Stephanie Hurt – Romance Author

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Make bad reviews work for you…

Good Tuesday morning! Let’s talk about reviews. Yes, I know, some say don’t read them. Some say read them. Me, I read them. But how do we react when we read them? Anger? Confusion? Laughter? Happy? Sad? There’s a lot of things that go through your head when you read reviews of your work. But I have a couple of things to discuss with you about them.

Make them work for you…

What am I talking about? Well, hear me out… Bad reviews can go two ways, one being they are just nasty and have no meaning for your writing, or two, they are well thought out reviews that can tell you something about the work.

Let’s talk about some ways to use bad reviews to make your work better. Here goes:

1: There are misspelled words and grammatical errors!

                We know that it doesn’t matter how many times your work is edited and even if it’s by the best editor out there, mistakes can be missed. I’ve read some of the bestsellers out there that have some mistakes that weren’t caught. SO, use that bad review as a reason to read through your work just one more time with a critical eye.

                Now, do remember, some people are not experts and what they think is a grammatical error, really isn’t. But, I still go back over my work, just in case I missed something, or my editor did. It’s worth the effort in the end. Especially if you get several reviews about the same problem.

2: The book was left on a cliffhanger!

                Ok, this one shocked me the first time I read it. When I read a book that’s part of a series, most of the time I expect a cliffhanger to get me to read the next one. Think about a series on television. They always leave you at the end of the season wondering what the heck just happened and what will happen next. The reason I put this one in my post is because if you get this and it bothers you, then insert a sentence in your description that says, ‘This book ends on a cliffhanger’. That way you don’t have to worry about a reader not understanding that it’s a series and can end on a cliffhanger.

3: The characters were not fleshed out…

                If you get this one, maybe look back at your work and see if you never described your main characters. I know that as a reader, I love to be able to picture the characters in my mind. I’ve received this type of review before and realized that I was so into writing the story, I never fleshed my character out. Yep, that was a facepalm moment for me. Go ahead and add a little description, because as a writer, you know in your mind that you have a picture in your mind of the character.

4: The book was too short… or This book was too long…

                Now this one took me by surprise. But yes, reviewers have opinions on the length of your book. There are those that don’t like them too long and those that don’t like them too short. My thoughts on this are, input in your description, at the end, ‘This is a novella’ or ‘This is a full-length book’. Maybe that little key point will stop some of those lower star reviews.

5: The story doesn’t flow well…

                Now this can be a problem if your story doesn’t flow well. My suggestion is to read the manuscript out loud and don’t do it as the writer, do it as a reader. Meaning, in your mind, you’re the reader wanting to be entertained by the story. Believe me, I do this with my books before I publish them and its eye opening. Sometimes I wonder what on earth was I thinking…

Now there are many more aspects of reviews to look at. Also look at the good ones. This keeps you motivated and let’s you know what your dedicated readers loved. Of course, there will always be those that give a bad review just to do it. I’ve had those.

If you do have a review that’s particularly nasty and doesn’t match your book, report it to the distributor whether it be Amazon, Barnes and Noble or iTunes. I had one that mentioned characters that weren’t even in my book. I reported it to Amazon and the review disappeared. But I had one that didn’t represent my book and they didn’t take it down.

The moral of the blog is this, use even the bad reviews for good. Let them roll off your back and move forward. Now, if you get only bad reviews, then I would definitely take another look at the work. But hey, smile and keep writing. A writer has to have a thick skin. Sometimes when I get my work back from my editor, I have to thicken my skin and push through it. So, keep up the good work!

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…

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Not perfect, well it’s the first draft…

First off, let me get this out there. My March Madness Sale is ongoing on my website. Today is Slide3

SO go by my website and get 20% off my paperbacks. Everyday is a different deal and some days are a mystery amount that includes a mystery gift…

Well, on to today’s soapbox drama… How’s your first draft look? If it’s perfect then you put too much work into it. I know, you’re looking at the screen and thinking I’m crazy, well you’re half right. Your first draft should be just that, your first draft. This is where you get the story down in words, not the perfect, ready for publishing manuscript. That’s why it’s called the first draft.

My first draft’s always look like a murder scene after I get through with them. They’re grammatically horrible and so out of sorts. This is where I throw everything I have at the keyboard and pay no attention to the details of spelling and paragraph breaks. Especially when I use my dictation program on my phone.

I sat the other night in a warm bath with my favorite lavender/ chamomile bath salts. A idea for my current work in process came into my mind, so I grabbed my phone and started dictating the idea. The next morning when I downloaded it into my draft document I laughed until I cried. It was horrible. If you’ve ever worked with a dictation program then you know what I mean. Many times I was so caught up in the story that I forgot to say ‘new paragraph’ or ‘open quote, end quote’. It was plain out pitiful.

It took me a few minutes to clear up the mess. Yes I do go ahead and clean the downloads from the dictation program so that I understand what the heck I was saying. I’ve actually deleted several paragraphs of my first drafts and that’s painful, but needed. Some days I get to about 3/4 of the way done and realize I don’t like where my first draft is headed, so I change the direction.

I do recommend editing your first draft before you send it to your editor. If your first drafts are like mine then it’s a must because my editor would put it back on my desk and say ‘what?’.

So how’s your first draft look when you hit the end?

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…