#IWSG The Best Negative Reviews

Welcome to April’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group. Hop over the Alex Cavanaugh’s blog to join us!

Recently a reader friend asked, “How do I write an honest, helpful, negative review?”

Let’s discuss negative reviews. I don’t want to censor reader opinions, but merely state how I can learn best from reviews. I definitely know how frustrating and disappointing the reading experience can be. It has also become so clear to me that no author can please every reader.

As an author, I appreciate negative reviews that 1) offer specific constructive criticism, 2) make me laugh, and/or 3) acknowledge how personal preferences affect reactions.

I suggest getting specific about what’s not working for the reader. The tightness of the writing? Grammar? Pacing of the plot? Realism of characterization? Chemistry between the characters? Too many characters? Implausibility of plot?

Here are some reviews that have taught me to write better:

“There was head hopping in the third person omniscient perspective. Sometimes the same paragraph had perspectives from two different characters.”
(Thank you to two authors for sharing this wisdom about my debut novel With Good Behavior.)

“Grant is a wuss.” (This made me LOL)

“Grant cries too much.” (These reviews informed my characterization of beta men–I don’t want to make them too weak.)

“It was too depressing and covered too many issues.” (I’ve tried to lighten up later books with more humor.)

“It just didn’t work for me because…” (I like when reviewers state how their personal preferences affect the reviews, acknowledging that others might enjoy it but it just didn’t fit for them.)

Some negative reviews are not as helpful:

“This is YA, not NA.” (I get frustrated with this critique of Blocked because the age of the characters is indeed New Adult. Though it’s also my fault for choosing a sexy cover then not delivering the horizontal refreshment.)

Reviews that spoiler the reader or attack the author as a person are also not my cup of tea.

How about YOU? Which negative reviews are the most helpful?

8 thoughts on “#IWSG The Best Negative Reviews”

  1. I agree a thoughtful negative review could be very helpful. Of course, I say that w/out having a book baby out there. =) And yeah, reviews that make it personal, those I just don't get.


  2. What an excellent topic for IWSG! The examples of helpful reviews are great, especially because you tell us what you learned from it. I appreciate when readers are brave enough to not be all sunshine and rainbows, and also when they can objectively critique rather than simply bash. \”horizontal refreshment\” – heehee, I love that.


  3. Oh, so true. I can relate to those honest critiques / reviews that helped me improve on writing the next novel. And I appreciated the time the reader took to (1) write the review, and (2) to word the criticism in such as way that was obviously meant to be helpful, rather than hurtful. And, regarding the cover of the hot male, and the reader was disappointed there was no horizontal action? I mean really, girl. What happened to using your imagination? An author's goal is to stimulate your imagination, and anything else that tickles your fancy, LOL.


  4. Yes, in theory, writers can learn from negative reviews… if they trust the reviewers. Personally, the only negative review I ever learned from was from my editor, when she rejected my second novel and told me why. That was not pleasant but it was extremely helpful.


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