Writers Behaving Badly

March 30, 2011

Any writer anywhere near a Twitter account for the last week has seen the goings-on over at Big Al’s Books and Pals Blog. A self-published author received a negative review, and she self-imploded. The whole circus made me think about writer behavior on the Internet and how our actions impact our careers.

When I was writing non-fiction, I wrote an article about cloth vs. disposable diapers. In the article, I aimed for balanced information, but I guess it was too balanced. Some readers were offended by my less-than-hard-line stance on the topic. They took to newsgroups and message boards, bashing the magazine and me. I could handle the name calling, but what I couldn’t handle were the attacks on my journalistic integrity. When hate mail started coming by email to the magazine’s front office, I asked for permission to receive and respond to those emails. And I did.

I understand the need to defend oneself after a personal (or seemingly personal) attack. What I don’t understand is telling a bunch of strangers (potential readers, editors, agents, publishers, etc.) and a book reviewer to f*#k off. It’s pitiful at best and career suicide at worst.

While I sit here shaking my head, I’m reminded that I’m not a published fiction author (yet), and I don’t know what it feels like to receive a negative review. I’m thinking I’ll pass on reading any reviews once I’m blessed enough to have them written. Although I have self-control and a somewhat-thick skin, I also have an ego and a heart—both of which (when bruised or battered) lead me into sketchy situations from time to time. I don’t want to risk the self-implosion. The internet makes it far too easy to make asses out of ourselves while the whole world is watching.

So to borrow from my mother’s bits of wisdom: “Behave. Do your best. They’re watching.”

Sound familiar? Little did we know the proverbial “they” would end up being the entire world.

2 Responses to “Writers Behaving Badly”

  1. KimberlyFDR Says:

    As someone who has received reviews on multiple fictional works and someone who writes reviews of fictional works for a number of blogs, the rule is simple (though hard to follow). When you receive good reviews, thank the reviewer for taking the time to review. When you receive bad reviews, thank the reviewer for taking the time to review or don’t respond at all.

    It may be hard to bite your tongue or proclaim “but you don’t understand!” when you receive a bad review, but the bottom line is that you are never going to please everyone and you’re not going to change anyone’s mind by behaving badly.

    I do feel sorry for the writer in question that she has essentially burned her bridges by acting in such a negative manner. The interconnection of writers, agents, reviewers, publishers, and readers today (made possible by social media) means that you have to be conscious of how you present yourself. You never know who might be watching.

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