Putting a positive spin on the negative – Michelle Vernal

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By Michelle Vernal

My morning routine sees me stagger down the stairs in search of coffee and once the caffeine begins to circulate and I feel my brain switch on, I turn on my laptop. Upstairs the sounds of my two sons stampeding down the hall and arguing over who gets the first shower reverberate as I scroll through my Facebook feed before checking to see if any emails have arrived overnight. 

Once satisfied there is no breaking news, I head over to Amazon to see where my books are sitting in the sales ranking and whether they have received any new reviews. Now, given that getting people to write a review can be as hard as getting your wisdom teeth pulled a new review is indeed breaking news.

If this shiny new review happens to be of the five-star variety, then it is as though the sun has suddenly broken through a hazy morning sky. The squabbling of my children cannot penetrate the bubble of happiness I am sitting in as the words of praise are read and re-read. I call out to my husband that I’ve had a good review and make a mental note to ring my Mum to read it to her once the troops have been packed off to school. Here before me is confirmation that the blood, sweat, and tears (coffee, chocolate, and wine) responsible for writing my book were worth it. Some lovely person has read all 103,099 words of it and loved them enough to tell the world this. It’s why I write and the rest of the day is bathed in a rosy hue.

If I flip the coin, however, and find somebody has posted not-so-glowing comments then my mood plummets. Why do I bother? I can’t do this. Who am I kidding? These are the thoughts that race through my head while I set about banging the cereal bowls down on the table. A short while later with the boys sorted and off to school, I sit down to begin my day of writing only nothing happens. The story will not flow because, after all, what’s the point? I can’t do this.

Enough! I shout at myself.

First things first, not everybody is going to like my style of writing just as I don’t like every book I pick up and read. It’s not personal, and I need to keep perspective. Secondly, all novelists receive poor reviews from time to time, even the superstars of the literary world. A quick flick onto hmm let’s say Marian Keyes to affirm that yes, even she will receive the odd bit of ‘I didn’t gel with this book’ feedback. Then, thirdly and lastly I re-read the review that has got my knickers all knotted and instead of thinking of the comments as negative I try to view them as constructive. Have people made pointers about my writing like this before? If the answer is yes, then that is something I need to address. It is arrogant not to because taking constructive and well thought out criticism on board can only serve to make me a stronger writer. Writing is, after all, an every evolving craft and one that I am constantly learning.

I stop thinking about opening the pantry door to retrieve the multi-pack of grain wave chippies, bought for the boys’ lunches. One pack is never enough. And instead, I get back to work. There’s a new novel I need to be getting on with.

Michelle Vernal is a HarperCollins author who loves a happy ending. She lives with her husband and their two boys in Christchurch, New Zealand. She’s partial to a glass of wine, loves a cheese scone and has recently taken up yoga. She is a freelance writer for a Canterbury lifestyle magazine who has written six novels to date. Her latest novel, Sweet Home Summer — a story all about discovering what really matters in life — was released in January.



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    February 6, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Great story Michelle. Keep up the great work. And, stay away fro thos evil grain waves.

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    February 7, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Lovely story! Until you & I became friends I really never realized just how important it is to write that review, especially when you so loved the book (love all of yours). I’m sorry for the ones I never wrote 😿. ❤️You deserve all the waves (chips?) that you want! Wash them down with alittle wine.

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