Trying to see the meaning behind the review

Publishing your book means getting reader reviews, and that’s a good thing. You want all the reviews you can get because they’re a great marketing tool. However, reading reviews about your book can sometimes be like trying to watch a movie through a rain-washed window.  It’s difficult to tell what the reviewer is implying, what it all means–especially for those one and two-star reviews.

Don’t look for explanations

Reviewers don’t always elaborate on their comments, and if they give a low rating without going into depth as to why, you could easily spend too much time trying to read between the lines.  You might lose valuable writing time wondering what is meant by comments such as ‘The characters didn’t resonate with me’ or ‘Not my kind of book’.  Or, worse: ‘There was so much I didn’t like about this book.’ And then, you might get nothing more than ‘If I could give zero stars I would.’ –which can totally send you to drown your sorrows in that bottle of wine you had tucked away for when you write “The End” on your current work in progress.

What did these reviewers mean? What’s wrong with the characters? What kind of book did the reviewer want? What didn’t she like? And why did she want to give it zero stars? Why, why? Oh, where is the wine?
Okay, stop. It’s all good, really. Unless there is a specific comment that points out an obvious flaw such as a misspelling of a character’s name several times throughout the book, you can stop trying to read into the reviewer’s comments.

Remember, anguishing over reviews keeps you from working on your next book. Overall, you can just keep an eye on the star average, if you decide to pay attention to reviews at all. No one says you have to.


Helicopter authors come across as losers

Another reason not to read too much into a review is that you might find yourself disagreeing with the reviewer’s comments. You might be tempted to respond.

I once read a one-star review stating my book was just another fluffy romance. Obviously, the reviewer hadn’t read it because the story is dark and Gothic: the heroine can’t speak for part of it and is buried alive toward the end. The review was a classic drive-by turd-bullet shot by an Internet troll. I left it alone. It wasn’t worth my time, and interested readers would see the higher ratings and story description. I honestly doubt this review cost me sales.

Reviews are posted for other readers, not for the author’s response.

Even if your reviews are genuine, I don’t encourage responding. Don’t thank a reviewer if she gave your book five stars. Don’t tell a reviewer who gave the book one or two stars that his review was incorrect and then give him reasons why. Never get into a back-and-forth argument with a reviewer. If you do, guess what happens to that review? Instead of sinking into the depths of reviewdom along with all the others, this review and its one star will stick out to readers, who will read your combative comments and conclude that you’re an overly sensitive helicopter author.

Commenting on reviews of your book may cause you to come across as having no life as you hover, waiting to read what she has to say about your “baby”. Honest reviewers want to feel like they can state their opinion–whether detailed or vague–without your comments. If you keep stepping in, your book may begin receiving fewer reviews, which is detrimental to its long-term review average. Reviews are posted for other readers, not for the author’s response.

Focus on your next book

Lastly, understand that the review isn’t about you; it’s about your book. Take reviews as a marketing tool and not as anything directed at you personally. Let it go, focus on what’s important in your life and the people who love you, and keep working on your next book. This is your business, and your product is going to get judged. Reviewers who take the time to rate your book and leave a review aren’t obligated to explain what they loved or hated about it. And I’m sure you know you can’t please everyone.

Say that out loud: “I can’t please everyone. All I can do is write the best book I can. And I am here to stay.”

Trying to see the meaning behind the review

Publishing your book means getting reader reviews, and that’s a good thing. You want all the reviews you can get because they’re a great marketing tool. However, reading reviews about your book can sometimes be like trying to watch a movie through a rain-washed window.  It’s difficult to tell what the reviewer is implying, what it all means–especially for those one and two-star reviews.

Don’t look for explanations

Reviewers don’t always elaborate on their comments, and if they give a low rating without going into depth as to why, you could easily spend too much time trying to read between the lines.  You might lose valuable writing time wondering what is meant by comments such as ‘The characters didn’t resonate with me’ or ‘Not my kind of book’.  Or, worse: ‘There was so much I didn’t like about this book.’ And then, you might get nothing more than ‘If I could give zero stars I would.’ –which can totally send you to drown your sorrows in that bottle of wine you had tucked away for when you write “The End” on your current work in progress.

What did these reviewers mean? What’s wrong with the characters? What kind of book did the reviewer want? What didn’t she like? And why did she want to give it zero stars? Why, why? Oh, where is the wine?
Okay, stop. It’s all good, really. Unless there is a specific comment that points out an obvious flaw such as a misspelling of a character’s name several times throughout the book, you can stop trying to read into the reviewer’s comments.

Remember, anguishing over reviews keeps you from working on your next book. Overall, you can just keep an eye on the star average, if you decide to pay attention to reviews at all. No one says you have to.


Helicopter authors come across as losers

Another reason not to read too much into a review is that you might find yourself disagreeing with the reviewer’s comments. You might be tempted to respond.

I once read a one-star review stating my book was just another fluffy romance. Obviously, the reviewer hadn’t read it because the story is dark and Gothic: the heroine can’t speak for part of it and is buried alive toward the end. The review was a classic drive-by turd-bullet shot by an Internet troll. I left it alone. It wasn’t worth my time, and interested readers would see the higher ratings and story description. I honestly doubt this review cost me sales.

Reviews are posted for other readers, not for the author’s response.

Even if your reviews are genuine, I don’t encourage responding. Don’t thank a reviewer if she gave your book five stars. Don’t tell a reviewer who gave the book one or two stars that his review was incorrect and then give him reasons why. Never get into a back-and-forth argument with a reviewer. If you do, guess what happens to that review? Instead of sinking into the depths of reviewdom along with all the others, this review and its one star will stick out to readers, who will read your combative comments and conclude that you’re an overly sensitive helicopter author.

Commenting on reviews of your book may cause you to come across as having no life as you hover, waiting to read what she has to say about your “baby”. Honest reviewers want to feel like they can state their opinion–whether detailed or vague–without your comments. If you keep stepping in, your book may begin receiving fewer reviews, which is detrimental to its long-term review average. Reviews are posted for other readers, not for the author’s response.

Focus on your next book

Lastly, understand that the review isn’t about you; it’s about your book. Take reviews as a marketing tool and not as anything directed at you personally. Let it go, focus on what’s important in your life and the people who love you, and keep working on your next book. This is your business, and your product is going to get judged. Reviewers who take the time to rate your book and leave a review aren’t obligated to explain what they loved or hated about it. And I’m sure you know you can’t please everyone.

Say that out loud: “I can’t please everyone. All I can do is write the best book I can. And I am here to stay.”

How to make your story burn with emotion

Have you ever been so moved by a story that when you finished the book, you felt you said goodbye to a good friend, to a world you might never see again? Were you so immersed in the characters and their lives that everything they felt, you felt as well? Do you want your story to be as powerful, your characters as unforgettable?

Following are a few techniques you can use. Some take practice, but that’s how we learn to write: by writing.

  • Emotion
  • Tension
  • Showing instead of telling
  • Deep point of view

Emotion

A great technique writers can use to bring forth this immersion and interest is to bring emotion to your story.
Emotion helps to make your characters three-dimensional. Get right inside the reader’s head with the character’s anger, happiness, jealousy, curiosity. Create sympathetic characters the reader can identify with. The character’s situation should also be such that the reader can sympathize, especially if you’ve set up the story and gotten the reader involved in the character’s conflicts and goals. For example, which one of these two scenarios do you think would resonate with the reader more powerfully?

  1. The heroine is upset because her rival at the school dance is wearing the same dress as she is.
  2. The heroine is upset because her rival at the school dance is kissing the heroine’s boyfriend.

In the second scenario, the situation cuts deeper on an emotional level. The same dress issue might cause some embarrassment, but seeing another girl kiss the boy the heroine loves? That burns.

If you set up the story and the reader has identified with the heroine and has gotten to know her in the first couple of chapters–perhaps discovering this boy is her first true love–by the time the heroine sees him kissing the other girl, the reader might want to jump right into the book and say a few choice words to the rival, and to the boyfriend, too.

Dip right into what the character is feeling at that moment. If this is a turning point in the story, perhaps the black moment, bring home to the reader the character’s anguish and hurt as she watches her rival kiss the boy she loves.

Tension

Tension should be present in every one of your scenes. Make the situation for the character worse, and worse, and worse again. Tension and emotion along with pacing help to make your story resonate with the reader.

Showing instead of telling

This means that you show what is happening instead of merely telling (I was cold vs. I couldn’t feel my fingertips.) You are putting the image into the reader’s head.

Deep point of view

Write the scene as if you are in the character’s head, going through the same physiological and physical reactions to what is happening.

Which of these two descriptions would resonate with the reader more?

  • Olivia’s boyfriend was kissing Britney, the most popular girl at the school. Angrily, Olivia walked up to them and pushed them apart. To Britney she said, “Get your hands off my boyfriend.”
  • Olivia circled like a hawk around the dimly lit room. Where was Mark? He’d been disappearing for minutes at time. Nearing a dark corner, she stopped and stared. Was that him? She recognized his peach cummerbund and bow tie that matched her dress. But what was he doing? She stepped closer.

Oh, God. He had his arms around someone, was kissing her. And not just a light kiss, but an all-out liplock.

Olivia’s mind denied it even as she approached and stood a few feet away.

He was kissing…Britney.

Britney, the most popular girl at the school. Britney, who always got who and what she wanted. She merely had to snap her fingers and boys would come running.

Olivia’s eyes burned with tears, and sudden rage made her clench her hands into tight fists. Britney might get whoever she wanted, but Mark was off limits.

She reached them and shoved them apart. Turning to Britney, she spread her lips in a snarl. “Get your hands off my boyfriend.”

I used deep point of view and showing, not telling in the second example. Also, notice I didn’t use inner thoughts in italics, nor did I use tags. (Mark is off limits, Olivia thought.) There is no need. If you are in deep point of view, the reader knows we’re in Olivia’s head. Using italicized thoughts in present tense and adding who thought it makes for awkward, redundant reading. Instead, use past tense and play out the character’s deep point of view and actions as the scene unfolds.

Practice your writing using these basic techniques, and watch your story burn with emotion.

How to make your story burn with emotion

Have you ever been so moved by a story that when you finished the book, you felt you said goodbye to a good friend, to a world you might never see again? Were you so immersed in the characters and their lives that everything they felt, you felt as well? Do you want your story to be as powerful, your characters as unforgettable?

Following are a few techniques you can use. Some take practice, but that’s how we learn to write: by writing.

  • Emotion
  • Tension
  • Showing instead of telling
  • Deep point of view

Emotion

A great technique writers can use to bring forth this immersion and interest is to bring emotion to your story.
Emotion helps to make your characters three-dimensional. Get right inside the reader’s head with the character’s anger, happiness, jealousy, curiosity. Create sympathetic characters the reader can identify with. The character’s situation should also be such that the reader can sympathize, especially if you’ve set up the story and gotten the reader involved in the character’s conflicts and goals. For example, which one of these two scenarios do you think would resonate with the reader more powerfully?

  1. The heroine is upset because her rival at the school dance is wearing the same dress as she is.
  2. The heroine is upset because her rival at the school dance is kissing the heroine’s boyfriend.

In the second scenario, the situation cuts deeper on an emotional level. The same dress issue might cause some embarrassment, but seeing another girl kiss the boy the heroine loves? That burns.

If you set up the story and the reader has identified with the heroine and has gotten to know her in the first couple of chapters–perhaps discovering this boy is her first true love–by the time the heroine sees him kissing the other girl, the reader might want to jump right into the book and say a few choice words to the rival, and to the boyfriend, too.

Dip right into what the character is feeling at that moment. If this is a turning point in the story, perhaps the black moment, bring home to the reader the character’s anguish and hurt as she watches her rival kiss the boy she loves.

Tension

Tension should be present in every one of your scenes. Make the situation for the character worse, and worse, and worse again. Tension and emotion along with pacing help to make your story resonate with the reader.

Showing instead of telling

This means that you show what is happening instead of merely telling (I was cold vs. I couldn’t feel my fingertips.) You are putting the image into the reader’s head.

Deep point of view

Write the scene as if you are in the character’s head, going through the same physiological and physical reactions to what is happening.

Which of these two descriptions would resonate with the reader more?

  • Olivia’s boyfriend was kissing Britney, the most popular girl at the school. Angrily, Olivia walked up to them and pushed them apart. To Britney she said, “Get your hands off my boyfriend.”
  • Olivia circled like a hawk around the dimly lit room. Where was Mark? He’d been disappearing for minutes at time. Nearing a dark corner, she stopped and stared. Was that him? She recognized his peach cummerbund and bow tie that matched her dress. But what was he doing? She stepped closer.

