The One with the Pep Talk

Holy smokes! Blogging three days in a row?? Am I getting back to my daily-blogging self?? Thanks for all the feedback on last night's trends post. It got... a lot of attention. A lot. I think I might have underestimated just how many people are out there, trying to be published in the children's market. Which is weird, right? I was there only two or so years ago, and while I have very strong memories of the agony of rejection and the frustration of revisions, it's been a while since I've poked around on Verla Kay's or Absolute Write. I'll try to post more about my pre-publication life, and, if I think I can get away with it, more about what I do at work.

But! Today I want to talk about something else, something for those of us who are published or are soon-to-be published. (Friday Five to come later!) And that something is reviews.

You all know what a wicked perfectionist I can be about everything, and I find that this perfectionism is rearing it's ugly head lately. I'm at the stage now where I'm getting more feedback and reviews about Brightly Woven, and while many have been very positive... some have been less than positive. Or average. Which is fine, because everyone's taste is so subjective and what some like, others inevitably won't. But I've been surprised to find that my reaction to lower rated reviews of BW hasn't been anger or despair, but disappointment. When a reader doesn't like BW as much as they hoped they would, or when certain characters or plots don't ring true to them, I feel like I've let the reader down and have no way of making it up to them. It’s a horrible feeling, trust me.

I’m learning now that I really should stop reading my reviews, or at least actively seeking them out. This is the advice that many of the Debs gave us Tenners, and I never really understood why until recently. Star-based reviews can be a flawed system when it comes to trying to determine the merit of your work, because every reviewer has different requirements for different stars. Becca and I were talking on Twitter last night about how getting a 3-star review feels like getting a “C,” and Chelsea chimed in to say she often feels like her GoodReads average is like a GPA that she can’t control. Even though I graduated in May, I still have a very student mindset about my writing. I went to a school that had zero grade inflation, and if a professor curved a test, it usually had a slight or negative impact. I expect some reviewers, like professors, to grade more harshly than others—to come into a book looking for flaws, rather than to automatically tune into the good qualities alone. It’s not that the other reviewers are “easy”—they just approach stories in a different way. Reading, much like writing, is a very personal experience.

(And I must say that my favorite reviews are the ones without stars, but really delve into what worked and what didn’t work for them.)

Anyway, my point in all of this—as Roommate H so wisely quoted her boss’ grandfather last night: You will never be as good as your best reviews, and you will never be as bad as your worst. And, as my mother quoted Mick Jagger last night: