Blessings From A One-Star Review

What possible good comes from a one-star review? 

I promised last month that there was more.  That I would explain how the experience of being publically criticized can make us stronger. 

Is the pain worth it?

Absolutely yes.  Here are three reasons why.

No. 1 – Criticism Tests Our Passion

We must be passionate about writing.  We must really want it.  Why else would we subject ourselves to this insane process called publishing? 

Think about it.  As writers, we are either the stupidest people on the planet, or we actually have a dream.  When we count up all the hours we spending outlining, writing, re-writing, editing, and trying to publish (not to mention marketing and networking) we’re earning less than minimum wage.  Throw in some harsh critics, and you’ll meet the ultimate test of your will. 

Criticism brings us to that moment of reckoning.  That moment when we ask ourselves.  Is this gig really worth it?  I have a nice life.  A good job.  A stable family.  Why do I want to upset the apple cart?

It’s a beautiful moment.   A moment when some of us finally feel free.  When we wrestle with passion and look our dreams squarely in the eye and say, “I don’t care what people think!  I am in this race and I am going to finish!”

Boy, that felt good.

No. 2 – Criticism Tests Our Relationships

I need to correct myself.  I actually do care what people think.  Granted, that group is much smaller than it used to be, but there is a core group of people that I don’t want to disappoint.  Like my husband.  My immediate family.  My closest friends. 

Here’s the point.  When we are publically criticized, we learn who our allies are.  We learn who our allies aren’t.  And our closest relationships – the ones we really care about – will likely become stronger. 

The silver lining?  In addition to shoring up my closest relationships, I actually met some new friends in the process – people who came along side me and defended me just because I stuck my neck out there. 

No. 3 – Criticism Starts A Dialogue

Why do we write in the first place?  So that everyone will agree with us?  I think not!  Don’t we want people to wrestle, to debate, even disagree?

In my case, Chasing Superwoman is a faith-based memoir about being a working mom and trying to do it all.  Nothing like hitting a few hot buttons all in one sweep.  Parenting?  There are few subjects we feel stronger about.  The choice for mothers to work outside the home?  Now, I’m really getting personal. 

The point isn’t whether my readers agree or disagree.  The point is that I’ve made them think.  Don’t I want to start a dialogue?

I’d like to introduce you to my Amazon buddies.  Five women I’ve never met before went on Amazon and wrote responses to the one-star review.  Several of these women sent me encouraging notes and personal emails.  One of these women became my Facebook pal, and another started her own blog.  These are the kind of fans writers dream of – all because of a one-star review!

Are you ready to test your passion, test your relationships, and start a dialogue?

Why are we really writing?  Who are we trying to please?  And don’t we want people talking about our work?

Are You Ready For A One-Star Review?

It’s no fun getting a one-star review on Amazon.  What’s worse?  Having your 10-year-old son read it in front of you.

When Nick looked up, he was fighting the tears.  Trying to stay strong.  Trying to act like it didn’t matter.

Then he gave his own critique.

“You know, Mom, some of this is probably true.  But, you know what really upsets me?  She didn’t criticize your book.  She criticized you.  And she doesn’t even know you.”

Like Nick, I was fighting the tears.  Trying to stay strong.  Trying to act like it didn’t matter.

But public criticism is a big deal.  And first-time authors are never prepared.  I wasn’t. 

Now, at this point in the blog, I’m supposed to give you the magic formula.  You know, the three-step plan to prepare you for a public flogging.  The things I wish I knew.  Wish I did.  Want you to know.  Then, you’ll walk away with some value added, and I can bask in the comments.

But I’m not going to do that. 

Don’t get me wrong.  If I had a secret sauce I would probably share it.  Heck, I’d probably write another book and maybe even make some money off of it.  But since that’s not in the plans (and Rachelle would probably give me a hard time about platform), the best I can do is share my story and let you draw your own conclusions.

Here’s how it works.  When you’re an author, you are supposed to actually say something.  If you’re lucky enough to get people to read what you have to say, some people may actually like it.  Others won’t. 

Certain gluttons for punishment, like me, end up writing memoirs.  So if readers don’t like our story, it means they don’t like us.  Plain and simple. 

In my case, Chasing Superwoman is a very personal story.  It’s my story about my struggles (and failures) being a working mother who admits she is trying to do too much.  And while I love Jesus madly, I don’t always act like it.  This apparently offended a few readers who told me both publicly and privately that I should really set my priorities straight, act more like a “Christian” and hang up my “worldly” ambition.

Sure, I could feel sorry for myself.  I don’t deserve the criticism.  It’s not fair.  These readers haven’t met me (or my darling children!).

But let’s face it.  I kind of asked for it.   Didn’t I?

When we tell our stories, we put ourselves out there.  We make it personal.  We pour out our lives on paper, give people loaded guns, and yell “shoot”! 

Which means we have no business complaining about it. 

Now, if you’re a fiction author, you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with me?  I write fiction.  It’s not my story.” 

Think again. 

We all know deep down that your first novel is secretly autobiographical and that all the characters are based on your family and friends.  So when people criticize your book, you are equally going to feel like they are criticizing you.  Trust me.

The good news?  We not only live through it, we become stronger.  I promise.  (I’m going to blog about that next month.)

For now, just know to expect it.  And don’t complain about it, ok?

Aspiring authors, are you ready for a one-star review?  Old-timers, what’s your advice?  And how do you protect those closest to you — like your family — in the process? 


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