This week at the SFF Seven we’re talking about the Mentality of Negative Reviews. Specifically, the person who posed the question asked: do you recognize your fight-or-flight response to negative reviews and do anything to stop it?
I’m including the full text of the question because I’m disagreeing with the initial premise. I don’t think I have a stress response to negative reviews. It could be that I’ve been writing long enough (nearly thirty years *gasp*) that I’ve become more or less inured to negative reviews. I remember a review of my first book, the essay collection WYOMING TRUCKS, TRUE LOVE, AND THE WEATHER CHANNEL, that was mostly glowing – but also said I used adverbs too much. It came from a professional reviewer at a venue I can’t recall, and that was long before I realized that many reviewers are aspiring writers who cling to the “rules” of writing with the tenacity of an apprentice seeking the magic formula to catapult them to true wizard status. Mostly I was surprised that, if my professional, experienced editor at a university press hadn’t minded my adverbs, then why did a reviewer? I understand now. I also know more about the weird anti-adverb stance some writers absorb.
Mostly. <- See what I did there? Humor is key.
Anyway. Experiencing a flight-or-fight response to a review means that you feel attacked. I suppose some reviewers intend it that way. They like to speculate about the author’s emotional life, intentions, or deadline pressure. Authors are occasionally accused of manipulating readers to extract profit. Sometimes our moral integrity is questioned. But that’s all par for the course on social media. I think what’s most important for writers to do is separate themselves from their work. YOU didn’t receive a negative review; the book did. Even if the reviewer specifically attacks the author, they’re still not actually reviewing you as a human being, because they don’t actually know you. The author is a construct in their mind that has very little to do with reality.
Keeping your poise, a sense of yourself as a person separate from the work, and keeping a sense of humor about it all is what gets you through. After all, a review isn’t a tiger. No one’s going to die over a review. It’s fangless, toothless, and ultimately dust in the wind.
Good morning everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy I’m here with my first cup of coffee and with the fabulous Darynda Jones author of oh ah, you up the thing. Ah paranormal mystery. Young adult straight mystery yeah lots of things I tried to get her to do a trime for you guys and she was like I it it has to be like dy me do delivery. So I am here in. Fabulous portalis and at the home of Doinda Jones and she’s already started making it into a museum. You guys. So like when you tour where Doundda Jones lived and created her works There’s like the dog gates against the guest bedrooms and it’s just like visiting the sacred bedroom of Abraham Lincoln yeah and yes Jane Austen Jane ahusten there. You go here, you go um. And so I stopped at the hydration station on the way from the hotel and got my rather I said like grande-ish size but this feels very would you like I got an americano because it’s like because if I get an espresso. It’s like not enough to keep drinking right. This whole because Dorinda does a lot of the same ah intermittent fasting that I do so she understands we understand each other. Yes, we do so this has like you know enough that I could sit on that for a while and she had stevia for me and. And then a tiny tiny bit of c cream just to like cut that edge right? So what are you drinking? you have your I am also drinking americano but I have sugar you have sugar I actually picked sugar and and show them your fabulous cup. Winter so you have to describe it because some people are only on audio. Oh okay, so it is a very sparkly dairy sparkly travel mug with the winter soldier star that he has on his shoulder and then the back has the words. That the you could say to him that would control him that heck that he had to break they had to break and the in the so do we not dare say them out dare say them out loud but right you want to control him with yeah I mean who wouldn’t so dear listener Doinda has a thing.
