Learning From Reviews

I'll be honest.

I've really enjoyed reading reviews on my debut Love On The Range. Many authors don't read reviews and I'm sure someday I won't either. But because this book was written so long ago, and been through so many revisions, I feel very objective toward it now.

Reviews from friends and fellow bloggers are amazing to read. Thank you to everyone who posted one for me!! It was much appreciated. Reviews from people I don't know are exciting. Someone I don't know read my book and cared enough to write about it and/or rate it.


So I read these reviews and I learn. What worked for people, what didn't. Some reviews touched on things I knew I wouldn't be able to change in the future with my books, though I might refine my way of writing it. Other reviews hit on things that I know I'll be keeping in mind for future books: Things like pacing and head hopping (yes, I'm a natural head hopper and am working at curbing that tendency *cringe*).

Reviews are like critiques...except I can never revise this manuscript. Good thing I have lots of other stories brewing!

If you're published, have there been any reviews that struck a chord with you? If unpublished, what has been your latest helpful critique? And if you're a reader only, did you think about the author reading your review? Have you ever left one on a public site?


Unknown said…
I'm glad that your experience reading reviews has been fun and positive, Jessica!

The most helpful critiques I've received have definitely been from My Book Therapy buddies...we speak the same lingo. :) And I did a paid critique last year at ACFW with author Jenny B. Jones...that was sooo helpful. I love it when a reviewer or critiquer really has a heart to help the other person...it shows through in their feedback.
I keep telling myself now to be prepared to use reviews as a learning tools. I still kind of dread them. LOL

I have amazing crit partners that help me structure sentences so much better! Just flipping a few words around makes it more impactful. (Is that a word--impactful??) And they are brutal in a beautiful way!

Question: If they say we aren't supposed to headhop (I'm recovering too) then how did your editor let you get away with it? I personally didn't notice when I read it, but then I'm recovering and I read Nora Roberts so it doesn't really bother me and I rarely pay attention unless I'm critiquing for someone. As a reader only, I don't mind that stuff.
Melissa, I've been to Jenny's workshops before and she is hilarious!!! I'm sure her crits rock too. Lucky you. ;-)

Ooh, I think you just inspired a post. *grin* Head-hopping is so subjective. I've yet to see readers notice or care, only writers. When it's done well, it's not intrusive. I think editors care less about "rules" and more about how they like a story.
Linda Kage said…
You said it exactly! Reviews are like critiques except you can't revise the manuscript. I've read some where I was like, "oh man, why didn't someone say this BEFORE it was published. I SOOOO would've changed that." Other times, it's just that person's opinion and other reviewers actually like what they don't like, so it's easier to move past those comments.

Great post!
Hahaaa, so true, Linda.
Stacy Henrie said…
Great post! I'm pretty nervous about reviews, but like you, I'm trying to remember that what one person likes another doesn't and vice versus.
Jaime Wright said…
I think getting reviews will be intriguing for me. I'll probably want to debate some with the writer, but intriguing nonetheless! :)
Lindsay Harrel said…
So, feedback is soooo helpful.

But it can hurt. I usually have to take a bit of time to recover from them. But once I do and I can be somewhat objective, the critiques are usually helpful.
Julie Dao said…
You have such a positive outlook, Jessica :) Glad that you are looking at critique as something that will help you get even better and better and earn more of those glowing reviews!
Your head hopping didn't bother me at all--the characters and plot made up for it. And I'm so glad you have other stories brewing. YES!

I've been encouraged by my reviews, especially the ones that said my book made them LOL, encouraged them in a down time, or both.

It's always helpful to get an objective opinion.
Brandi Boddie said…
I enjoyed your book and it's great that others have also given positive reviews. I'm still undecided as to whether I'll read reviews once my book is published in October. Since it's my debut novel, it's likely that I will sneak a peek at what readers have to say :-)
Stacy, yes, keep in mind always that a review is an opinion. Sometimes there are things to learn and other times we just need to blink and move on.

LOL Jaime!!

Lindsay, it can be hurtful, definitely. Especially if we're very close to a story.
Julie, lol, my outlook was positive today...but if I got a scathing review, I think it would be really hard to glean from it. Very hard.

Jeanette, so glad you liked the story!! :-) You're having some wonderful reviews too. Excited for you!

Brandi, that's how I feel. It's my debut and I'm just SO curious. lol Your review rocked, btw. I think it was the first one I got, or close to it, and I was so happy and surprised by it. :-)
Katie Ganshert said…
I've been really intrigued by my reviews. Especially the reaction to my MC, Bethany. Some people LOVE her. Some people HATE her. And some people start out not liking her but end up really empathizing with her.

I sort of like the mixed emotions. I think it makes for interesting discussion.

The reviews have made me realize how important the MC is in a novel!
Katie, I've read some of your reviews and think it's great how people are responding. Even if they start out hating Bethany, by the end of the book (and the fact they still keep reading is awesome), they have a respect, if not a love, for her. Plus, a lot of people have related to her.
Tamika Eason said…
What an exciting time! I'm so happy to hear the experience was more than you imagined!

An author! What grace!
Erica Vetsch said…
Yay! Reviews on your debut novel!! I do read some of my reviews, and I definitely read reviews on books I'm thinking about buying.

It's so fun to know that your book is being enjoyed by people you've never met, and that forever more, you're connected with those readers through the shared experience of story.
I like your point that you can never revise this manuscript. Once it's published, it's really THE END. No more tweaking or eternal editing.

I'm working on deepening my point of view characters. My plot also needs some help.
Elana Johnson said…
I don't know how you stomach reviews. I don't read mine, and I don't view them as critiques. I have betas and CPs and an agent for that, and I find that the general public want to change the story, not comment on the writing. So yeah.

You're braver than me!
Tamika! Yes, it IS exciting. :-)

Exactly, Erica. You said it perfectly.

LOL Susan. I feel you!

Elana, I don't think I'm braver. I'm sure I've had less reviews than you for one, but also, mine have been very kind. I think once they get harsh, it would be harder to read them.
Heather Sunseri said…
I always tell my kids before a soccer tryout or a play audition that you can only do your best. If you do your very best at the time, then what happens after that happens but we can stand tall knowing we did all we could. Now, of course, I think I will struggle BIG TIME with reviews and even constructive criticism, but I think it's a necessary part of the learning process.
Nancy said…
By head hopping, do you mean changing point of view of characters within the same page? I noticed that because I have difficulty with point of view. I don't think you did it a lot. One thing you did was write a page turner without more suspense than I like. It was just such a pleasure to read.
Susanne Dietze said…
What a great outlook you have, Jessie. I admire your teachable spirit.

It's not easy to be thick-skinned about our precious stories. If I'm ever published, I'd have to work on this!
Lauren F. Boyd said…
Congrats on your positive reviews!

If I review a book on Amazon, I usually only do it if I have something positive to say. I can't always say that for the products I review on Amazon though, HAHA!

Keep up the good work, and thanks for commenting on my blog earlier this month! Always great to see you!

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