Tag Archives: novel

One Bad Review Don’t Spoil the Whole Bunch

Any independent author will tell you how important reviews are.

Word of mouth is great – we love it when you tell your friends and family that you enjoyed our books, but an on-line review is forever.

One written review is worth a hundred verbal recommendations, because many people will forget the part of the conversation you had at the party about the last book you read – but once you put that praise in writing on a site like Amazon it’ll be there long after the party is forgotten.

So it’s no surprise that independent authors often (shamelessly) beg people for reviews.

I, personally, have written a few blog posts asking people to write reviews, (here’s one) even offering to name reviewers in my books…often to no avail.

Of course, there is a downside to getting reviews…

The Bad Review  

Whether you’ve written one poem or 20 novels…there will be somebody out there who finds fault with it.

The first critical assessment of your work is tough to swallow, but before long you learn to roll with it. If you don’t learn to, you’ll waste a lot of time stressing about it. Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with it often, but, you will have to deal with it at some point, as sure as the world is round (it is round, you know).

As much as I want everybody to enjoy my work, I’m realistic enough to understand that it just ain’t gonna happen. So, whenever one of my books gets panned by a self-anointed expert, I take it in stride. If the reviewer was kind enough to give specific reasons for not liking the book (poor character development, lack of structure, etc.) I make it a point to work on those areas in my next book. If it’s simply a general bashing (This guy sucks and I hated this book) I laugh and walk away…

…most of the time.

Generally, it’s not a good idea to respond to negative criticism of your work. It usually has no result other than increasing your stress level and giving the critic the satisfaction of knowing they got to you.

But sometimes I just can’t resist.

Allow me to share an example…

My novel Backseat to Justice recently got its first ‘one-star review’. Prior to that it had 14 five-star reviews, 11 four-star, and 3 three-star (see for yourself here).

Not bad, if I do say so myself.

So, given the fact that only 1 out of 29 reviews was a total bashing, I thought a response was in order.

The reviewer, code named Dog Mom, had essentially only one complaint. She downloaded a free copy of the book on her kindle, and for some reason—known only to the internet gods—the book’s formatting was completely missing from the download. It came through on her device as, in her words, “one long paragraph.” She suggested I take a writing class to learn the proper way to write a story.

Now, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t benefit from a writing class…but I do have to ask myself one question;

Of all the other 28 reviews, why had nobody else had this problem?

I have the book on my kindle – I immediately checked the formatting…no problems at all.

So, I am forced to conclude that her download must have gotten tangled in the interweb, thus resulting in the poor layout.

Regardless, I still felt she deserved a reply for taking the time to point out my blatant inadequacies.


After reading her comments, I decided to check out her other reviews. Lo and behold, about 4 out of every 5 reviews she has written have been one-star tear-downs. This made me chuckle…she’s a serial trasher! (check it out…it’s kind of funny)

I decided to have some fun with Dog Mom so I responded thusly;

I wonder if it’s possible that there was an issue with your download since you are the only person who has ever mentioned this problem. That being said – I will begin looking into some writing classes. Can you recommend the one you took before you wrote all of your novels?

Sometimes I can be a real jerk!


As always  thank you for reading (and reviewing!)



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NaNoWriMo – The Fast Track to Disappointment

Here it is – November 3rd – and the big word acronym in the writing world this weekend was NaNoWriMo.

For those of you outside the loop…NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.

The goal, in short, is to try to write a novel (or at least 50,000 words of something) during the month of November by creating an account on the NaNoWriMo website and tracking your progress. You can earn badges (badges?…) and even win real prizes.


Several of my writer friends are participating. Their facebook feeds had posts of their progress over the weekend (2,000 words today, etc).

I wish them luck in their quest…I really do, but if anybody is waiting for me to jump up and down shouting the praises of this event…well let’s just say I hope they packed a lunch, because they’ll be waiting a long time.

I can’t condone it…I’m sorry.