    Oh, God. He had his arms around someone, was kissing her. And not just a light kiss, but an all-out liplock.

    Olivia’s mind denied it even as she approached and stood a few feet away.

    He was kissing…Britney.

    Britney, the most popular girl at the school. Britney, who always got who and what she wanted. She merely had to snap her fingers and boys would come running.

    Olivia’s eyes burned with tears, and sudden rage made her clench her hands into tight fists. Britney might get whoever she wanted, but Mark was off limits.

    She reached them and shoved them apart. Turning to Britney, she spread her lips in a snarl. “Get your hands off my boyfriend.”

I used deep point of view and showing, not telling in the second example. Also, notice I didn’t use inner thoughts in italics, nor did I use tags. (Mark is off limits, Olivia thought.) There is no need. If you are in deep point of view, the reader knows we’re in Olivia’s head. Using italicized thoughts in present tense and adding who thought it makes for awkward, redundant reading. Instead, use past tense and play out the character’s deep point of view and actions as the scene unfolds.

Practice your writing using these basic techniques, and watch your story burn with emotion.

Use stock photos to generate story ideas

Love at the deskI once signed up for Bigstock’s five images per day plan at a special price that would save me money on stock photos I use for my social media sites. Five images a day seemed a little crazy, but the price was good and I figured I’d make use of them.

For a few weeks, it was easy: I started on holidays and special occasions and collected images to use throughout the year. I downloaded images to use for my Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as backgrounds and ornamental swirl vectors for my website. I also browsed photos of things I love: farm houses with big front porches, home offices, gardens, ancient doors, and home libraries. I downloaded those photos that resonate with me and make me happy.

I then started thinking about images I might want to use in blog posts. In order to find images, however, I had to make a list of future posts, something I’d put off for awhile. In studying stock photos and making my list, I found that my blogging interests tend to run toward relationship issues, emotions, recipes, and what I know about writing. Who knew that looking at stock images would lead to planning blog posts?

However, within the first month, I had run dry on post ideas and stock photos to use with them. I missed a day or two downloading, which bothered me because I had paid for the service up front.

As another morning arrived and I stared at the search bar and categories, I spotted a photo of a dark-haired woman in a white dress on the beach, staring off at the horizon. Who was she waiting for? Or had he left her? Another photo showed a woman, similar in looks to the first one, in a medieval gown hiding in the woods. I then spotted a dungeon-like scene with another female, same dark hair and looks, chained up. Other pictures had similar depictions, but these women had blonde hair.

Then I saw a slew of strange-looking people who looked like they might engage in dark, evil activities, and photos of fairy-like, magical scenes with orbs and fairy dust and stuff.

bigstock-Witch--523418532

A story began to take shape: a historical fantasy involving two sisters, princesses set to marry princes from countries far, far away. The wedding day comes for the sisters but the princes have never shown up, and the ocean horizon grows ominous with black shadows. Soon the kingdom is sacked by evil enemies. Their parents die but the sisters flee through the forest, only to be captured and thrown in a dungeon. They almost succumb to the dark shadowy lifestyle of a sorceress and her daughters, but they escape, and, barely alive, find a magical lake that brings them strength and power.

bigstock-athletic-young-man-outdoor-55633484
The two princesses learn to fight and become skilled warriors who gather an army (of hot guys) to defeat the sorceress and take back their kingdom.

What fun! I selected photos that coincided with my storyline, or perhaps the storyline developed as I perused the photos. Either way, I spent three days searching and downloading pictures for a future novel.

I write in several different genres, so I pondered over a contemporary romance story idea. How about a secret baby plot? A broken and lonely soldier returns from war and finds the woman he still loves and thought he’d lost, and meets his child. Together the family can build a secure, love-filled life and live happily ever after. Stock photos of men holding infants abounded, and I had my pick for a cover or inside picture.

Family In Camouflage UniformI also like to write horror stories, so I browsed for horror photos. So came an idea for a fun-sexy-scary series called Perfect, which will be short stories about a seemingly perfect situation or person. I found cover photos for Perfect Escort, Perfect Mechanic, Perfect Housewife I and Perfect Housewife II, Perfect Camping Trip, Perfect Girlfriend, and Perfect Boyfriend.

