QOTW: Best Compliments and Meanest Remarks

3 Sep

This week, the question comes from Christina, who asks:

What was one of the best compliments you’ve ever recieved from someone who read one of your books (or something you wrote)? And what is one of the meanest remarks that someone said about your book? Did either of these remarks have a huge effect on you?


The compliments that touched me the most came from my reviewers on Fictionpress. I would simultaneously feel bad and elated when readers wrote to tell me they enjoyed my story so much that they stayed up until 2AM and failed a chemistry or math test. Their reactions, not the later ones I received from agents and editors, are what convinced me I had the power of storytelling, and when I feel inadequate or like my books will never be published, I think of them and remember that I can do this.

However, the meanest remarks I received also came from Fictionpress. I remember when I was first starting out with the Antebellum books, one reviewer anonymously flamed me and told me I was going to Hell for writing a story where the primary religious deity was a Godess, not a God. I had earlier explained that I inverted the genders in Christianity, because a male deity didn’t make sense in a world run by women, and apparently that means I’m a blasphemer. If I got that comment now I’d ignore it and never think about it again, but at age 16, receiving my first flame, that comment was a big deal. But other than that I can’t remember a single instance of mean remarks. I guess I should count myself lucky that the good outweighs the bad πŸ™‚

As for having an effect on me, I would say that the positive reactions by readers on FP gave me the confidence to really call myself a writer, and take my career seriously even though I was only a teenager. Their cries that my book must be published probably led me to seek out an agent earlier than I would have on my own.

-The Writer Currently Performing a Complete Rewrite


I think we already did a QOTW months ago where I talked about the best fan letter I ever received, so rather than just rehash what I said back then, I’ll talk about a compliment I recently received.

One of my critique partners, Brigid Kemmerer, is utterly brilliant. Like, not only is her writing amazing, but she’s SUPER smart, and really well-read. When we swapped manuscripts, I was petrified, even though I already had an agent/book deal/etc.. Mostly because when I rewrote QOG for Bloomsbury, I added in a scene (a moment, really) between two of the main characters that had me in TEARS while writing it. At that point, no one else had read the newest draft of QOG, so I had NO idea if that one moment hit home for anyone but myself. I didn’t mention it to Brigid because I wanted to see if she picked up on it on her own.

So, Brigid finished the book, and sent me this quick note before giving me her critique:

“I think moments make a novel. Characters and plot drive a novel, but to really leave a lasting impression, you have to have a MOMENT. That moment with Celaena and Chaol, on opposing sides of the white line? Goddamn, woman. Goddamn. Probably one of my favorite novel moments ever. EVER. Once I got to the big battle, I couldn’t put the book down. I’ve been reading all day.

Yeah, I thought it was fantastic. I loved it…I loved the character interactions, I loved the people, I loved Celaena. Seriously, I want to go read that moment with her and Chaol AGAIN.

I think I’m going to go do that right now.

Wow. Just…wow.”

I seriously read Brigid’s email and burst into tears. Tears of relief, mostly, but also tears of joy that someone else–someone who I really respected and looked up to–had not only understood that moment, but FELT it, too. It made all of the hard work totally worth it.

I guess the meanest remarks I ever received…Well, no one really flamed me on FP, but I definitely recall some of the stinging rejections from agents. I think the first real rejection (long story short: I sent out 3 queries in spring of 2008 for the 240k-word version of QOG…which was ABSURD) hit the hardest. The agent said it wasn’t ready for publication, that the writing wasn’t quite there yet… I pretty much cried for a few days. And I’m fairly certain I swore that I’d never write again (and didn’t write anything for a month). But then I somehow got over it, mostly out of spite, I think. Turns out, that agent was absolutely correct to reject me, because no one in their right mind would represent a 240k-word debut novel.

As for the impact those comments had on me…Well, that first rejection felt like someone ran me over with a truck. My confidence had been bolstered so much by my FP readers that I thought agents would BEG me to be their client! But that was the start of developing a thicker skin, and with each rejection, I cried less and less, and got over it faster (I think by the end, I had like…a 20-minute rebound rate). So, in a way, I have to thank that agent for the harsh first rejection, because I definitely feel better-prepared to face the other hard/difficult parts of publishing…with hopefully a lot less crying. πŸ˜‰

With Brigid, knowing that that scene had resonated with her–and that it was one of her favorite moments in a book EVER–made me wayyyy less terrified to send the manuscript to other CPs, my agent, and then my editor. It’s really amazing how one person can break you down or build you up.

