“COMMA” SUTRA? – How I Turned a Negative Book Review into a Satisfying Experience

In Uncategorized, Writing Inspiration by Jennifer Brown Banks | |

COMMA SUTRA How I Turned a Negative Book Review Into a Satisfying Experience

At first, his words left me speechless. And for someone like me, who earns a living spinning words, that’s quite a feat. For days, in the aftermath, I felt uninspired and misunderstood.

But for greater clarity here, let me rewind to the beginning …

A long-awaited professional review on an E-book I launched for writers, back in October, had finally arrived.

I was so nervous, I needed a cigarette; and I don’t even smoke.

Once I opened the email that arrived in my inbox, I knew there would be no turning back.

With this being my first, I really had no idea what to expect.


To put it mildly, it was an “eye-opening” experience. The reviewer’s assessment and scrutiny of my book, “The Science of Choosing the Right Clients” made me feel as “exposed” as a hospital examination gown. And left me just as cold.

Silly me; I thought that because this was my first, he would be gentle. Wrong.

Not only did his rough comments attempt to reduce future errors in my writing, they temporarily reduced my spirit.

He wrote, and I quote: “Punctuation is a concern; the excessive use of commas in particular was at times distracting.”

There it was in black and white for the whole world to see: I sometimes have, well… drama with my commas.

I sometimes have, well… drama with my commas. Click To Tweet

As a professional scribe, I know their intended usage. Still, I sometimes apply them more than I probably should, (considering it more of a stylistic preference—like wearing white after Labor Day) .


It was a minor thing. I really didn’t think that this teeny-weeny flaw merited mention in the overall review.

But here’s how I wrote my own happy ending to this saga. And you can too, in the face of negative feedback–whether it‘s a blog comment, book review, customer gripe, or feedback from your critique group members.

7 Practices and principles to overcome bad reviews:

1. Don’t sweat it.

Reviews are merely one person’s opinion; they are not gospel. Think of it this way. Have you ever gone to see a movie that was highly touted as a “ box office hit” only to be disappointed? Reviewers can sometimes get things wrong.

2. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Sometimes we need to hear things that are uncomfortable about our work. But here’s the good thing about it: knowing our creative weaknesses can actually help us to develop, grow, strengthen our creative muscles, and write with greater accuracy and acumen. Especially if the sentiment is echoed by different people.

Don’t let your ego get in the way of your excellence. Assess and apply accordingly.

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3. Humor helps.

When I was able to regroup, reframe my thoughts, and have a cup of herbal tea, I actually had a chuckle or two at my own expense. (Hence the title “Comma Sutra”). Lighten up. As they say: “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

4. Don’t retreat. Reload.

In the face of embarrassment, it’s natural to sometimes have a tendency to want to quit, or hide out for awhile. Resist. Instead, have a private pity party, then get back into gear.

In the words of author and pastor T.D. Jakes: “ Never allow another person’s actions to control how you see yourself.”

5. Keep a balanced perspective.

When I allowed myself to revisit the review, I was able to recognize that it wasn’t ALL bad. The reviewer actually provided a few comments that were positive and encouraging. But a common habit for many of us is to focus and hone in on the negative. Embrace it all for optimal results.

6. Write about it.

Bad situations often produce good stories, essays, blog posts, or poems. Which means that you, my friend, have the opportunity to purge your emotions, tell your side, and possibly get paid in the process. And how’s that for sweet revenge? Start the new year off by purchasing a pretty journal to chronicle your relationships, creative ideas, story outlines, goals and struggles. It will enhance your productivity, enlighten you, and help to organize your thoughts.

7. Remain flexible.

When our ideologies, ways of expression or methods become so fixed and rigid that we absolutely refuse to entertain the opinions and suggestions of our readers, or fail to be open to new things, we stunt our growth and compromise our potential.

In conclusion…

Negative feedback sometimes comes with the territory. Even amid our best efforts, as writers, we face the risk of being misunderstood; of unintentionally offending someone; or being challenged by people who have different belief systems or approaches to the creative process. Don’t be bitter, be better.

Writing criticism got you down? 'Don’t be bitter, be better' Click To Tweet

It’s a small price to pay for such great rewards and the opportunity to change lives through our individual perspectives, life experiences, miss-steps and messages.

About the Author

Jennifer Brown Banks

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, award-winning blogger and relationship columnist. Her work has been featured online and in print publications such as: PRO BLOGGER, Men With Pens, Tiny Buddha, Write to Done, Honey Magazine and Date my Pet. Her Blog, Pen & Prosper has been honored as a "Top Writing Blog" for 2013-2016. When she's not being creative at the keyboard, she digs being creative in the kitchen.