Hit The Showers

Just when I think I’m used up on finding photos to generate story ideas, I see one and the trigger clicks. Invariably, I come across a standard, regular-looking stock photo that could be something sinister, a possible backdrop for a horror story. Like this photo of the man with the white towel. What’s under the towel? (Remember this is a horror story for Perfect Boyfriend.)

So that’s how it’s been working for me. I browse photos, a story idea pops up, and I write the tagline into Scrivener with the photo that triggered it. Later I’ll expand on the plot and build the story.

At the end of the plan, I canceled. The websites are up, I have plenty of make-me-happy photos to look at, and I really need to get to work writing the stories that all these photos generated.

Use stock photos to generate story ideas

 

Love at the deskI once signed up for Bigstock’s five images per day plan at a special price that would save me money on stock photos I use for my social media sites. Five images a day seemed a little crazy, but the price was good and I figured I’d make use of them.

For a few weeks, it was easy: I started on holidays and special occasions and collected images to use throughout the year. I downloaded images to use for my Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as backgrounds and ornamental swirl vectors for my website. I also browsed photos of things I love: farm houses with big front porches, home offices, gardens, ancient doors, and home libraries. I downloaded those photos that resonate with me and make me happy.

I then started thinking about images I might want to use in blog posts. In order to find images, however, I had to make a list of future posts, something I’d put off for awhile. In studying stock photos and making my list, I found that my blogging interests tend to run toward relationship issues, emotions, recipes, and what I know about writing. Who knew that looking at stock images would lead to planning blog posts?

However, within the first month, I had run dry on post ideas and stock photos to use with them. I missed a day or two downloading, which bothered me because I had paid for the service up front.

As another morning arrived and I stared at the search bar and categories, I spotted a photo of a dark-haired woman in a white dress on the beach, staring off at the horizon. Who was she waiting for? Or had he left her? Another photo showed a woman, similar in looks to the first one, in a medieval gown hiding in the woods. I then spotted a dungeon-like scene with another female, same dark hair and looks, chained up. Other pictures had similar depictions, but these women had blonde hair.

Then I saw a slew of strange-looking people who looked like they might engage in dark, evil activities, and photos of fairy-like, magical scenes with orbs and fairy dust and stuff.

bigstock-Witch--523418532

A story began to take shape: a historical fantasy involving two sisters, princesses set to marry princes from countries far, far away. The wedding day comes for the sisters but the princes have never shown up, and the ocean horizon grows ominous with black shadows. Soon the kingdom is sacked by evil enemies. Their parents die but the sisters flee through the forest, only to be captured and thrown in a dungeon. They almost succumb to the dark shadowy lifestyle of a sorceress and her daughters, but they escape, and, barely alive, find a magical lake that brings them strength and power.

bigstock-athletic-young-man-outdoor-55633484
The two princesses learn to fight and become skilled warriors who gather an army (of hot guys) to defeat the sorceress and take back their kingdom.

What fun! I selected photos that coincided with my storyline, or perhaps the storyline developed as I perused the photos. Either way, I spent three days searching and downloading pictures for a future novel.

I write in several different genres, so I pondered over a contemporary romance story idea. How about a secret baby plot? A broken and lonely soldier returns from war and finds the woman he still loves and thought he’d lost, and meets his child. Together the family can build a secure, love-filled life and live happily ever after. Stock photos of men holding infants abounded, and I had my pick for a cover or inside picture.

Family In Camouflage UniformI also like to write horror stories, so I browsed for horror photos. So came an idea for a fun-sexy-scary series called Perfect, which will be short stories about a seemingly perfect situation or person. I found cover photos for Perfect Escort, Perfect Mechanic, Perfect Housewife I and Perfect Housewife II, Perfect Camping Trip, Perfect Girlfriend, and Perfect Boyfriend.

Hit The Showers

Just when I think I’m used up on finding photos to generate story ideas, I see one and the trigger clicks. Invariably, I come across a standard, regular-looking stock photo that could be something sinister, a possible backdrop for a horror story. Like this photo of the man with the white towel. What’s under the towel? (Remember this is a horror story for Perfect Boyfriend.)

So that’s how it’s been working for me. I browse photos, a story idea pops up, and I write the tagline into Scrivener with the photo that triggered it. Later I’ll expand on the plot and build the story.

At the end of the plan, I canceled. The websites are up, I have plenty of make-me-happy photos to look at, and I really need to get to work writing the stories that all these photos generated.