-The Writer With Her First Book Deal


I have had a few “fan mails” for Prada & Prejudice that almost made me cry. One, from a teen, said “Words cannot describe felt and still feel after reading Prada & Prejudice.” She went on to say that she didn’t want to have to return it to the library. It was so sweet and sincere that I mailed her an autographed copy. πŸ™‚

I’ve had some tough ones on both my books, but I am stupid enough to go to goodreads and see them. “Sickeningly cute” and unbearably preachy” are always fun to hear. Prada & Prejudice had one that said, “Oh god I couldn’t get more than ten pages into this. It was terrible.” You don’t know how tempting it is to comment and say, “So you really liked it, huh?”

Luckily, I get far more positive than negative and just pretend the negative ones don’t exist. But now and then, one still stings.

The Literary Agent and Writer with Multiple Book Deals


I’ve definitely been flamed on FP, especially when I decided to take all of my writing down. People told me I was selfish and cruel; one person told me I’d basically ruined her life by taking my work off FP, and that she would never read anything I got published. I think, combined, all of the negative responses I got during that period really stunted my writing for a while. I wasn’t particularly hurt by what they’d said, but it definitely made me feel uncertain as to what I wanted to do, writing-wise, in the future. They made me doubt myself, and that can be a dangerous thing. I got over it, but sometimes I’ll still get an email from someone who’s decided I’m a horrible person for removing my work, and that can definitely bring a person down for the day.

But I’ve also had some really spectacular readers who’ve supported me from day one! They stuck with me when I took my work down, and continue to encourage me. Those are the people I’ll never forget, and have really made a difference in my writing career.

Recently, however, there was one compliment that really struck me as something special. Ironically, it came in the form of a rejection letter. An agent who had requested my full manuscript eventually decided it wasn’t for her, regardless of the fact that she’d enjoyed it. I’d finished reading that sentence and immediately felt my spirits drop. Then came the next sentence, in which she told me she would, however, really like to see any other projects I had, because she’d really liked my writing. We can deny it all we want, but reassurance like that is meaningful and can be a very powerful motivator. She’s the reason I’m really starting to dig in on a new project! Sometimes there really is light amid the darkness.

The Writer Who’s Loving Her Internship


I’ve never been flamed on fictionpress and all the critical feedback I’ve received has been really constructive. So, I always appreciated it, even when it hurt at first. Some of the best comments I’ve had have told me where I went wrong. Nothing has been mean and I’m really grateful for that.

Pretty much any compliment I’ve received has made me giddy with happiness. The best of course have come from people I respect or who get what I was trying to do and tell me that it worked. I think the compliment that made me the happiest told me the reader thought my story was exactly what I wanted it to be (is that vague enough for you?).

-The Writer Revising Between Queries


Did you ever receive a compliment that really encouraged you or a remark that absolutely crushed you?


37 Responses to “QOTW: Best Compliments and Meanest Remarks”

  1. Gabriela Da Silva September 3, 2010 at 12:58 AM #

    I’ve received some very nice comments about my book. The best are of course by “fans” (Jesus it’s weird to say that), for instant a reader who e-mailed me and asked me why couldn’t he find the sequel anywhere! Or the boy who e-mailed me his thoughts on life & love after reading it. Wow!
    Another one that touched me was from a 52-year old woman who loves YA. She liked the book so much she bullied her daughter into reading it… and the daughter liked it too πŸ˜‰

    The worst or meanest comments I’ve gotten are… well, silence. From friends. I had trusted them to read the book (I gave it to them! Free book!) and give me some critical comments… but nothing. They didn’t say anything. And when I asked, one said “It’s cool,” the others shrugged. I would’ve reather hear them say that they didn’t like it than just that *….shrug*. It hurt, but… oh well.

    • svonnah September 3, 2010 at 9:16 AM #

      That’s the problem with non-writer friends… you can be really close in every other part of your life, but they’ll never quite ‘get’ your writing.

      • Gabriela Da Silva September 3, 2010 at 1:18 PM #

        Thing is, these people are writers-to-be as well, or lit critics! Another friend told me jealousy might play a part there, but I don’t wanna believe that.

