know… I’ve read that thread with that “brief” comment you mentioned 😀 I shook my head and moved on. Typical of that place.

    • I popped there this morning to find an example to quote. It took me about two minutes. That’s disturbingly easy.

      • AJ says:

        Sometimes I really wonder why I spend any amount of time there. Good thing I’ve stopped actively discussing books there. Not worth the headache to get into a… discussion with the fanatics.

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