Before Sebastian stands I do she stands I stands the same. Those things you didn’t need to know right? right? Probably feel my so and I’m trying to figure out why am I so much whiter than Torenda I mean am I that. We’re sort of sitting side by side and I feel like I look very white in this light. That’s very pale, pretty very pretty well. Well thank you so we’re doing the Jack Williamson lectureship and we went and did that thing last night. Listen to Connie Willis interview Walter John Williams and then went to dinner afterwards that was fun. Yeah, did you learn anything I learned a lot about Walter that I didn’t oh yeah and in his career this very interesting, very interesting. He’s he’s had a very long and. Up and down roller coaster career which it seems like all writers to right? right? Yeah yeah, but yes, it was very interesting and I also went to so Connie Willis’s daughter is a criminalist in San Jose California so I went to that yesterday afternoon and listened to her talk and that was. Ah I learned so much about her daily. You know what does a criminalist do and daily life and and the the stuff that they do in the lab and the different types of evidence. It was very cool. So are you gonna weave any of this into Absolutely yeah, you just don’t know how or where yet right? exactly she gave some really good tips on ways that they found criminals that you know that I have not seen there was 1 in particular that I have not seen in the book yet. So I’m like I’ll be using that. So can you share are you is it secret. It’s it’s well it involves a fitbit put it that way they use technology a lot phones fitbits anything. They can get their hands on and she said whatever you do it doesn’t matter if you delete it. It’s still gonna be in your phone so they have caught many a criminal. By getting their phones and restoring recovering deleted pictures and that sort of thing because so just because you you think it’s deleted. It’s not and computers are the same It’s never really gone. So it’s true that that’s like Facebook and Amazon and all of that they like.
Save everything forever. Yep yep, it’s there forever. So if you commit a crime don’t take pictures. Don’t take pictures and don’t wear your fitbit and don’t wear your and. Ah, ah and I want you guys to know I had to connect with Darynda’s wireless in order to do this podcast and you know how like there’s the joke out there where people say oh you should name your your wireless network like Fbi Surveillance fan so that you can like make your neighbors paranoid. Guess what during this wireless network is called but it is because you just couldn’t resist I couldn’t resist this is sunny I just found it. Funny. It’s been that for oh gosh probably 10 years and I won’t tell you were her wi-fi password just in case. But it’s on brand also so I feel like I have to level up to met to match like your level of being on brand my commitment your commitment to the brand. Ah.
So so what are you working on these days during actually let’s talk about I want I know you’re working on several things but let’s talk about your revisions on the third book the sunshine yes because I think a lot of people. You know, a lot of writers listens to the podcast as well as readers and but there’s always this perception speaking of like up and down and that kind of thing that like you know what is this your sixteenth published book. No, this will be 26 26 how did I lose track. Well, that’s because you’ve got the self post you I had the different stuff. Yeah, yeah, yeah, all the. And a young adult that was a long time ago. Oh I was a trilogy and yeah, so yeah, yeah, so so yeah, 26 books now and you’re working with your wonderful editor at St Martin’s but it’s been It hasn’t been a path strewn with rose petals. No, but. So. It’s so funny because I got very used to my first editor was Jennifer Inerlin who is now the president of St Martin’s and she’s busy and she’s busy and so I went to another editor so I got used to Jennifer’s editing style and she had a certain way and she would just write. She wouldn’t do line edits. She would write me up. An editorial letter and you know we were good and it’s kind of like a marriage. Yeah, you get really in sync with a particular view. So and and so I was very used to that then I went to another editor for 1 book and I wasn’t edited at all and I was like no. I’m not no book is perfect I mean they just isn’t I don’t care who you are your book’s not perfect and so I you know voiced my concerns to my agent and so she taught to Jennifer and now I have ah another editor and I’ve had her for 3 books now Alexander Seahlster and she’s amazing. Um, but we do there are things that she thinks of that I just wouldn’t think of and and it’s very interesting. It’s been very interesting and things. Like word choices that I wouldn’t have thought of like I couldn’t use should I say this is it okay to say I think it is because and because it’s interesting how and and yesterday I talked a whole lot oop sorry I thought I muted to my mother um hi mom. Ah now you know what? a. Whenever I’m saying oh there’s my mother awake and texting me. Okay there we go um and now I lost my train of thought so what’s oh because I was talking yesterday about being generation x right? and you know and things change and you try to be good about being aware and not becoming.