        I remembered a comment I got, half compliment, half insult. It was,

        “I got your book for Christmas but I didn’t read it cause I thought nothing written by a mexican could be good. But I read it and it was really awesome!!”

        ….do you were gonna pass me over just because I was born in the same country as you?? Only foreigners can write good books?? Glad you liked it, but Jesus O_O

        • Kat Zhang September 3, 2010 at 1:24 PM #


        • Armith-Greenleaf September 5, 2010 at 10:08 PM #

          That’s a problem I’m aware of. Some people think that just because you’re Latin American you musn’t be a good writer. Seriously. It’s mind boggling and… so sad. *ish Latin American too and feels the pain*

          • Susan September 6, 2010 at 8:07 PM #

            Have these people never heard of the amazing Latin American authors? (a major one, for example, being Gabriel Garcia Marquez) Ridiculous.

            • MaGa September 8, 2010 at 12:40 AM #

              It is different when you read and write than it is when you just read. That being said, it doesn’t mean readers won’t ‘get’ your writing or that other writers will.

              It happens. People think you’ll be worse than their same country peers, because the language isn’t yours, because the country isn’t yours. Because we’re different, not European or from the USA and we have to be stupider and not reaching their knees. That doesn’t make it right – not in the moral and not in the literature way. But it is as it is for them.

              Gabriel Garcia Marquez is good – to an extent. But that’s debatable as well. I know well-read people that love him. I know well-read people that hate him. There are a lot of great writers that come from here, not just him. :]

              The Spanish language is richer, but that doesn’t mean we’ll judge/think their writing is unworthy because some adjectives could/are be repeated, or used for different things. The writers tend to have more detailed descriptions, but that doesn’t mean we have to be surprised when one in English does as well. Is it different? Yeah. But different doesn’t have to be judged differently, if that makes any sense.

            • Gabriela Da Silva September 9, 2010 at 10:05 PM #

              Well, I think the main problem is that Latin Americans are identified with certain themes and styles. Magical realism for instance, indigenous literature (about the pre-hispanic natives), political writing/novels, and so on.

              But a Latin American who writes Fantasy?? Or a thriller?? Gods no!! It’ll surely suck!!

              Meh. We’re slowly changing that, I’m sure πŸ˜‰

    • Liesel September 7, 2010 at 2:27 AM #

      I totally understand. My (non-writer) friend’s only comment to one of my stories was: “I think people who like cats will like your book.”

      The book wasn’t about cats. My protagonist had a black cat. That was it.

  2. Leah Scrimshaw September 3, 2010 at 6:13 AM #

    A moment with Celena and Chaol?!? It sounds absolutely wonderful! Chaol, when I read QOG on fictionpress, was by far my favourite character and still is. He was just, amazing!

    • svonnah September 3, 2010 at 9:16 AM #

      I totally agree. Chaol FTW!

    • Sarah J. Maas September 3, 2010 at 11:49 AM #

      Awwww! πŸ™‚ Well, you’ll be pleased to know that he plays an even bigger/more prominent role in Book 1! πŸ˜€

  3. Liesel September 3, 2010 at 7:46 AM #

    I actually saved some of the reviews I’ve gotten from FictionPress. Good ones to remind myself that someone likes my work and constructive ones to remind myself that I’ve got lots to learn.

    Thanks for sharing yours!

    • svonnah September 3, 2010 at 9:17 AM #

      I used to have an email folder where I kept all my favorite reviews! I don’t use that email account anymore, but I still log into it sometimes when I’m feeling down and read the reviews.

      • Liesel September 7, 2010 at 2:29 AM #

        I did that too! But some I copied and pasted because I was afraid that I would lose the password and never see them again.

        I just hope I don’t lose the soft copy. :p

  4. authorguy September 3, 2010 at 8:03 AM #

    The best comment I ever got was a cover quote I got from no less a writer than Tanya Huff, for my first novel. She compared my writing to a classic work of Chinese mythology, of all things! I had one comment from a boy, writing at the urging of his English teacher. I’ve had to go looking for most of my other comments on the web. I’ve often told people, when they buy books from me, to please write the author and tell them what they thought. I doubt many do, though. The silence is pretty bad.

