Very Bad

Getting a bad review is like going through a bad break-up.  I’ve been trying for more than a week to figure out how to express my feelings on the topic and that’s the metaphor I finally came up with.  It’s all there: the hope for something good, the realization of how horribly wrong it’s all gone, and the ripple effect of depression, self-doubt, and binge eating of ice cream that mark both review and break-up.

The Bad Review was painful.  It wasn’t just that the reviewer disliked my book.  That I could handle.  It’s that she accused me of stealing the story from a tv show.  She used the word “plagiarism”, incorrectly at that.  Like any bad relationship, she was only seeing what she wanted to see, she ignored the details that didn’t support her argument, and she was more interested in hurtful recriminations than sorting out misunderstandings.  It really, really hurt.  If I’m being honest, I’m still not over it.

But this blog post is not about The Bad Review, it’s about the much more entertaining story of The Bad Break-Up and everything that I learned as a result of it.

(this is not Bo, this is a very nice guy named Joel that I went to a dance with once. but you get what I mean)

So a couple of years ago, December of 2006, to be exact, I stared dating this guy.  Let’s call him Bo.  I thought Bo was awesome.  Honestly, I thought I was going to marry him.  He could carry on a conversation with the best of them.  We seemed to enjoy a lot of the same things.  And best of all, he was actually interested in me!About three months into dating, I began to notice that things were becoming more awkward.  Distant, if you will.  But Bo never said anything was wrong, soooo….  I tried to express my feelings, tried to put things into words and talk out the issues and the problems I was having.  Strangely enough, that only seemed to make things worse.  Bo clammed up even more, grew even more distant.

(It was a classic amateur mistake, by the way.  How was I supposed to know that men hate talking about their feelings?)

Another three months passed.  I grew more and more insecure as I got less and less in the way of response or support from dear old Bo.  Then came an incident where I asked if he would get tickets to something, and rather than picking up a pair he told me how much they cost and implied that if I was going, I would go alone.  It dawned on me that Bo didn’t want to be seen out in public with me.

That was the last straw.  I called him up on a Tuesday night (it would have been impossible to get together with him in person because of his job) and broke it off.  I told him that I didn’t feel like he really wanted to be in a relationship anymore and that he had actually broken up with me about three months before but didn’t have the balls to tell me.  Guess what?  He said that, yeah, I was right.

So I broke up with Bo.  Whew!  I washed my hands of the whole thing.  I dodged a bullet.  …  so explain to me why I then spiraled into a crippling depression that had me in tears on a daily basis for about eight months?  I broke up with him, for gosh sakes!  Bo moved on.  He was dating someone else before the end of the month.  Why was I the one eating my heart out?

Ah yes, a bad review is like a bad break-up.  I wrote the damn book!  I spent years pouring myself into it.  I drew from a lot of sources of inspiration, but it was only that.  Inspiration.  I didn’t steal anything.  Plenty of people really like the book.  One trollish reviewer who, as it turns out, is a fan of the tv show in question and, I think, a member of a site that writes fan fiction for the show should not have the ability to negate all my hard work and genuine creativity.

Yes, this is how I felt/feel
© Luba V Nel |

One man who was totally wrong for me and fickle in the best of times shouldn’t have the power to ruin my life for eight months.  He got engaged to that girl he started dating three weeks after we broke up, by the way.  Yep.  I was devastated.  They got married, had a baby, and, as a little birdie told me, just got divorced.  I made a good decision to break up with him, and yet I still see that as the darkest time in the last ten years of my life.At heart I think it comes down to the fact that when we love something or someone we want it to work out, no matter what.  When we invest our emotions so deeply into something, be it a book or a boy, it is crushing when it falls apart.  We want to be loved.  Like, a lot.  We tie our identity and our worth as a person into what someone else thinks of us, how much they love us.  But some relationships just aren’t meant to be.

Ironically enough, it was writing that pulled me out of the depression of that bad break-up.  Even more ironically, it was the same book that received The Bad Review.  I wonder what that reviewer would think to know that so many of the parallels they saw came from the emotions I felt at having been devastated by a man.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter.

So how will I recover from The Bad Review?  By writing, of course.  And next time I have a female villain I know what I’ll be naming her.

Okay, that’s me.  But what do you think?  What’s worse, a bad break-up or a bad review?


19 thoughts on “Very Bad

  1. I know exactly how you feel, and yes, in some ways it’s like a bad break up. But at the same time, my break up was much, much worse than a bad review. When it comes to a novel, everyone has different tastes, and even the most loved book in the world has a lot of bad reviews. I’m not saying that it helps, but it’s definitely something to think about every time you get a bad review. At least I do. 🙂

    • I’ve stopped reading my reviews at all after that incident, but I haven’t stopped dating! … Well, I sort of stopped attempting to date temporarily as I focus on my writing career, but if someone tempting comes along (Richard Armitage is still single, isn’t he?)…. I hope that you are over the pain of your break-up and have moved on to brighter pastures. 🙂

      • Haha, I don’t know if he’s single, but Richard Armitage is nevertheless a hottie! You can always dream, right? 😉 My break up was two years ago, and now I’m in a new, perfectly happy relationship, so the break up was definitely the right choice. I wasn’t the one to break it off, but now I realise how miserable I was and how much better I deserved. So all for the best. 🙂

  2. Hi Merry, I’m so sorry! Great metaphor. I’d say that this reviewer only has the power to negate all your hard work if you give them that power. Don’t. There’s tons of ignorant people out there, don’t let their opinions influence you. You wouldn’t take this person’s word about anything else they said about something else, would you? If you wouldn’t trust their authority on other things, why believe them when it comes to their opinion about you? I know this is easy for me to say 🙂 But just putting it out there… Now if the bad review came from someone you really respected….

