Monday, 24 June 2013


Hi everyone,

Before I forget, I've been blogging elsewhere during the last week - my post "Acceptance" is up on the All Romance E-books Cafe. You can check it out here, if you feel inclined.

I also want to take a moment to thank everyone who commented on last week's post, both here and on Goodreads. Your support means a hell of a lot to me. I'm about 18k into the first draft of that story I mentioned. So far, so good.

The topic I want to talk about here today is a bit different. If you read blogs, tweet, follow readers groups or well, pretty much anything like that, you'll already know that, every so often a writer will react publicly to a review and the world will pretty much implode around them.

The advice they're given by readers, bloggers, reviewers, other writers etc is pretty consistent.

1. Don't respond to individual reviews. Cool - good advice.

2. Grow a thicker skin. Here's where I'm not so sure the advice is always good.

Does growing a thicker skin work for some writers? Probably. And if it works for you, that's great, but it's not the only way to deal with it.

I think it's far more sensible to react, to feel, to care. I don't have a thick skin. I don't want to have a thick skin. I get upset about bad reviews, annoyed with illogical ones, thrilled with the positive ones. I've had reviews that made me grin like an idiot and others that inspire me to make sarcastic comments out loud at the computer screen. I've had more than a few that had me in tears.

There aren't many words I loathe, but one of them is BDSM-lite. To my mind its patronising and minimising, the new incarnation of The One True Way. It puts my back up every time I hear it, whether its directed at one of my stories, or someone else's story, to someone's real life activities.

For a long time, I took the general advice. I tried to develop a thicker skin about it. I tried to think nice polite thoughts every time the term cropped up. But it all seems so artificial, so pointless to block out emotions that way. The usual advice seems to be to become a robot or a rhino - neither of which are known as being particularly great writers.

Emotions aren't a bad thing, they aren't a weakness - especially not for a writer. Why not accept whatever the review makes you feel, own it, pin point the specifics and use it in your next story?

Whatever emotions a review inspires in you, there's probably going to be a character in a future story where it will come in useful.

To use BDSM-lite as an example again, there are plenty of people in the real world BDSM clubs who think that anyone whose kinks are different to their own aren't doing it right - come to that, there are people in all walks of life who think that their way is the only way to do things. It's a reality that my characters will have to face at various points in different stories. How do they feel in that situation - not in general but specifically, accurately, in detail? Why run away from knowing that answer?

Am I saying that it's psychologically healthy to go through a roller coaster of emotions every time you get a flurry of new reviews? Probably not. But, to be honest, there are a hell of a lot of things about being a writer which don't promote sanity.

Am I saying that writers have to open up to the emotions inspired by reviews? Of course not. I just want to put it out there that there are options that writers shouldn't be ashamed of wanting to explore.

Oh, and just for the record, in case there is any confusion on the matter, am I saying that I hate a word, therefore people shouldn't use it? Definitely not. I grew out of thinking the world should adapt itself to my wishes when I was a toddler, regressing now would be more trouble than it's worth...

Okay. Enough babbling. Have a great week all :)




Unknown said...

I agree with you about not wanting to grow "thick skin" to the point you don't react. I personally prefer to react, but then move on with my life. Life's just too short to stay upset about all of the little things that people say and do that might hurt our feelings.

I'd like to explain my use of the word BDSM-lite. I'm not sure I've actually used it, but if I did, I certainly didn't mean to cause any offense. However, I personally find words like this helpful to me as a reader to know what to expect in a story. I don't like reading books where heavy pain elements are included. I'm fine if you enjoy a good flogging, but I can't even deal with a paper cut. I cringe thinking about somebody bleeding or being in pain. If somebody says a book is "lite", I take it to mean there probably aren't elements that will force me to skim the story. I prefer seeing the word "lite" than somebody telling me every element that is included, but many readers like to know what's in a story to avoid their hot button. Hope that helps to understand where reviewers (at least this one) are coming from. The last thing I want to do is offend somebody.

Unknown said...

I'm with you, Kim, about not growing a thick skin. One thing I learned from a dear, dear friend a few years ago was that it's better to be honestly me, emotional and as chuck full of "writer crazy" as I am, than to offer a face to the world that hides what I'm truly capable of. And you're right, you can't be a writer if you close off that fountain of emotion so a strangers words don't hurt you. Well, I can't, anyway. I can't sit here and say the bad reviews don't hurt any more than I can sit here and say the good ones don't boost my ego. So why would I pretend otherwise? I think for me it was learning to switch to the professional mode that eases the sting of the bad or brings me back to earth from the good so I can get on with writing the next story.