It’s not that I don’t want people to write…nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s just that this whole concept of writing a novel (or 50,000 words if you want to look at it that way) in a month is, in my opinion, dumb.

Why am I so critical of something that promotes writing?

Because I liken it to gyms and health clubs who advertise New Year’s Specials…knowing full well that there are thousands and thousands of commitment-phobes out there who say they want to get in shape, but what they really mean is they want to be able to say they tried. They sign up in December and hit the treadmill with a vengeance in January…by the middle of February they start finding excuses to miss a day here and there and by Easter-time they’ve gone back to wearing sweatpants and eating ice cream in front of the TV.

I’m not saying it can’t be done…I’m saying it shouldn’t be done.

Writing a book is not a race or a contest.

In my opinion, NaNoWriMo, for all of its good intentions, does more harm than good by convincing people they weren’t good enough.

Sort of like if the gym had taken a new crop of overweight accountants and threw them into a Navy SEAL training program.


One or two of them might survive, but the majority of them wouldn’t last two hours – and they’d walk straight out of the gym looking for the nearest McDonald’s.

NaNoWriMo might produce a few decent manuscripts, but for the most part it does nothing more than satisfy the consciences of people who “have always wanted to write a book” by allowing them to say “I tried.”

Yoda do ro do not

To those people I say this…

If you want to write a book…really want to write a book…then don’t worry about what month it is and don’t tell yourself that you need to do it in thirty days.

Just sit your ass down in front of the computer and start writing. You’ll know you’re finished when you type The End – not because the calendar tells you so. Then you win the prize. You win the satisfaction of saying “I did this”.

Maybe you weren’t the fastest, or the best – but simply by doing it and seeing it through to the end, you will have accomplished something that the vast majority of people haven’t, and never will – regardless of what month it is.

the end 2









As always – thank you for reading


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Another First Draft Finished…but it’s not The End

Yesterday, for the seventh time in five years, I typed an authors favorite two words…

the end

I’m speaking symbolically of course…I’ve never actually typed those words at the end of a novel. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen them in a book, but I did finish the first draft of my latest, as of yet untitled, novel.

The irony is that, now that the first draft is finished, it’s not the end at all…it’s really only the beginning.

There’s still a lot of work to do before it is ready for you. In the next few days I will distribute copies to my beta-readers and wait for their feedback.

Beta readers are the unsung heroes of the book-writing world, and I’m lucky to have some really good ones.

None of them worry about hurting my feelings and each of them has contributed something that has improved my work in the past.

Like any author worth their salt, I am extremely grateful for them, and any input they offer is always taken very seriously. That’s not to say I act on all of it, but I definitely pay attention.

A few of my betas have been with me since the beginning, and a couple of them have only done one book. Along the way there have been some people who thought they wanted to be a beta, but unfortunately they didn’t understand the job description, so I had to keep looking until I found suitable replacements.

Didn’t understand the job description? How is that possible? Read the book and tell the author what you think…right?

It doesn’t sound like a complicated task, and in fact it isn’t…once the ground rules are clearly defined and understood.

When an author asks for beta readers, they aren’t asking for somebody to read a draft and tell them it’s the best thing they’ve ever read. We aren’t delusional; we all know what Hemingway said…

first draft

No, what we are asking for is someone to read a first draft and punch holes in it.

Big holes.

We don’t want to hear about missing commas or spelling mistakes…that’s part of the editing process.

A beta reader’s primary responsibility is to tell the author what they didn’t like about the book.

  • Things that didn’t make sense in the story.
  • Characters that weren’t believable
  • Dialogue that didn’t ring true
  • Anything that made them stop and say well that just ain’t right

The author is asking you to rip the story to shreds. Even if it’s just as simple as saying The story just didn’t grab me.

So, for the next two or three weeks my book will be in the hands of  people who are tasked with picking it apart, so I can put it back together before I send it to the editor…who will then proceed to pick it apart some more.

All of this is done in hopes that you, the reader, won’t know how bad the first draft really was.

 not the end


As always – thank you for reading


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