As my prize for making it into the Quarterfinal round of Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest, co-sponsored by Penguin Books and Publishers Weekly, I was to receive a professional review of my manuscript from a PW reviewer.
Even though I was eliminated from the contest during the last round, I was looking forward to receiving my review, because I felt it would give me some specific areas on which to work to improve my writing. Anyone who has tried to break into this field knows how difficult it is to get any kind of professional guidance without breaking the bank, and I already have that area covered more than adequately with three kids to put through college.
You know that expression, "Be careful what you ask for?" I'm pretty sure it was invented specifically to cover this situation. I received my review a few days ago, and suffice it to say there was NO danger of me advancing to the Semifinal Round if this review had anything to do with it.
Now, just in case there's any doubt in your mind, let me be clear about something: I have absolutely NO problem with getting a review that is critical of my work. None. In fact, I expected exactly that, since, after all, I was eliminated. But if this anonymous reviewer, whoever he is (The review is unsigned, which I feel is a little unfair - it's easy to lob grenades if nobody knows who you are), had his way, I'm guessing he would forbid me to write anything ever again, including a grocery list or anything else.
There were a couple of constructive things I could take out of the review - things I can look toward improving in my writing - such as some of my characterizations and dialogue, but for the most part, this review was, I felt, an unfair and unnecessarily harsh attack. Just in case I missed his point that he didn't like my manuscript, he concludes by calling it "an unnecessary litany of vomit." And, yes, that is the exact quote.
I will be the first to admit, reading something like those words, tossed off so cavalierly about the product I have spent literally hundreds of hours working on, hurts more than a little bit. It feels a little like, well, like that acidy taste you get in your throat when you, you know, vomit. It sucks to be ridiculed and made to feel small, and I believe that was the whole point of this review.
But I am nothing if not resilient. And determined. Because I know I can write; the fact that I am up for two Derringer Awards says something about that, just as much as this PW review does. I accept that not everyone will like my work. I accept that there is the very real chance hardly ANYONE will like my work; I'm not blind or stupid.
But I do not accept that my work is vomit, and this setback will make my ultimate success that much sweeter.
Thank you for putting up with my cathartic rant. I don't know about you, but I feel much better now. I'd love to stay and chat, but I've got to get busy. My vomitus doesn't write itself, you know...