Distinguishing Between a Bad Review and an Honest One

What you do not smell is called a Bad Review. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more frustrating grievances. Unlike Westley from The Princess Bride, taking it will severely damage your story. And unlike Vizzini, you have to distinguish whether it’s honest or spoofy before it kills you.

Bad reviews hurt you in more ways than one. First, if you take their advice and make changes to your story (or much worse, the sequel) accordingly, you damage the story. You don’t have to make changes just because this one person thinks you should. You should be persuaded by good reason before you make changes.

Second, if you begin to operate from the standard that these false reviews have set, your writing standards begin to be affected (i.e., they go down). Yeah, your writing skill is actually endangered if you listen to too many bad reviews. Don’t take the proverbial poisoned cup, or, more literally, don’t let this happen to you.

Remember: not everyone you send your manuscript out to has something substantial to say. Not everyone truly cares about the furtherance of your work. That’s why you have to be a little picky-choosy: you have to learn to discern between a good review and a bad one.

Don’t try to please everyone; you can’t anyway. And don’t make your aim to please people, either: if they have no reasons for you to change your opinion on something, than heck, what makes them so right? The key lies in their being able to tell you why this was so bad or this was so good or whatever.

For the more contentious crowd, this can be somewhat of a struggle. For this one, you have to move beyond pleasing just a few people: you need to create quality entertainment. You do want to please the masses, but who says that so-and-so’s opinion of your story characterizes that of the masses?

That being said, this process is more of a “guilty until proven innocent” affair. No opinion is accepted before proving itself first. Your story automatically gets the benefit of the doubt. This is because you have asserted a product that you hold to be satisfactory.

Trying to demonstrate that a manuscript is trash without giving reasons for why it is so is like trying to conquer a city without an army. If someone tells you that your book sucks and doesn’t give you rhyme nor reason, it seems like a good idea to disbelieve what’s being said here.

And there’s more than one type of false review: the kind when someone advises that a certain part of a story needs revision when it is perfectly fine. Check the part in question, and then see if they have reasons for believing what they believe. If not, discard their opinion.

Note: Some people genuinely want to express their opinion. In that case, they’ll probably put something along the lines of “it’s just my opinion, but xyz” “Is it just me, or is 123” something like that. Those things are to be taken with a grain of salt, but I think you already knew that.

There is one final pitfall you may fall prey to. This is the Poor Argument. This one requires a little more discernment, but if you can find a counter-argument that makes sense, don’t regard their suggestion. Some people are persuaded by false logic. If you can spot this, don’t listen.

Remember, never react hostilely to criticism and reviews, especially if you literally asked for it. View it as a lesson, an opportunity to get better. People could very well know better than you. But don’t be trampled or too submissive. Take opinions with a grain of salt, and learn to spot bad suggestions.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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