The good and bad of Critics and Reviews (or Anti-Troll Proactivism)

I’m new at this blogging thing… But I’ve been active on sites like Wattpad, Authonomy, and Scribophile for two years now. There are other sites, but to me Authonomy and Wattpad are the best online communities for writers, where we can bounce ideas off each other, share thoughts and opinions, and—a popular trend—critique each others’ draft work (or, you know, whatever’s up online to read). Some people use the novice writer’s desire for feedback as a means to get more reads and comments on their own work. I don’t really have a problem with this, to an extent, as long as you don’t ask the world of people and leave them with trollery as a reward. Crits should be balanced, some good, some “needs to improve”. Don’t get me started on the people who offer to critique your work and then leave a generic “Loved it. Voted.” OMG! *pinches bridge of nose* Let’s not even go there.

Giving and receiving reviews and crits has become something of a normalcy in the sites I frequent, where us unpublished wannabees hang trying to perfect our craft. Some of the feedback is really pure crap, literally. By which I mean they make no sense. Some kid with no understanding of grammar or writing, says things that you struggle to place, and so on. Those kinds. I’ve learned to skim over those. Some crits are from readers who genuinely like your work, and those are fantastic. Give me a high, really. I write for that. For people to like it.

And then there are the crits with a bit more negative than positive. Not as easy to swallow, but usually these balanced criticisms are constructive enough to help you improve. These we take bravely. A writer should be thankful for those honest kind of crits, where the reader is willing to tell you, “to be honest, I skimmed over this bit—it was boring.” How else would you know that bit is boring, that you need to tweak it?

Now I’m not talking about the troll comments. That’s a whole other story. Someone stumbles upon your book and decides to $#!* on it for fun. Even though you should know by now that there will always be comments like this, from experience, it is still disheartening to read that kind of thing. And the worst kind is where the person happens to be right too. Ouch.

I’d suggest ignoring those trolls (or reporting them if they’re being exceptionally rude). Also, consider that some people will never like your work. People have different tastes. There are more romance fans than grimdark fans (I hope this is changing) so if you’re writing a blood-splattered saga of demons and shadows, expect a few romantics to stumble by and cuss on their way out flinging poo. It’ll happen. Gotta take it on the chin and move on.

I do find that when people comment that they like my stuff, I’m encouraged to write more, to give them something to keep reading, whereas the times someone tramples my hard work into the dirt, I feel like burning the whole thing and sprinkling the ashes over my grave. I’m being melodramatic. The point is, those comments do affect us as writers, and I’m thinking we need an action plan to thwart the wiles of those evil trolls.

Why don’t we (I refer to the Watty and Authos communities, and to writers in general) build each other up, help each other out, telling the truth, but with kindness? Why don’t we encourage each other, like a global writer’s group? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Then we could castrate all these trolls, boot them as soon as they peek above the muck they live in?

Sounds like an idealistic idea, but I am a realist. So. Upon encountering the downward spiral of “everything is crap” after reading some hard worded comments, what should you do? What can you do?

Here are a few random ideas.

  1. DON’T burn your work. That’s the difference between the writers that made it and those that didn’t. If you burn it now, all your sweat and ramblings will be gone forever, never to see the light of publication.
  2. Save the good comments for times like these and go read them again.
  3. Write something else, let the negative vibes fuel you. Maybe you could write a zombie apocalypse book with the trolls as the victims? The idea is to keep writing, even if you feel like throwing in the towel on another book.
  4. Here’s one I found ended up working in my favour. Reply to the troll, THANK them for their opinions, and ask them for suggestions on how to fix whatever they complained about. You gotta be super thick skinned for this, ‘cause sometimes they’ll just fling more poo. (In case you didn’t know, trollery is basically someone saying bad stuff about whatever for no good reason, or maybe they say they have a reason, but they’re just chucking hate around the internet for fun—no “constructive” to their comments) Sometimes, though, they’ll be surprised enough to go have another read, and likely their tune will change. They may never like it, but suddenly they’re not spewing hate anymore either. Suddenly they have something constructive to say too, which is what we should all be after. Constructive feedback.
  5. Make friends. Are you part of a writer’s group? Do you have a few online buddies, fellow writers? I suggest making those friends, because when you get a dark opinion, talking to them about it can help you see past the glaring apparent truth that your work is a pile of steaming poo.
  6. Hey, if you can’t write, at least read something.
  7. Cry and eat some chocolate. Chocolate will give you endorphins. Crying will let out the bad feelings. You could also drink lots of espresso coffee and stay up till the glory hour (1am). I swear there’s a button in some ethereal realm called “download ideas for book” that a malicious creature pushes at precisely 1am so that we’re kept out of sleep by the very ideas and inspirations we crave and stare at walls all day for. I recently considered giving up writing during the day, because EVERY TIME I want to sleep, BAM! Inspiration. Ugh.

Anyhoo, there ya go. Something proactive we can do to overcome the blues of trollery. Feel free to share your experiences with trolls below, or your opinions about crits and feedback, etc. That’s why this blog exists. For you guys.

Image is of the Trolls from “The Hobbit” which was written by J R R Tolkien, a fantasy writing legend.

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