    • It’s funny how negative reviews work though. I don’t think it has anything at all to do with that reviewer or what they say. It’s all a reflection of that awful insecurity that lives in each of us when we put ourselves on the line by writing something from our heart. Otherwise I think we would all just shrug at the rotten reviews.

      Thanks for your support, Angela! (now and always) 🙂

      • So true! It’s like it’s found that kernel of doubt within that told us we couldn’t do this well. I actually do dread my first negative review as I know that despite all the platitudes I hear about how to receive them, it will still level me. This was just my obviously pathetic attempt to cheer you up…

  3. Each has its place, I suppose. And each tends to leave lingering effects that rear their heads every now and again. I always think of U2 and a line from Sweetest Thing: “You can sew it up, but you still see the tear.” Scars don’t go away; we learn to work around the fact that they’re there.

    I feel for you, friend. I’ve been in that ‘boyfriend’ place and have had less than stellar reviews. (Rejections tend to be the equivalent for me, often leaving me feeling a bit paralyzed for a good six months or more.)

    The upside is this: that is one person’s opinion. And honestly, I go back to Bambi and Thumper’s mother on this one: “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

    Just sayin’.

    Hang in there, friend. This too shall pass, and most likely, will make you stronger.

      • I consider myself an optimist but maybe enough people don’t know about Bambi’s mother, lol? And I can still here the now-gone Rodney King’s plea: People, can’t we all get along?”

        As long as there are people, opinions and ways to express them–good or bad–we all have to remind ourselves once in a while. TTYS and “go forward and write”!

  4. BTW, the photo of you I referred to previously is your WordPress gravitar 🙂 I like that one!

  5. Firstly ignore reviews that are bad. I used to be a teacher and some kids liked me and some didn’t. I didn’t take it personally, good or bad. You’re a writer, some people are bound to dislike your work; additionally you can’t assume they know what they are talking about. As for the break up story it’s the same as the writing thing; believe in yourself and have faith in what you do, regardless of what other people say. I got dumped a few times and I accepted that I wasn’t ideal, but assumed they weren’t either, same goes for reviewers.

    • Wow, Richard! I can’t imagine being a teacher and having to go through an entire school year with a student that doesn’t like you. I have a close friend who teaches third grade and she’s had difficult students resulting in very trying years. At least with a bad book review it goes away much faster.


  6. I’m so sorry, Merry. Everyone has an opinion, and not everyone is going to like our work. That’s just life. The best you can do is believe in yourself and your story, and resolve not to let it hurt you, and move on. *hugs*

    • Thanks, Juli! I feel much better about life, the universe, and everything after seeing that I’m not the only one who goes through these trials. And the outpouring of support has been wonderful! =D

  7. A bad break-up and a bad review – both leave bruises on your soul. And it takes time to heal, going through many stages, like any bruise takes to heal. Whether a relationship with your significant other or your readers, it involves risk and making yourself vulnerable.
    Never give up on love or writing and carry on. Overcoming is the stuff stories and life are made of. As a writer, you have a wealth of emotion to draw on.

    • Yep, that’s the point right there: never give up. On love or writing. And really, isn’t that what life is all about? Seeking out love and writing the perfect novel about it? 😉

  8. Best advice I ever got was from NY Times Bestselling Author, Victoria Alexander, who said the day she got the bad review “Worst Book Ever” she knew she’d finally made it! She took it as a triumph because once she’d crossed that hurdle, it could only get better. She laughed and she made me laugh and feel so much braver about that inevitable moment. It happens to all of us who dare to write and then courageously put ourselves out there. Take heart. Laugh if you can. And keep writing! The best revenge is success. (That’s what they say.) I’ll tell you when I get there! LOL

  9. Oh dear…don’t let the amateur online reviewers get you down. Unless you think they’re right. In this case, it’s clear you don’t, so continue to shake it off. The side effect of getting lots of your work out there is that all kinds of stuff is bound to come back. The internet can be an ugly place and some people will always hate what you write. Social media provides boundless opportunities for people to dump on your work once it begins to get around a bit. But soldier on.

    Must say, I hate the generalization that men hate to talk about their feelings. In my marriage, the stereotype is reversed. My husband constantly wants to talk about his feelings and ask about my feelings, and I would pretty much rather die than be truly honest to anyone about how I feel when I do not want to share. I am an emotional clam. Come to think of it, I hate to shop and my husband enjoys going to the mall…there are very few male/female stereotypes at work in our marriage. Uh-oh, maybe God mixed up our love/wisdom dosages…

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