That grandfather where everyone says you know in my day my day I know what we called it and it’s like well yes grandpa is a racist but you know that was the time he grew up and you don’t want to be that person right? But at the same time stuff changes rapidly you know and like what feels like. An okay word to use even a year or two ago is now people are like oh wait a minute. Yeah you so use it and so I was really surprised at 2 of the words that she took out and I didn’t even tell you my bizarre story about writer coffee. So okay, so she had me take off thug and hoodlum. Hoodlum I got because that’s clearly hood. You know racist that sort of thing but thug I was like why thug. So I go to writer’s coffee last Saturday and lo and behold what are they talking about. Thugs the word thug which comes from faugy. Yes, yeah I did not know this at all I didn’t bring it up I thought I thought this is a sign from god ah god are you listening or you know like or the technology on your smart. This is true. Yes, it. It’s all out there and. Yeah, and how it came as ah, the british used said as propaganda against indian gods and nice or East India yeah yeah and yeah I didn’t even know that I was like oh well, no I get it and all those. Yeah, although still, it’s um, you know some of these words are so old and I don’t know but you know’s you you don’t want to hurt anybody. So it’s good to learn these things and take them out but then it’s like um, you know trying to lense these things from your vocabulary can just be just very interesting experience. Yes, so I so I have to tell you guys that duringda’s table has cup holders. You see this I can like set this into the the little cup holder. You would think that’s what it is. You know what? it actually is. It’s this is like for gaming or something that this is poker. It is for those little. Ashtrays all way back in the day they would put these little disgusting likes and clearly we don’t have them but we do have the the poker and I was noting that I was fidgeting with this that the poker things. I just thought it was a really pretty table. We used to have game night. We didn’t we never played poker but we used to do game night. So it’s it’s a beautiful table I mean do you know what what it this no I don’t I think it’s all fake. It was not that expense really I don’t know this looks um that has very nice woodgraen. Yeah.
It’s pretty though I just thought it was pretty. It is pretty. It is pretty and it has cup holders. I mean it’s kept up seriously yes, according to my grandkids those are cup holders too. So okay, though that that’s probably says a lot about my mental age right? There? No I actually when I bought it I thought they were cup holders. Did you all I did and then somebody told you yeah somebody was like no those were for those little extras. Oh learning every day learn stuff every day. Okay, so so you ended up having to take words out and then it’s just you know revising people often ask about the process of revising this and so. How would you describe your process I should have tried to ask it with a straight face joined that jones how do you describe your revision process. Ah gosh I I don’t know I just go through the notes and so Alex my new editor she does line edits as well as some editoria. And editorial letter and so I just did the line edits first and went through everything and tried to fix everything and again things that I wouldn’t even have thought of and um and then went to the letter and. What’s my process I don’t know I was curious. Do you like begin at the beginning of the book or do you well with the line edits I do right? just go straight through those try to get those done as much as possible. Um, and i. For the most part I try to accept everything because I figure. Well if it just threw her out of the story or whatever. Um, every once in a while I’ll be like I’m gonna keep that you know instead to fight for your joke. yeah yeah I do fight for my choice because that’s a thing. Like like I have a lot of jokes and and she will take out some and you were known for for your humor. Yeah, and so and every once in a while I’ll be like oh I got to put that one back in I’m sorry sorry I just like it. You can’t kill that darling kill that darling. But. Um, yeah, and and it’s funny. We were talking about how editors um you know like they’ll be reading something and maybe they have to go off and do something else or go to a meeting or they go have lunch or they you know sleep get a phone call or get a phone call. Whatever and they come back to it and it’s kind of like It’s almost like they kind of forgot what was going on to force and because sometimes the the notes will be really out of the blue and you’re like what Linda come I always wanted that when and sometimes like beta readers will do that too because they’ll be like well but you never said.
