Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bad Reviews

What happens when you get a bad review?

You can:
1) cry
2) eat a lot of Ben and Jerry's
3) lie in bed and think horrible things about yourself
4) plot revenge
5) throw things at the wall
6) smile and move on

I'm afraid I have done all of the top 5. I'm working on number 6, because grace is important. Right?

My new book is coming out sometime in September. My lovely editor said she loved it more than the first. I don't know if they're paid to say that or not. But then I received my Kirkus review on it. I won't bore you with details, if you're interested, go here. Look, I just made you go to my webpage. Bonus! Anyhoo, as you can see, it was downright nasty. Hateful almost. It made me wonder what I did to upset this reviewer and how could I get them to change their mind?

I didn't cry. Because they gave me a pretty nasty review for the first book. I cried then. I think. I can't remember now. I didn't eat Ben and Jerry's because frankly, I'm lactose intolerant. I didn't lie in bed and think horrible things about myself. Because just that morning, I had spent a lovely time at Starbucks banging off 5,000 brilliant words of my new novel. So I was on a high. I didn't throw anything at the wall. I stopped doing that when I turned 35. I didn't smile either. But I reread what they had written with great intensity and pulled it apart.

Because I was looking for the truth.

Which is something many of us (me!me!me!) do not do enough of. Like when someone sends you an email that hurts your feelings and gets you all ramped up and angry ... but what if it's true? What if what they said that was so hurtful is the truth? No one likes hearing the truth because it may differ from what they think is right. What is important to them.

So I reread it. After praying of course. Because I needed God to show me what was true. To see if what they said had any validity to me. (is that a word? well, it is now.)

And while I won't post the review here, you can visit my website again and that always makes me feel good, and who doesn't love talking about themselves ... but then I realized that the reviewer seemed to have a certain hate-on for Christian writing. No, I know that sounds like a cop-out, and I am not being defensive here, but I honestly think they don't like Christian writing.

Because my writing was compared to 'the Muppets version of the Bible'. Oh, how I laughed.

So here are two epiphanies I've had. And maybe it'll help you, and maybe it won't.

1) I am not going to listen to grown-up reviews for my children's books anymore. Because apparently my writing frustrates adults because I do not write the way grown-ups want. Or it upsets them that I have 'some' toilet humour and I am supposed to be a Christian. Honestly, would they complain if I wasn't with Zondervan? I am more interested in my young audience. Because that is who I am writing for. If I can get them laughing and giggling and get their eyes bright and shiny with joy, I've done my job.

2) Dude. I just got blasted for being too Christian! That is like, the BEST compliment, ever!! It's like being told by a friend that they don't want to be your friend anymore because you put God first! These are good things!

My fellow Christian writers, I ask you, yet again, who are you writing for? Do you love your target audience? Are you seducing them with delicious words and with God's love? Are you making the Christian life seem realistic? Fraught with angst and pain, but oh-so-worth-it in the end? Do people know that you are not a writer, but a Christian writer? I feel like I'm on a soapbox now, pounding my fist in the air.

Because this is where I remind you of this: that our time here is so precious, so quick and limited and then it's over. Are you using your God-given talent to reach people? To touch them, to let them know that God loves them desperately? Don't you want that moment to have someone you don't even know come up to you in heaven and say, "Hi. You don't know me, but I read your book, and it led me to Jesus."?

I'm not saying you have to write about God. Because what if your writing doesn't involve God? Then you'd better be darned sure that you write well enough for the reader to track you down on your website and be amazed at how awesome you are and how much you love Jesus.

Ok. I'm off the soap box now. Forgive me if I was too much for you. Because I am too much.

I'm a Muppet.

Jenn Kelly's second novel - Jackson Jones: the Tale of a Boy, a Troll and a Rather Large Chicken will be coming out September, 2011 and is being published by Zondervan. She is currently working on three novels because she finds it an excellent excuse for not cleaning her house. The one she's working on at the moment is the most fun. Until she's working on a different one.

PS: she apologizes profusely for the bad formatting of this. She is completely useless at computers and secretly wishes for all of us to have pretty pink typewriters.


  1. If there was a row on nails here, you'd have hit every one on the head...poor nails. Wha you say is relevant to not just bad reviews of your writing, but its also true of bad reviews of ourselves I think. And the most important like you say, is going over what has been said, in prayer with God's help.

    This is a really good post and it was brave of you to write it I think.

  2. Awesome post. Thank you for being real and for gracing us with your courage.

  3. @Heckety and @Tessa: thank you. Sometimes it is so hard being brave. I pray for your bravery.

  4. VEry brave of you to actually send us to the bad review! It tells me that you're actually self assured enough not to let it ruin you. A bad review is only one person's take. Blessings to you. (I'd love to have a muppet for a friend!)

  5. So what does this say about a 50-something grandmother (of a child too young YET for your books!) who thinks your writing is hysterical?

    Reviews should be taken with a dash, or a shakerful, of salt.

    Blessings, my friend.

  6. I have heard it said by a couple of authors that a bad review will often sell a book more than a good review because they wanted to see what the reviewer was trying to say. (now that was a bad review not a nasty review)
    I dont know why people have to be nasty in a review. YOu can still put what you dont like in a book without being nasty.

  7. "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." Hebrews 10:39
    It may sound at the outset a bit melodramatic, but I think it is all too true. So often, when we face a little bit of negativity, we react by lashing out, with too much vehemence. When a little bit of that sentiment is warranted, we fall back, crushed under the weight of it. We believe the lie, created from our own minds, "maybe they are right about me".
    The moral of this story is that we need not shrink back from criticism, even unwarranted and heavy-handed, because you know the truth. Believe in yourself and be saved from the lies.