    I never had a reputable bad comment. I had one from a reviewer from a school newspaper, but they flamed everything so…

    • svonnah September 3, 2010 at 9:17 AM #

      Ah, the frequent flamers. God love ’em.

  5. Joana September 3, 2010 at 10:10 AM #

    I’ve received some awesome praise over on FictionPress. I think one of the most absurd was when someone told me that my story was something they could see being made into a Hayao Miyazaki film (you know, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle etc). It was nice, but it threw me for a loop definitely.

    The worst comment I’ve ever received wasn’t on FictionPress but on inkpop, where I originally posted my novel Artistic License. A guy completely trashed it, saying my view on homosexuals was naive and that he had friends who were gay and they’d be completely offended by it. Luckily, it was obvious he’d only read the summary (they’re much longer on inkpop than what you can do on FP) so after talking to some friends, I wrote the guy off πŸ˜› It happens.

  6. Victoria Dixon September 3, 2010 at 11:32 AM #

    I’ve had plenty of both. I remember the first professional rejection I got – long before I started my novel – was from an editor. She said that she couldn’t care less if the ground opened up and swallowed my characters. At the time, I thought it was pretty nasty snark designed to either improve my writing or force me out of the business. That is at least what it did. For five minutes, I cried. It didn’t help it arrived on my 25th birthday, the date I’d set for my first NOVEL’s publication. Then I decided that if I could survive comments like that, I could be a writer. I’ve since realized her comments can be seen in a different light and I’ve also received much more hurtful comments. Like: “This sucks, Vic.” That came from my husband.

    It was the best thing he could have said. Sometimes I need to be hit with a 2×4 before I see the light! That was years ago.

    The best comment I’ve heard yet, “I really liked your writing and I want to see the first 50 pages.”

    • Kat Zhang September 3, 2010 at 11:38 AM #

      Wow, that comment was quite blunt, wasn’t it? But I suppose blunt criticism with real “meat” is better than senseless praise–though the latter is kinder to the ego πŸ™‚

      I’ve been lucky enough to have escaped any truly hurtful comments…I’m not sure I could have stood them as a fledgling writer. I was quite the paper-skinned newbie πŸ˜€ I tell myself and my critiquers I’m much more resilient now, and hopefully, I’m not just fooling myself, lol.

  7. tymcon September 3, 2010 at 12:36 PM #

    “You also had some wonderful description in here that simply sucked my breath away.”, loved that. My description was awful, so idecided to keep working it, and then that comment came in a few months later(swoons)

    I never got mean comments, I got critiscm, but that’s helpful. But i did dislike when soemone completly ignored som esuggestions I made when he read my story. I’m not going to copy and past, but seriously he completly ignored what I said.
    (sigh) A bad writer isn’t necesarily a bad read

  8. Marina September 3, 2010 at 1:15 PM #

    Wow, guys, thank you so much for sharing.
    Most of my praise comes from fictionpress, and a friend I recently made who has helped to really smooth out some of the detail and she was really nice and helpful
    And I’m my own worst critic, I’ve never really received flames and the reviews that point out my mistakes actually help me instead of hurting me. But when I don’t feel right about something, my confidence dips and I feel like I should just give up writing all together. Also, a teacher of mine who failed my short story twice– and it broke my heart, but I was full of my self and now I know he was right to give me a poor grade.

  9. Angela September 3, 2010 at 5:25 PM #

    The flame about the deity makes me laugh for some reason. O.O I know I shouldn`t be laughing because it wasn`t a very nice thing to do, but it`s just silly. I seriously doubt that Savannah wants to put blasphemy in our heads and convert us all to some cult/religion.

    • jenn fitzgerald September 4, 2010 at 11:07 AM #

      Oh no! You’ve discovered her secret plan! Now she’ll make us all drink the kool-aid D:

    • Savannah J. Foley September 6, 2010 at 5:58 PM #

      On the contrary; never underestimate my cult-converting intents!

  10. Meagan Spooner September 3, 2010 at 6:10 PM #

    I’ve been wracking my brain and completely unable to come up with a crushing remark that stuck with me. It’s not that I haven’t had them, because I’m positive I have. I think it’s because I am much more willing to believe criticism than I am praise–so I absorb the criticism, incorporate changes or not, and move on.

