Perils lie in wait for the writer who surfs to find out what people are saying about his book. They can be saying all kinds of things. With a single click you pass from a page of happy reading to one on which the very words themselves have jaws. Your plot is weak. Your characters are wooden. Your writing, even worse. This author, you understand, has condemned both himself and every soul who, however innocently, turns a single page of his…
How can this be? Is this really about the same book of which reviewer A particularly praised the plot development, and bloggers B and C (blessings upon them) wrote of the flawed, believable characters and the crystal–clear prose? Yes, it is.
And who is that guy? An unhappy fellow writer? Or is it Godzilla, who has somehow found three extra braincells and a keyboard? Don’t know. You left the page without even getting as far as the signature.
As the shock fades, other emotions replace it. Each suggest their own response. In order, they are:
1) Attack - with tooth and claw! Write him such things (what they are, yet I know not) that they shall be the terrors… Never mind if he is Godzilla - kill first and weigh him afterwards…
There are few sights more pathetic than an author gone hysterical in defence of his own writing. Don’t do it, chum. You’ll just look a fool. It’s exactly what the guy wants. Besides, he might actually be Godzilla. Ever think of that?
2) Peace be upon you, my child. Write a measured, reasoned, courteous response, carefully explaining that you accept the right of all readers to make what they will of what they read, and then point out, in one or two specific instances…. Thus proving that you are wise and benevolent and …
Well. I have gone back once or twice to reviewers whose criticism was balanced and with whom I felt it would be possible to have an intelligent dialogue. And I have received equally courteous replies. But really, nothing you write afterwards can say more about the book than the book itself. You publish, you get what’s coming. Including the guy who wants a reputation and who thinks that ‘incisive’ is spelt with an axe. Be thankful, therefore, that you are published. And know that the best response is
Stat opus dum volvitur orbis.