You know, like why he had the thing or something where did the thing come from and you’re and go back and you’re like here it is on page 10 right? where I say why he has the thing. Yes, yeah, it’s like maybe they just and and you look at it and you think well do I need to add to it. Do I need to explain? yes. Here’s why he has yeah to make it more sadly address something to get be a attention. Yeah, exactly? Yeah, but but sometimes you know it can be hard I I try to tell people this that it can be a real challenge to. No matter where you are in your career knowing which critique to take right and we were talking about this sum to last night about people telling you how to fix it? Yes, so a lot of times it’s like an editor or a beta reader whenever they’ll know something’s wrong not quite right not necessarily wrong but not quite right something didn’t hit him and then they might offer a way to fix it but a lot of times that’s that doesn’t fix it. That’s it’s that’s not the right way to do it. So you’ll like go back and you’ll think oh, but if I add this line to paragraphs before then that makes more sense so you you have to figure out the best way to fix it. It’s like they know something’s not quite right, but they don’t know what and sometimes they can’t even describe it right? right? right? because they’ll say well I just. Don’t sympathize with this character you know and and I think it’s because because he his hair is the wrong color. Yep, that’s that’s like a stupid example, but and you’re like no no no I know it’s not the hair color that’s bothering you but something is making you feel unsympathetic. Yes, yeah. Yeah, exactly exactly it’s so it’s like this detective exactly you have to really and that’s why to me revisions take so long because you have to sit there and kind of think about. Okay, what is the real problem here. You have to try to get in your reader’s head or whatever and try to figure out that’s that’s one of the hardest parts isn’t it to try to. Because you have the book up here right? and so you know exactly and it’s like how do I get it to what they know exactly and then even then you know readers make things their own right? right? Oh absolutely It’s it’s always um, interesting to see how some. Readers interpret the books right? Yeah I talked some in you and I chatted some about um Jennifer L. Armintrout’s most recent book and the whole kerfuffle around that you know and all of those readers saying that you know they were upset about.
I don’t even know what it was but like something did we talk about this. Maybe it was what someone else did you? you know like this one that just came out in her. It was like the war of 2 queens. Oh so yeah, no, we didn’t talk about that. no I was thinking yeah yeah did you follow that at all no oh well no onefuffle oh yeah well all of these readers or some readers. Some very loud voice readers unlike book talk got very very upset saying that I don’t know it had something to do with like that there was some kind of emotional infidelity and they were really upset with her and calling it the deal breaker and and Jennifer said in like 1 of her reader groups that they were reading it wrong. And and they got very upset. You know you can’t tell me how to read and all this which true. Yes, yes, but then some other people who read the book said but actually they were reading it wrong. But so it’s like interesting. Yeah, interesting. But I mean that is a thing you just can’t it I mean do you think there is a thing where readers are rating it wrong because you can go both ways on this. Well it but also to me if there’s more than you know. more than 1 person. yeah more than 1 person got this impression. Yeah, then I don’t I don’t can you read a book wrong I mean certainly we get like reviews where people like get actual details wrong right? You know like exactly the names. Yes, or. Or they’ll say things like you know I hated the part where she killed the dog and you’re like but actually she didn’t kill the dog but that is absolutely yeah, something went wrong. There. There was some discondent but but yeah, readers. And and it’s interesting if you go back and read something that you read a long time ago. Have you done that? yeah and you know like something you read when you were like a teenager or oh yeah, any say anything leaked to mind and done that well ah I hate talking bad. So. I am you can fudge the details. Okay, okay, well, okay, we’ll do that so I am a huge very particular vampire series fan. Well, that was absolutely huge. Um and I remember when I read the first one I read the first one on it. First came out and I left it I loved everything about it and and for the most part and everybody kept talking about how badly written it was and this is the book I think it is to start with a t yes, that’s okay and they kept talking about how badly written it was and I was like really.
Well and I was still new I was still writing I wasn’t published yet or anything and I didn’t get it and so you know now after having I think it was probably about two years ago I decided to reread it and I was like wow it. It really is better. still a good book. you know it was still a good book it was an enthralling book. Yes, and I still loved it and I still love it and I love her and I love what she did. Um, you know I she got hundreds of thousands of teenagers to read. Yes, who then became our readers. Yes, yes, yes, who had never read a book in their lives. I met many of them and then went on to love all things jealousy. Yes yes, so we are. That’s interesting because I have not gone back and read that but I I was really floored I had a very difficult time getting into it again and um, yeah. And well you had’t told me that yeah and I was like I feel bad I mean I a lot of people say there aren’t there’s books are not badly written right? and I I have set that I’ve said that on record on as well yes yeah well that I said that people do not read 800 pages of. Bad writing right? So it’s it’s not actual bad writing it’s something else. Yes, it’s um, that it doesn’t fit a particular aesthetic or style yeah style. Yeah, so what? So what was. What what about it? Would you say was badly written I would hit you wrong because now you’ve got this editor brain. Yeah exactly and I just it feel like it was written which this was her first published book right? and it was the first book who among us would not go back. Right? change. Absolutely our first publish but it was a first book. You know? And yeah, yeah, I just would you change things in your first post oh absolutely yeah oh I would change so much I can’t even yeah I I never read my books. I would change stomachma I cringe I’ve I’ve thought about that and I don’t know if you and I have talked about it but you know like my first published book was or you like full novel was rogues pawn. The first fantasy romance and covenant at thornance that Carina did and we’re trying to get rights back now and so now I’m wrestling with that. It’s like if I get my rights back and I self-publish it do I do you want to go back through it. You know because part of me really does yeah, but also I think it might be such a gargantuan effort right? that we.
