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Stop Press – One Star Review for Pursuit “I couldn’t get past page two..”

July 1, 2013

Stop Press - One Star Review for Pursuit “I couldn’t get past page two..”

Well come on, it would make a refreshing change wouldn’t it? Poking its head above the parapet of 5 star review notifications, my little shout to the world that here was an opinion that didn’t exactly sing my praises.

Oh and besides, it’s true–I actually did receive that review.

Seeing as we writers–well, we write–I turned to my first instincts and decided to hammer out a few of my thoughts on this. Bad publicity? Maybe so, but I’ve always claimed to be in this game for the long-term; I’m not interested in quick boosts to my book sales, rather the chance to hone my skills and develop myself as a writer. So here I am, laying bare all my literary transgressions because–why?

Hm, maybe just because it makes me feel better to thrash them out, or maybe it’s because by writing about the downs as well as the ups, I can better learn from them.

Before I go on though, let’s have it all out in front of us shall we–a purging of the sole as it were. The review (as already established) gave me one solitary star, and went like this:

“I couldn’t’ get past page two. The wordsmithing combined with run on sentences were more than I could stand. Editor?”

So what was my response? First and foremost, I felt pretty gutted. Maybe a little angry, because really, why was this reviewer displaying such vituperation at my work? Couldn’t she just have contacted my off-air and said, ‘Hey look, I read the start of your book but some of the long words put me off, you might want to look at that.’? But no, this one had to be put up in lights, smack bang in the public eye. I assume she knows a thing or two about writing, but she couldn’t even bring herself to construct the review properly–a couple of grammatical errors, and a punchy, one-word sentence that frankly had the impact of a forty-five shell on my confidence as a fledgling writer. I’m not slating her writing abilities, far from it, just pointing out that although she can almost certainly write a decent sentence, she couldn’t be bothered when it came to me. Is there a more biting, scathing insult?!

But then I looked at it, thought about it. You see, I’d had almost no reviews after a thousand downloads (free downloads I should point out) and that seemed odd to me. Surely there ought to have been a few, even negative or neutral ones right? But no, all I’d had was one 5 star review that really raved about my book. And then…silence.

Until the bomb dropped and that little un-star-studded number detonated on my Amazon page. Ahh…a light went on. People were downloading my novel, but struggling to get through the cloying prose and quitting within a few pages. Why bother to write a review of a book you haven’t read, right?

So I took on a philosophical attitude and thought, ‘You know what, Deborah’s right. The language is too poncy, to cluttered, to allow the story to flow.’ The truth of the matter was, she wasn’t the first person to suggest that. A couple of others had said it before her, but I ignored them, assuming I knew best. It’s not true that I spent all my time buried in a thesaurus. But it is true that I took far too much time constructing each sentence. The fact is, I wanted to really please my readers, to give them true quality. But I was trying too hard, and I came across as someone attempting to sound smarter than they really are. It actually took that review to make me look at it. It was like a slap round the face, rather than the gentle suggestions I’d had before. It woke me up.

Great, I thought. Let me at it. I started going through ‘Pursuit’ and smoothing out the creases with a vengeance. But then something else happened.

A few more reviews trickled in. One that gave me two stars (whoa, celebration) and again, the thesaurus references, but also a concession to my plot being ‘pretty decent’. And then a four star review by someone who really enjoyed the twists and turns. And you know how I felt?

Guilty.

I actually felt like I had a small contingency of readers whom I’d let down. And that made me all the more determined to make improvements. I dropped everything and as we speak…um, write…I’m almost finished with the editing of ‘Pursuit’.

So what do we, as authors genuinely open to bettering our craft, stand to gain from reviews? I’ll tell you from my perspective: we need a true gallimaufry-sorry just kidding-we need a true mixture, a blend of perspectives and opinions. Because the good reviews highlight what’s–well, what’s good about your work, but don’t cover the improvements you need to make. The bad ones just make you feel bad (unless you can take a step back and carry them on very broad shoulders) but the whole picture, the contrasting ingredients, are what you need to actually improve your writing. Or at least that’s my take on it. Had I just received praise, I would have rambled on assuming I was doing the right thing, but never really got anywhere as a serious writer. By the same token, if I’d just taken hit after hit, maybe I would have thrown in the towel.

So, conclusions? That one star review really opened my eyes. I doubt that was the idea, because she was clearly somewhat frustrated in writing it and I suspect sought only to hamper my sales. But it did work for me; it truly gave me the wake-up call I needed. Plus, seeing it there, perhaps other reviewers thought, ‘Okay, okay, she’s made that point, I’ll temper my own by highlighting at least one of the positives.’ And now I’ve had a couple of very constructive reviews. I don’t really care that they’re so publicly displayed. I write under a pseudonym anyway so if and when I become a good/successful writer, I’ll revert to my real name and voila, any damaging publicity gained under my pseudonym is rendered completely harmless. As such, I welcome all feedback. Bring it on – give me your best shot!

Oh and if you want to see what all the fuss is about, have a look inside here for uk or here for .com

But hurry, before the edited version comes out, and I put down the thesaurus…

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