Monday, April 12, 2010

Negative Comments Survival Guide

The week before last we talked about how to give negative feedback nicely when the material you're critiquing isn't very good.

But it struck me that everyone reading this blog, and probably everyone in my blog-o-rama-network, already knows the value of being professional and polite when giving feedback. So maybe what we need are some tips on how to deal with the ogres who aren't kind -- the ones who are downright rude. I'm not sure if it was a full moon last week, but at least three people I know mentioned on Twitter that they'd gotten blatantly rude critiques lately, ranging from having your work called boring, to comments that had to be deleted off blogs.

This article, which seems to be written from the perspective of a company running blogs, has some tips on responding to negative commentary. I'm going to adapt them and add them to my Survival Guide of How to Deal with Rude Comments.

Step 1: Vent.
Oh yeah, I know. Your blood boils when you get rude comments. Definitely take time to let it out, but do it amongst friends and support groups. Twitter is a good place because you know you'll get love back from your regular friends, and it's instant to boot. But it's also public. Remember when you vent on Twitter, people can see it.

Step 2: Understand what happened.
The rude commenter/critiquer has a personal agenda, flat out. That may (and often does) include needing to make him of herself feel better by wounding others. Writing is especially susceptible to this because people love to feel superior about their writing skills. It's usually not personal. It's the opposite -- the rude person has issues of their own and this is how it came out.

Step 3: Decide if you should respond.
This is a toughie. In the end, it's probably best to respond with as little as possible, or nothing at all. Don't engage in arguments because the person already demonstrated that they are a simian asshat, which tells you that you're likely to get more rude responses. If the rude person is a family member or friend, go ahead and never speak to them again. I mean, honestly.

Step 4: See if there's anything to glean from the situation.
You know that particularly wounding wording that rude person used when they slammed you? Resolve never to use that yourself. See what they picked up on and picked apart? Turn it around and ask yourself if, in the grand scheme of things, what they picked on was even relevant. (One of you said that the rude critiquer said they didn't like first-person POV. That's, quite frankly, useless feedback.)

But apart from what the rude person actually said -- you really should think about whether there's anything in their critique. No, I totally know you hate them, but there might be something in there worth thinking about.

Step 5: Compare the rude comments with others who have gotten rude comments and see who has the worst one -- but only after you've calmed down.
This survival tactic is one of my favorites. Got a good one? Share it with others who've gotten hurtful comments. Then you can all go "OMG!! WTF!!" And you'll feel better.

Step 6: Remember that this is nothing compared to what you're going to get when you're published.
From nasty Amazon reviews to personal letters detailing all the ways in which you've offended the reader, despite the fact that they finished reading your book, you're going to get the full brunt of the Crazy Public. And those letters will pale in comparison to a negative review in a magazine or newspaper. Ouch. The remedy: eat chocolate and hide until it's forgotten.

Have any to add? Plus, what is the rudest thing someone's said to you?


Yvonne Osborne said...

I think one can give constructive feedback on a piece that needs work without being rude. Beginning with the idea that all writing is good.
If someone is downright rude I think it best to ignore, or give a simple thank you and be done with it. The rudest thing someone ever said was that no one would want to read my novel. I got over that by continuing to write.

There are a lot of great quotes from authors on critics and criticism. One of my favorites is this by William Faulkner - "The artists who want to be writers, read the reviews; the artists who want to write, don't."

Here's to writing!!

Simon C. Larter said...

Dealing with rude comments is like dealing with nemeses: watch out for the grains of truth in their threats/comments, but otherwise ignore them, because they're useless/incompetent/about to be destroyed anyway.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Sierra. I think the rudest comment I have ever see was on a certain poetry critique website, where the gist was "We don't think you're capable of functioning on this site." A lot of people recieved this comment, although I managed to avoid it. I suppose that doesn't count as personal, but it was a pretty harsh comment.

Travener said...

No. 7. Scotch.

Natalie Murphy said...

Great post Sierra!

Im not going to go into detail over the rudest comment Ive ever received because Im in a good mood this morning =)

Lt. Cccyxx said...

I second Travs!

This is a great post and I think it says it all.

