When you read that term, I’m almost certain your mind conjures up bratty teenagers that bully their peers online. Am I correct? Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you it can happen to adults as well. I came against this just a short while ago. I’m an adult who writes stories and posts them on fanfiction.net. I’m not a child. I don’t write childish things. I’m currently posting a story. Yes, you can occasionally get a bad review. Who doesn’t? This went beyond that.
In order not to name names and open myself up to even more problems, I’m going to call the bully John. Yes, as in John Doe.
I met John via Twitter when he followed my account. He’s a British self-published writer with his first book out on Amazon. At first, it was fun talking to him. Cultural differences aside, the conversations were more often debates about some topic and always ended on a good note. Then I started posting my latest story. I’d tweet chapter releases, letting my followers on Twitter know.
John started reading the story, unasked. The first time he left one of his reviews, I figured he was just trying to be helpful. He had a few good points, though the review itself was quite negative. I thanked him for the review, but didn’t say much about the content. Given it was a “guest” review, I deleted it out of my fanfiction account.
The next chapter, John left another “review.” This one was worse than the first one. I finally sent him a direct message, asking him to stop. As I told him, the point of fanfiction is to have fun writing. Yes, it’s also a great place to learn how to write and on occasion, a reviewer will leave constructive criticism that helps the writer learn. That’s not what this review was. It was a very rude and he once again didn’t make even one positive comment. In fact, he point blank told me he didn’t intend to stop as he felt I needed to learn more about writing. I deleted his review again and decided to try to ignore him.
By his third review, John was attacking my writing style. Insisting that I needed to rewrite the entire story in past tense. I don’t write in past tense, never have. From the first story I wrote, I’ve always used third person present tense. My only reply to him was I’d rewrite my entire story in past tense when he rewrote his entire book in present tense and republished it. He made no further comments and I hoped he got the point.
Man, how wrong I was.
The next couple of reviews, I just deleted and didn’t comment. I hoped the old adage was true. Ignore a bully and they go away. Paying attention to them feeds the beast. I no longer talked to him Twitter. Didn’t reply to any of his tweets, even when they were targeted at me. Sadly, ignoring him didn’t work for me either.
His last review was the final straw. I didn’t read it, but a friend of mine did. To say she lost it is an understatement. It kind of tells you how bad it was. At that point, I blocked John from my Twitter account. That did seem to get the point across. He has since stopped reviewing my story, though I’d occasionally still see a hit from United Kingdom on my counters.
John was a cyber bully. He was right, I was wrong, and he was damn sure going to make sure I knew it. Most of my experiences with other writers online have been good. I’d like to say I’ve learned as much from them as they have learned from me. But there is a subset of writers out there who think it is their duty to teach the rest of us ignorant start-ups. To call these writers pretentious is giving them a compliment.
I’ve always been in the camp of write what works for you. If you like past tense, write past tense. If you like to write present tense, write it! If you only want to write erotica with no real plot, go for it, just don’t ask me to read it.
Live and let live.
If you don’t like something, vote with your feet and go find something else to read. There are more books out there than me or anyone else will ever be able to read in their lifetime. There is no need to drag a writer through the mud just because you don’t like their story.
Now, I’m all for constructive criticism. Sadly, people forget what that term means. It doesn’t mean you get to trash someone’s hard work just because you don’t like it. It means you point out what you don’t like or feel needs work while also saying what you like about a story. Positive comments as well as negative comments. However, the negative points should never be an attack on the writer.
So how do you deal with cyber bullies? I don’t know that I can tell you that. Everyone is different and so are their experiences. Do what it takes to get them out of your life. Block their accounts, turn them in, ignore their comments and hope for the best. Don’t feed the beast so they attack you more. The most important thing is not to run. Keep writing, keep posting and don’t let them get you down.
Bullies are everywhere, just don’t stoop to their level.