Authors need lots of things to succeed: An idea, a way of putting down those ideas, peace and quiet, support, confidence… but there is one thing that is detrimental to successful writing that people who aren’t writers don’t often think about.
I’m talking honest, constructive, sometimes even brutal reviews on our work. Without them, authors are left hanging, wondering if anyone thought their hard work was actually worthwhile after all… or if their book is being used as a doorstop. We don’t know if we are on track without someone putting it right there in our faces. We can have family and friends praise out efforts and tell us our works are “the next bestseller” but it’s seeing those tiny words on the screen that give us validation. Whether we want to admit it or not. I didn’t start writing to make money. Ha! If I wanted to make a ton of money, I’d have gone to med school. I started writing because I have dozens of stories in my brain and I wanted people to hear them. I didn’t care if they liked it… or so I told myself. Still, until that first review came, I was just like everyone else fretting over whether I should have done something this way instead… or if I shouldn’t have added this character.
On the flipside, bad reviews are scary. Why would you want to put yourself out there to be ridiculed and mocked by the world wide web? But you want to know something funny?
Bad reviews can be just as liberating as good ones.
What’s that you say?You actually want to be criticized? Yeah, you heard it right. We embrace the bad reviews as much as, if not more than, the good ones. Okay, okay, so we don’t want you to make us cry and burn every book we’ve ever touched…. don’t be a douche…. but if you are laying on the constructive criticism, then you are doing us a favor. You are telling us, as our audience, what it is you want from a book. No, that doesn’t mean we are going to rip our works apart just to give fan-service, but it really does point us in the right direction.
You don’t find a relationship between two characters to be authentic?
You can’t get into it because it’s too choppy or lacks flow?
Are there grammatical errors that a third grader would even notice?
Yes, we want to know what we are doing wrong just as much as what we are doing right. It helps us grow. It helps us learn. It helps us bring YOU a better story.
So when you buy a book, and you finish it… please… please, please, PLEASE, for the love of all that is holy do not leave the author in limbo. Find the nearest review services (Amazon.com and Goodreads.com are FANTASTIC places to go), pull up the book and tell us everything. Tell us you loved it. Tell us you hated it. But MOST IMPORTANTLY: Tell us WHY! You could be doing a huge favor to a future Stephen King. They’ll just never know it if you don’t help them out.