When your work is under attack
I publish erotic fiction under half a dozen pennames, so it seems normal that I have to deal with a bit of unfair criticism every now and then. While I'm pretty confident in my writing skills and generally not an easy victim to prey on, I don't even want to imagine how many talented new writers were scared away from doing what they love by some random idiot on the web. In this article, I want to show you how to stay cool when someone takes a huge unjustified dump on one of your texts.
Trolls are magical, nearly invulnerable creatures, which can live hundreds of years and lift up to four times their body weight. Internet trolls, on the other hand, are mostly just random assholes without any real skills that get a kick out of ruining someone's day.
These trolls can be classified as sadistic beings that enjoy sucking all the fun and energy out of their prey. They’re not interested in giving any helpful review, they’re spreading misinformation on purpose, and they certainly cannot be reasoned with.
An attack can happen anywhere. It might start out as a seemingly innocent message on Facebook or as aggressive as an insulting comment on your Blog.
Luckily, here on Belle we get to enjoy a pretty tight troll control system, but out in the wild, anyone of us can become a target.
You might be surprised that even experienced writers can fall victim to troll attacks, because they hit us where it really, really hurts.
Our texts are our babies after all. We spend a lot of time writing them and caring for them, we put our hopes and love into them and sometimes we even carry them within us for a couple of months, before we finally get them on paper.
Even if someone has legitimate and constructive criticism on your texts, it can sometimes be hard not to enter a defensive stance right away. So when a troll comes along to intentionally insult your work without any valid reason, it’s no surprise it can feel like someone is punching your child in the face.
It is important, that we never ever walk into a trolls trap and play right into their hands by rushing into a fight with them. Our only weapon is to get as emotionally distanced as humanly possible.
To demonstrate you how diverse such attacks can be, here are three common examples of typical troll comments:
Luckily, no one ever said that to me. Long ago, I was a beginner too, and not as confident as I am today. Sadly I have seen comments like this all over the internet. This is simply never true and even if you had no talent, that’s no valid reason to stop doing what you love. Whoever uses phrases like this, especially against beginners, deserves absolutely no respect, no matter how talented they are themselves.
You may be dealing with a fundamentalist here. I'm not a fan of the "don't like - don’t read" attitude, but some people really seem to deliberately search for publications they aggressively disagree with. Maybe their moral values are incompatible with yours, maybe they’re still stuck in a past century or maybe they don't have even have any real opinion at all, and just want to piss you off. Whatever the case, don't try to convince a fundamentalist. As long as your work is in accordance with the law and the rules of your publishing platforms, you don't really need to convince them anyway.
What you do is art, period. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There’s always a "classic" writer guy who thinks lowly of fantasy and science-fiction novelists. There are bigots who consider even the smartest erotic story as nothing but porn. And some people will try to convince you that writing fanfiction is nothing but a waste of time. They’re completely wrong. That’s all there is to say about that.
Yeah, I know this sounds a little cliché, but it’s true. Trolls do what they do, because they are getting joy out of making you mad. Stay calm and tell yourself: "Okay, a troll just picked me as a victim. He will try everything he can come up with to lure me out of defense, but since I am a smart person and have read Meg's article, he clearly made the wrong choice."
Try not to care what the troll thinks about you. You won’t change their opinion and that’s a hard fact.
Your audience’s opinion of you, however, will change, if you lower yourself to the attacker’s standards.
If you really feel the need to react, you can calmly but firmly disagree with the troll, but one message should do it - don’t start a debate.
Your fans will appreciate your professional approach.
You cannot fight a troll in a discussion – this is exactly what they want. Arguing with them is like dueling a werewolf who wears a bulletproof west.
On most platforms however, the law will be on your side. So instead of waging a hopeless battle on your own, simply ask your local mod or admin to snipe them down with a well placed silver bullet.
If the attack happens on your own blog then that’s even better – you’re the Sheriff yourself. All it takes is a smile and one press of the ban-button.
Especially when you’re using a penname, trolls may say insulting things like: "You're never [insert your age]. I think you’re just some teenager brat who wants attention!"
While there is nothing inherently wrong with being a teenager, accusations like this really hurt. Why? Because it’s incredibly really rude if somebody tells you flat out: "I don't believe you! You're lying."
I know, you’re upset, but please resist the urge to prove them wrong by mailing them a copy of your driving license.
In situations like this, I like to reply with: "To be honest, I don’t really care about what you think." Garnish it with a cute smiley if you want, and ignore every further response.
After having to deal with a troll, you'll still be feeling very depressed and/or angry. You may have successfully handled the attack, but you're still reeling on the inside, constantly doubting yourself. It can happen to the best. Even happens to me, and I'm pretty hard-boiled.
It’s very important that you get up and shake it off as soon as possible, because feelings like that can linger with you for days or even weeks. They can have a severe impact on your productivity and even the quality of your texts.
Here is some advice on how to apply some emotional first aid, restore your good vibes and get that creative juices flowing again.
Always remember this: As long as even a single person loves your work, you should never stop, no matter how much someone else disagrees.
If you have a writing community, you might want to tell them about what just happened. You'll instantly feel better if you talk about it in a safe environment, and you're bound to get plenty of emotional support. If you currently do not have a writing community, I'd say it's about time you got one.
*cough* Join Belletristica *cough*
Now don't get me wrong: You should always be grateful for harsh but genuine criticism, and appreciate your audience's feedback, but don't you ever dare adjusting your writing style, just because someone attacked you in an unfair manner and you're afraid it might happen again. I know, experiences like that can be haunting, but try to imagine how disappointed I would be, if I found out that you let yourself be bullied into writing your next chapter in a way you did not want to.
Putting on some happy tunes, playing your favorite videogame or taking a walk outside can really help you to feel better. For me, a random episode of Adventure Time is a surefire way to get my mood back up where it belongs.
Wanna see something that’s really great? If yes, then go take a look in the mirror. Because you, dear sir or madam, are an interesting person and what you do really matters.
You're writer. An artist. A wizard who magically creates something out of nothing. Now open up your text editor and do what you do best, I believe in you.
No really, I believe in you. And you can quote me on that.
I hope this article was helpful to you. Have you ever been attacked by a troll? How did you react? Share your experiences in the comment section below!