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Why you (probably, perhaps, maybe, definitely) shouldn’t read your reviews

A recent review really upset Jessica so she decided never to read reviews again. Or did she ...?

Last week I experienced a writing first: a review on Amazon for one of my books – Dreaming About Daran – which made me cry. Not those happy tears where a complete stranger says something so amazing about your writing that you can’t help blubbing. No. We’re talking proper big fat upset tears. It was actually one of the lowest moments - perhaps the lowest - I’ve felt about my writing since I started on this journey 13 years ago. And, or a moment – albeit a brief one – it actually made me want to give up. That’s some pretty powerful review!

So was it a one-star review? Two-star perhaps? No! It was actually three stars and, on Amazon, that means, “It’s okay”.

I’d be thrilled if all my reviews were four-star (“I like it”) or five-star (“I love it”) but that’s unrealistic. Having said that, before this reviewer shared her views, all the reviews for Daran and Steven were four- or five-star, with just one three-star review against Gary breaking the pattern. I’m realistic enough to know that, over time, there’ll be more threes and probably some twos and ones so, whilst it will always be disappointing knowing that someone doesn’t like or love my work, a three-star isn’t going to make me cry (although a one- or two-star one might!)

So what did upset me? It wasn’t the rating; it was what the reviewer wrote:

“I don't know what it is about these books by Redland, but I never enjoy them … I always struggle with the journey along the way … I think it's fair to say that maybe I don't like Redland's voice, or her characters … I struggled the whole way through.”

Eek! I’ll just get my coat, eh?

If that was how she felt about my book, surely that would warrant a one- or two-star review. Well, it seems that my reviewer loved the emotion of my stories, even if she hated my voice and characters. And she loved the ending. I think her closing statement pretty much sums up the battle she’s had with it: “It must be a good book if the person who hates everything it stands for ends up crying happy tears twice, right?”

After I stopped crying and after my lovely friends The Write Romantics helped me focus on the positives rather than the negatives (because there certainly were some), I decided that it probably, perhaps, maybe, definitely wasn’t a good ideas to read reviews again.

Then my mum texted me, asking if I’d spotted the latest amazing review from Nayu, featured on Nayu’s Reading Corner. So, of course, I absolutely had to check it out and, guess what? Yes, it made me cry too. Happy tears this time. “A fun, drama filled romance by an author I enjoy a lot! I tweeted while reading it because I was having so much fun. It's a pleasure to explore characters I knew from previous books, getting to know and understand their motivation for how they act… I'm looking forward to rereading all 3 books in the series so far in one go! (I'm a certified fangirl!)” 

Maybe it is a good idea to read reviews after all because nothing quite beats that great big virtual hug from a positive review, knowing that a stranger has derived so much pleasure from the fictional world you’ve created.

Yep, you’ve got me. We all know that I’m going to carry on reading my reviews because of how amazing a good one can make me feel, accepting that there will occasionally be ones that criticize, sometimes in what feels like a very personal way. How apt that this review for Daran was my 13th one for that novel! Fortunately, the next two have been lovely. I’m not about to stop writing. I just need to try not to be so sensitive and accept that negative reviews and criticism are all part of the world of being a writer and hope that the positive feedback continues to massively outweigh the negative.

Wishing you a really positive week full of real and virtual hugs.

Jessica xx

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