They also kick-start the heart sometimes with their roller-coaster ride. It's quite possible to find a positive review hard on the heels of an extremely negative one, or vice-versa. Sometimes you wonder if people are reading the same book.
They all have value though. Some days we need that positive review, to bring us out of the Joe Btfspflk cloud of misery,(if you're too young to get that reference, google Li'l Abner).
But the negative ones have worth too. I'm not talking here about the reviews that give a rating with the comment "I haven't read this book, but I don't like the cover so I'm giving it one star" or "I gave three positive reviews today so it's this book's turn for a negative-one star." I mean the critical review that gives you a new perspective on your plotting or character development. These are the reviews that help us hone our writing, that improve our connection to our readers. We need to gulp down that feeling of disappointment that someone didn't love our book and instead, hang onto the fact that someone cared enough to tell us how we can do better. In this sense, the negative reviews are more valuable than the positives.
Reactions to a story are as diverse as the people who read them. Any time a writer becomes despondent after an especially bad review, she has to remind herself she is not alone. Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime, who has been outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible, got bad reviews. So did Hemingway. So did Charles Dickens.
So, it's time to read our report card, start again, and take note of the teacher's comment, even when it says, "Must do better."
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