    Praise, though… I don’t really believe it, so I go over and over it in my mind, and it sticks with me. I had someone in my Odyssey writing group tell me that a short story I’d written (and sobbed over while writing) made her absolutely bawl. That touched me, to know that how I felt writing it was shared by someone outside of myself reading it.

    Actions, to me, speak louder than words. Right now I have a reader all but killing herself reading versions of my current WIP, doing brainstorming, outlining, critique, line edits, whatever stage I happen to be at–she wants to be a part of it. She loved this book before I did. That really, really speaks to me. I can’t ever give up because of her faith.

  11. Mac_V September 3, 2010 at 7:33 PM #

    Mostly in response to Sarah, I cannot wait for QoG even more now. Chaol was always my favorite. I think he still remains one of my favorite characters out of the many books/stories I have read. I have been looking forward to the revision on its own, but now that I know there’s a scene like that, a scene that is obviously so moving to you and someone you respect? I am anxious beyond belief. I want to know the date when it’s coming out so I can start counting down the days and harass Barnes and Noble to let me pay in advance and get it the day it comes out.

    I’m pretty sure I’m going to cry when I hold it in my hands. Just F.Y.I.


    • Sarah J. Maas September 3, 2010 at 9:53 PM #

      Hahaha, if you cry when you hold it in your hands, make sure you take a picture/video! Because that’d be too good to miss! πŸ™‚

      And YAY for another Chaol fan (he’s one of my favorites, too). He plays a MUCH more prominent role in the series now, which makes me beyond happy. Aghhghhg I can’t wait for you to read it!!!! πŸ˜€

      • Mac_V September 4, 2010 at 1:14 AM #

        Aren’t you glad to know there are so many people waiting to see your book just as much as you are? You just made my DAY (very possibly WEEK!) saying that he’s more prominent. I felt he was there a lot before… I’M EVEN MORE EXCITED NOW! I’m not going to be able to hold still for a month before QoG is released. I think we should through an internet party. Or maybe even a Lj Live Chat about what we think has changed, our favorite characters, etc. ;p


        • Sarah J. Maas September 4, 2010 at 1:18 AM #

          Haha, I’m a little overwhelmed, to be honest! Lots of pressure to deliver something awesome, you know? πŸ™‚

          And I would LOVE to have an internet launch party or something like that! God, that’d be beyond awesome!!!!

          Thanks SO much for all of the enthusiasm–it means the WORLD to me.

  12. Armith-Greenleaf September 5, 2010 at 10:05 PM #

    It was interesting (and amusing!) to read this post and the responses haha. πŸ˜€

    The meanest remark I’ve gotten was on FictionPress for a one-shot:

    “er… were you drunk when you wrote this?

    i was a bit disappointed with this story after having read *another story name*.”

    It was followed by a reply on my part that went something like “Wow, this is the first truly discouraging review I’ve ever gotten. You didn’t like it, that’s cool, but you don’t need to offend me with comments like that while you could have gotten your point across in a more constructive way.” Or something, that was a year or so ago. The person then PMed me to say it wasn’t their intention to offend me and they were sorry, and I couldn’t PM back to say it was alright because they had (still do) the PM feature off.

    Best comment and compliment I’ve gotten, aside from random “I’M YOUR #1 FAN!” was when a friend told me there was something about my writing that just made her feel happy. I can’t express how happy that made me!

    • Kat Zhang September 5, 2010 at 10:11 PM #

      Aww, what a sweet thing for your friend to say πŸ˜€

  13. Olga September 12, 2010 at 11:02 AM #

    The best compliments I’ve ever gotten were on FP. For Dangerous Game. I love that story for no other reason than sarcasm. It started with one silly line and just went on from there. Maybe in a few years I’ll do something with it, maybe I won’t. But it was shocking and wonderful to discover that people liked it – they really liked it!!

    The WORST comments I’ve ever gotten on anything were for an old fanfiction I write when I was 16. Mostly because the main character was a Mary Sue. And she was – I know that. But I loved her then and I love her now and nothing will ever change that!! I LOVE YOU ED!!! ❀

    • Kat Zhang September 12, 2010 at 1:04 PM #

      Hehe, have you read Biljana’s article on Mary Sues? They do have a special place in a new writer’s heart πŸ˜›

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