It’s not worth that you and and put that kind of time into it when you could be yeah when I could write new things. Yes, producing new work. Yeah, yeah, exactly I don’t know would you? Oh that’s such a good question if I got the rights back to first grave first grave I would change little things little things like word choice. Yes, word choices I feel like Charlie I was trying to in that first book I feel like I tried too hard because and and in some ways you’ve talked about and I’m interrupting you. You’ve talked about that like in the early days you would go in and layer in the humor. Yes, in a way that you now just do as an organic part of the writing exact. But then it was much more deliberate. Yes, like joke deliberate. Yeah and I was trying to write funny beef people kept telling me that I write funny. So I thought okay well I’m gonna do this I’m gonna you know work I’m gonna write funny god god damn funny on purpose. I wasn’t doing it on her and um, yeah I I and I feel like I just I tried too hard and I overdid it and I and Charlie comes across to me, especially early in the book. It’s very unsympathetic because she’s um. When you write humor. You can’t be little. You can’t belitle other people and I don’t know because then it just becomes cruel. It’s Chris cruel. Yeah and I don’t know that she was necessarily doing that but it it almost is that’s on that edge there to where it was just a bit much and I would change that. I would I think I would go back and change it I haven’t looked at that book of mine I take that there’s a lot of problems with it structurally yes, see that would be way more massive a bigger undertaking and I don’t know that I would do that I saw. Somebody recently recently like last year or something like that reading it because this is part of it is like when people discover your work now they go back and the like back less them. Yes, bless you? you? Yes, thank you but they go and read your entire backlist and I I kind of cringe because I’m like. Go all the way back exactly? Um, but I saw somebody like you know, showed up in my tweet search. You know where they mentioned it. They didn’t tag me it. It was totally my fault that I looked but they were talking about oh reading coil thorns by Jobby Kennedy so excited and then. But she was talking about how it like she got whiplash going back and forth between the whimsy and the horrific aspects of it and it’s like I think I didn’t balance it well I didn’t know what I was doing right? right? right? So learning and yeah.
And I I wanted those things in it. But I think yeah, it’s um, it’s that refinement it’s getting the blend right and right now yeah so yeah, absolutely so that’s probably enough time. Do you have anything else. You want to say no. No nothing to say nothing and we’re gonna try get a little work done before we go off to the readings I already got some writing done this did you? Yes, it’s you I know such a good I makes you look bad. Well 1 thing that Walter was saying last night when Condy was asking him about. You know process someone does he write and all of this and he’s like that he writes like 500 words a day and does it like at 1 in the morning and he just works for a couple hours and otherwise he pretty much like naps and naps and eats and and eats and I was like how do I get this writer’s life. She asked what his favorite part of being a writer was and he said the hours and it was like this does not match my life but I but doesn’t match your why I just’s like what we’re doing it fucking wrong. We’re doing very wrong, very very wrong. Walter’s got the right idea I guess he also has like. The enormous backlist and is as his riches that he lives off. Yes, yeah, still where we have to figure this out. Yeah, we’re to work on that with all right? So we’re gonna go work on that. Um, lovely seeing you all I forgot to say that it was Friday we forgot to do the chair dance. I didn’t even say what the date was so let’s do it now today is April Eighth and it is you’re gonna say it with me do the chair dance. What is thisjule. It’s Friday it’s like Friday they ah so you are the wonderful weekend. And I will talk to you all on Monday yall take care bye bye.