Rudest comments I ever received were definitely in peer reviews. Once I waited six months for a review - when it arrived it was a mere three lines long and basically said that my methods were so idiosyncratic and bizarre that the reviewer doubted the veracity of my results. No further details provided. The journal rejected me. (I also once got a review that was generally positive on the paper but thought the title was misleading and recommended rejection solely on that basis. Fortunately, in that case, the journal editor did not follow the reviewer's recommendation!)

annerallen said...

Great post. #2 is one I always need to keep in mind.

Nasty criticism always hurts, but I usually feel better when I consider the source. I've found the rudest critics are generally the least experienced. They cover up their cluelessness by saying something cruel they think sounds "smart." Their comments sting without being remotely useful.

A clueless critic says, "I hate your hero." A useful one says, "The hero would get my sympathy if he were more pro-active in the opening scenes."

Melissa said...

Great post Sierra! I've been fortunate to have some very nice crit partners, so I've never had a mean crit.

I really like #6 because, unless you write a super awesome novel that is perfect, you are going to recive negative reviews one day when you're published. Kind of puts things in perspective:)

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I was worried about getting negative crits when I did Roni's Beta Club thing, but I was fortunate and nothing really got under my skin. Well, not much did. Maybe ONE of the comments later in the day, but I don't even remember specifically what bothered me about it. Still. It wasn't my favorite. (Obvi, venting is my favorite one on that list of reactions!)

Tina Lynn said...

This is a WICKED AWESOME post. I love you. But, anyway, I don't like #6. I shall ignore those if I ever get published and I never allow anonymous posters on my blog. If you can't show your face, you will not be leaving a comment my friend. Just sayin'.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Great post, and seriously, I'm in venting mode right now. I just got my Golden Heart scores back (the oscars for the unpublished romance writers of the world) and here they are: (perfect is a 9) 8.7 - 9 - 7.5 - 8.3 and 5 (FIVE!) So, yeah, Mrs. Five probably cost me a spot in the finals--something that could have been career changing for me. Finaling in this is a HUGE deal. (see told you I'm venting) Mrs. Five, you are on my list my friend. And the worst part is, you get no feedback, just a number.

So what's my point? Well, not sure if I have one, but getting this off my chest made me feel better, so your #1 is an excellent suggestion. :) But maybe the point is: this business is SO FREAKING SUBJECTIVE. :) Okay, I'm fine. Totally not bitter.

Tahereh said...

really great post. this is so necessary.

thanks so much for sharing!!

Sierra Godfrey said...

Yvonne – that is a great quote from Faulkner, love it.

Simon – no grains of truth in mine, sir.

Atsiko – Glad you didn’t get that comment. Sounds like you’ve survived some harshness!

Trav – knew it, almost made that one of the steps just for you.

Natalie – That is another step that I missed: not dwelling on the negative!

Lt. – Your rude review made it easy to disregard, right? Right?

Anne – Been thinking about your excellent clueless critic vs useful one all day. That is a great distinction to remember.

Melissa – Glad you haven’t received any bad ones too. I’m guessing there’s no such thing as a super awesome perfect novel, which makes you think that people are unduly hard on writers. Do readers expect perfection? I guess I do, to a certain extent, when I read a published book. I (wrongly) assume that if you’re professional enough to be paid for your work, it had better be good. But we know that isn’t always the case.

Amberspice – Yes but you’ve already forgotten it, so you’re all good :)

Tina – Stick it to the rude commenter, girl!

Roni – I’m so, so sorry you got a 5 that kept you away from the Oscar Heart. That sucks and I know it hurts. I’m surprised they don’t give you any actual feedback on their ratings because you’d think that you might learn something from low ratings. Maybe Mrs. 5 was having a shite day. I think my bad reviewer was having one, too.

Tahereh – thanks for commenting, I love your blog.

JEM said...

Found your blog via Roni's twitter, following now! This is a great post, and definitely one I will revisit as I send my work out there in the world. I hope you'll pass a digital glass of wine my way then :)

Lola Sharp said...

I love this post. I have really quality beta readers, nary an asshat in the bunch, so I've never received any hurtful feedback.

BUT, once published, the reviews terrify me. I'll be going it Trav's method.

Great post.

Sierra Godfrey said...

JEM -- Hi! and thanks for commenting! Here's a digital glass of wine to you NOW, just to get you started.

Lola -- Glad you have support. For the most part I do too. Think Trav's method is the only way.

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