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Bad Reviews by Sarah Dickinson

Today I would like to welcome guest writer, Sarah Dickinson Enjoy!


There is an expansive list of writers out there. With genre, sub genre, style and medium there are multiple outlets to separate and categorize us writers. Despite all of these differences we as writers are united by many things. Creativity, expression, a voice, and a love of the written word. However, the worst thing that brings us together, the dreaded bad review.

Day after day we toil until our fingers are numb. Write, rewrite, and rewrite again as we pour our hearts and souls into our craft. Creating worlds, developing characters, and trying to find the perfect combination of words to tell our stories. Until that moment comes when we decide to bare our souls and stand in front of our readers naked in our vulnerability.

So how can we no let a bad review get to us? Is there any other way to take it besides personally? Wouldn’t any other reasonable person react with anger, hurt, or even a bit defensively?

The fact is, no matter how talented you are or how compelling your story, bad reviews are waiting for you. At best you will read a pleasant criticism of ways to improve your craft as the reviewer points out that it wasn’t their personal taste. At worst you will get a tirade of insults that shits on your work and you personally. The one’s that are most common and burn the most though? The ones that simply state this was terrible, boring, bad, horrible, etc. Leaving you with no feedback, helpful criticism or insight. Instead gifting your confusion, anger and hurt feelings.

I don’t claim to have the secret weapon of ensuring a bad review won’t hold you down, or a pill to swallow that automatically leaves you with a thicker skin. Instead I’m sharing with you my personal mental checklist to help handle a bad review.


The very first thing you need to do when you read a bad review is take some deep breathes and read it again. Use those breathes to try and drop the emotional reaction and adopt a critical one. A second, and sometimes third or fourth glance, will help you decipher if this is an actual negative review or a troll. We all know these people. Those who will always have something bad to say. The people who feel better hoping on their computers trying to find a way to spread their misery. They are fairly easy to spot, as there is little depth to their comment and a ton of negativity. Once you’ve determined what type of review, you’re dealing with the time has come to remind yourself that this is more about them then it is about you. Remind yourself of that until you can walk away. NEVER, respond to them. It is simply adding the gas to the fire they are eagerly hoping to sit at. Responding negatively to a bad review not only feeds the troll but will only serve to make you look unprofessional to any other reader who happens by.


This is the moment you remind yourself of all your favorite artists, and all the criticism they have heard in their career. It sounds a little simple, and it is, but it helps. It helps ground you in the reality that everyone has had bad reviews. Nothing, since the dawn of time, has ever been universally loved. Let me repeat that for the cheap seats in the back. Even your most loved author or timeless masterpiece of a book has some opinionated ass out there who hates it. HATES IT. This will help you remember why it is you write and make it easier to recall the positive reviews you have gotten.


Since I’m on a roll, I will keep this trend of blunt honesty going. No matter how talented you are there probably is a couple of ways your writing can improve. As much as you love the characters you created and the story you wove it doesn’t mean it’s perfect. A lot of reviewers are people who love the written word and getting lost in a book. Most readers want to like your book, and their reviews reflect that. These reviewers will describe what they liked as well as what they didn’t. It may be personal preference, and it may be genuine criticism. It’s up to you to find and be receptive to that feedback.

A great example is my first novel. This was an incredibly personal story that dealt with loving someone with an addiction, and every high and low that went into that. The story was told through letters, and I got an amazing idea in my head. I would use a special font to reflect the feeling of reading a letter. I can tell you that was a massive mistake. Reviews were good, but even the glowing ones mentioned that font and just how distracting it was.


This is probably the hardest pill to swallow. We all know the work as well as the emotions we put into our stories. Every writer feels a deep connection to their work. From a simple scene to our villains, we are in every sentence we write. Of course, we are going to take it personally, because it is.

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me there are certain bad reviews I could handle no problem. Criticism from fellow writers. Why? Because I knew it was about the work. They wanted to help teach me what they could and see me reach my full potential. I knew beyond a doubt, that this wasn’t about me in any way. So, when I read a review, I remind myself that they don’t know me. This is a reflection of my writing.


Thick skin is not easy to come by, as most of us get caught on the things we do wrong instead of what we do right. I know I’m not alone in hearing that voice late at night that reminds me of all my failures and shortcomings. But a great self-care routine can help make it easier to acknowledge, accept, and move on from the negatives.

The first thing I needed was a mantra to repeat in the face of a stinging review. My go to is to remind myself of that age old saying, “Those who can do and those who can’t talk”

I remind myself of this and at the very least I did, over and over until the sting is gone. Then I treat myself to a bit of self-care. Maybe it’s taking myself out to grab my favorite iced coffee, a long tub with a book, or ordering in instead of cooking. Something to reward myself for the fact that I did, and not everyone can say that.

I hope at least one of these helps all my fellow writers out there handle the next bad review that gets in their way. Because reviews are nothing more than a momentary pebble in your shoe that shouldn’t have much power over your writing path. Always remember why you write, learn, grow and be the best version of that.



Sarah Dickinson is lifelong resident in upstate New York, mother of 2 humans and 3 rescue pups. She is the author of Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction. Sarah is currently back in school studying for her BSW.

Silver Spoons:One's Journey Through Addiction can be purchased online at Barnes & Noble



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