Writing tip Wednesday: “Don’t try this at home”

Writer reacts to bad review and writes about tracking down the reviewer; others react to writer writing about her stalking experience

First the article about tracking down the reviewer:

“Am I being catfished?” An author confronts her number one online critic

When a bad review of her first novel appeared online, Kathleen Hale was warned not to respond. But she soon found herself wading in

by Kathleen Hale

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/18/am-i-being-catfished-an-author-confronts-her-number-one-online-critic

Kathleen Hale

Kathleen Hale

In the months before my first novel came out, I was a charmless lunatic – the type that other lunatics cross the street to avoid. I fidgeted and talked to myself, rewriting passages of a book that had already gone to print. I remember when my editor handed me the final copy: I held the book in my hands for a millisecond before grabbing a pen and scribbling edits in the margins.

“No,” she said firmly, taking the pen away. “Kathleen, you understand we can’t make any more changes, right?”

“I was just kidding,” I lied. Eventually she had to physically prise the book from my hands.

A lot of authors call this “the post-partum stage”, as if the book is a baby they struggle to feel happy about. But for me, it felt more like one of my body parts was about to be showcased.

“Are you excited about your novel?” my mom asked, repeatedly, often in singsong.

“I’m scared,” I said. Anxious and inexperienced, I began checking goodreads.com, a social reviewing site owned by Amazon. My publisher HarperTeen had sent advance copies of my book to bloggers and I wanted to see what they thought. Other authors warned me not to do this, but I didn’t listen. Soon, my daily visits tallied somewhere between “slightly-more-than-is-attractive-to-admit-here” and “infinity”.

For the most part, I found Goodreaders were awarding my novel one star or five stars, with nothing in between. “Well, it’s a weird book,” I reminded myself. “It’s about a girl with PTSD teaming up with a veteran to fight crime.” Mostly I was relieved they weren’t all one-star reviews.

One day, while deleting and rewriting the same tweet over and over (my editors had urged me to build a “web presence”), a tiny avatar popped up on my screen. She was young, tanned and attractive, with dark hair and a bright smile. Her Twitter profile said she was a book blogger who tweeted nonstop between 6pm and midnight, usually about the TV show Gossip Girl. According to her blogger profile, she was a 10th-grade teacher, wife and mother of two. Her name was Blythe Harris. She had tweeted me saying she had some ideas for my next book.

“Cool, Blythe, thanks!” I replied. In an attempt to connect with readers, I’d been asking Twitter for ideas – “The weirdest thing you can think of!” – promising to try to incorporate them in the sequel.

Curious to see if Blythe had read my book, I clicked from her Twitter through her blog and her Goodreads page. She had given it one star. “Meh,” I thought. I scrolled down her review.

“Fuck this,” it said. “I think this book is awfully written and offensive; its execution in regards to all aspects is horrible and honestly, nonexistent.”

Blythe went on to warn other readers that my characters were rape apologists and slut-shamers. She accused my book of mocking everything from domestic abuse to PTSD. “I can say with utmost certainty that this is one of the worst books I’ve read this year,” she said, “maybe my life.”

Other commenters joined in to say they’d been thinking of reading my book, but now wouldn’t. Or they’d liked it, but could see where Blythe was coming from, and would reduce their ratings.

“Rape is brushed off as if it is nothing,” Blythe explained to one commenter. “PTSD is referred to insensitively; domestic abuse is the punch line of a joke, as is mental illness.”

“But there isn’t rape in my book,” I thought. I racked my brain, trying to see where I had gone wrong. I wished I could magically transform all the copies being printed with a quick swish of my little red pen. (“Not to make fun of PTSD, or anything,” I might add to one character’s comment. “Because that would be wrong.”)

Rest of the article at: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/18/am-i-being-catfished-an-author-confronts-her-number-one-online-critic

****

Reaction to the article:

This Is What Happens When An Author Tracks Down A Critic In Real Life

Kathleen Hale faced backlash on social media after admitting to tracking down a book blogger at her home address.

by Jenna Guillaume

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/this-is-what-happens-when-an-author-tracks-down-a-critic-irl#2kyqd1o

On Saturday (October 18, 2014), YA author Kathleen Hale published an essay on The Guardian about confronting “her number one online critic,” and a social media storm of epic proportions erupted.

In the article, called “Am I Being Catfished?”, Hale describes how she obsessed over a book blogger named Blythe Harris who had given her book, No One Else Can Have You, a one-star review.

After Hale’s essay was published, the book-blogging community rushed to defend Harris, arguing she had done nothing wrong but that Hale had actually stalked her.

To see the array of reactions, some by well-known authors such as Neil Gaiman, go to:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/this-is-what-happens-when-an-author-tracks-down-a-critic-irl#2kyqd1o

***

Best thing to do: don’t follow this example. There will always be somebody who makes his or her “mark” by trying to leave a mark on you through your work. The best revenge is to ignore and write more and work to improve. After all, nobody’s perfect, not even critics.

Or in the words of author Robert A. Heinlein: “Critics can’t create, therefore, they feel justified in critiquing those who do. There is some logic in this: they hate all creative people equally.”

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