Monday, October 27, 2014

Surviving Online Comments

Feedback can be the life and death of a writer. When I go to critique group, it feels great to find out that a scene I struggled with actually worked for everyone. On the other hand, comments of “I didn’t understand this” or “This would not have happened with a real bomb” make me fidgety. I like hearing good things.

But that’s a safe environment. I know that when someone says they didn’t understand a scene, they will try to give me ideas for fixing it. If they know more about bombs than I do (and they usually do), they tell me. It’s very unlike the Internet, where trolls abide like the plague.

The most painful comments I’ve received online were for a bit of ghostwriting I did for a client. Every once in a while I look through the site to see how many views or comments my pieces have. I tend not to actually read many comments, since it’s not my job to answer them.

Last month, however, I read the remarks on one article and got a huge ego boost. Everyone said the subject really spoke to them. They loved it. So, of course, I decided it couldn’t hurt to read the comments on another one of my articles, one I was relatively proud of.

Big. Mistake.

It was like getting ding-dong ditched, punched in the nose, laughed at, and pansed in public, all at the same time. The comments were so awful that I read back through the article, trying to figure out what had offended people. My conclusion was that half of the people only read the first two or three paragraphs. A quarter read most of the blog while they were watching TV and talking to their boyfriend. And the remaining quarter read the whole thing with full attention.

If you want to be a professional writer, you will face months like this. People will read your short story or blog or novel or poem, and they will react like you said you like killing small children. It will sting, and it will be beyond frustrating. It hasn’t quite been long enough for me to say, “If you stick with it, look what happens!” I don’t know what will happen in my case or in yours. But I do know that writers before me have also received bad reviews and nasty online comments, and they’ve survived.

And, hey, if we can survive online haters, we can survive anything.

How do you feel about reading online comments? Yea? Nay?

This month Michelle has also survived a crazy wasp in a plumbing store, a texting driver on the highway, and ceiling tiles with a mind of their own. It’s been an adventure, to say the least. 


  1. I'm sorry to hear about the comments! That's definitely no fun. It amazes me how people can be so utterly rude. I've had my fair share of this around the web and while I deal with it better now, it can still sting.

  2. I thought about trying to write for Cracked, being a consummate smart aleck, but the comments terrify me. There are so many negative things said in response to the articles. I've had good luck with it on my blog, but I'm not sure my self esteem can take the things they say online about articles. I'm sorry you ran across those negative ones. Go back and read the good ones again!

  3. It definitely sucks getting negative comments. And the idea that it means "we tried" doesn't help when there's real venom in what's said. I think that's why so many people dislike (or even hate) the anonymity of the internet.

  4. Exactly. I wonder how many people who are so cruel in comments even realize how rude they are being. Whatever happened to, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all"?