Monday, August 19, 2013

My First Time: Doreen McGettigan

My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands.  Today’s guest is Doreen McGettigan, author of Bristol boyz Stomp, a memoir of the random road rage murder of her brother, musician David Albert; Sophie, the true story of a homeless woman Doreen and her husband took in and cared for; and The Father’s Pain, the true story of her seventeen-year-old stepson’s suicide.  Doreen has written for several Philadelphia-area newspapers, is an active member of the Press Club, and serves as an advocate for crime victims and the elderly.  She lives in Delaware County, Pennsylvania with her husband John and two yappy dogs.  Click here to visit her website.

My First Bad Review

There it was, that one yellow star shining like a fiery beacon shot straight out of every author’s private hell.

I felt dizzy, nauseous and had trouble focusing on the words that followed that one lonely star.

I held my breath and began to read my first-ever one-star review.  As I read the words, a hard, dry lump formed in my throat and my eyes filled with tears, making it that much harder to read.  It said something to the effect of I was a psycho and should not be trusted with children, my book was full of grammatical errors and more…Ouch and ouch.  What did me being a psycho have to do with my story, anyway?  And of course, I am not even a psycho, I hope.  Grammatical errors?  "Seriously?!" I shouted at my computer monitor.  I spent hours upon hours working with an editor and then many more hours with my publisher’s editor and then a conceptual editor.  I knew the book was NOT full of grammatical errors, but still those words stung.

My first instinct was to comment on the review, typing in all caps, calling the bully a liar and many other choice words.  I was however, strongly urged to keep my revenge-happy typing fingers to myself.

My writer friends shared their own review horror stories with me, and they all agreed, do not respond.

One of my favorite writers, Kate Fratti told me that when I chose to tell a true story about a real murder and decided to use the real names of everyone involved, I opened myself up for such attacks.  She said I wrote the book and that was my say.  It was my right to do so and now I had to give others the opportunity to have their say.

I hated that advice but she was right.

While writing the book, I never once thought about the murderers or their families, friends or other weirdos writing or saying anything about the book, much less anything negative.  I also never thought the book would get any review, let alone a bad review.  It was not presumptuous of me, it was just that I never read reviews and I certainly never wrote one back then.  I had no idea how much weight they carried, how much anxiety they caused and how sharply they could attack and damage our sensitive egos.

Once I had taken all the good advice to heart, and was ready to put it all behind me and move on, I had to read the words one more time.  Yep, they were still there with that damn one star shining brighter than ever.  I noticed there were comments after the review.  I was filled with anxiety, but then as I read those comments, I was overcome with relief and so grateful.  People who actually read the book took the time to come to my defense.

Since then a few more of those one stars have shown up but so have some legitimate reviews.

I now read and write reviews for everything from restaurants, toys, cars, doctors and pet products.  If I bought it, used it or read it, chances are I am reviewing.  I do not write negative reviews.  If I really hate something, I let it go.  I try to be fair and honest.

My marketing rep told me great sales figures will trump any review, good or bad, any day.

One day, I would love to say that bad reviews do not bother me but I doubt that will ever be true.  I am human and I am sensitive.  I will continue to work at fine-tuning my writing and hope the good reviews always outnumber the bad ones.


  1. Even our most favorite books out there have one-star reviews. It happens to everyone. You're in good company, Doreen. :) Great post and keep writing!

    1. Thank you Dina. I've ordered a thicker skin for my next book.

  2. I can only imagine how that stung. Since my first book was a children's book I've been spared, I guess. I doubt many people bother with bad reviews for that genre.

    But, the post I did on my blog about Home The comments were all over the place but, in the end the bad ones made me laugh. So many times I read, "Everyone's entitled to their opinion..." only to have them eventually tell me mine was wack and I was an idiot!

    As the old saying goes...opinions are like A-holes, everybody's got one.
    Good post Doreen!

  3. Ouch! The thought of a one star review like that makes me cringe, but I'll be publishing soon, so I should be mentally prepared.

    1. I never thought about reviews before my books release. What the heck was I thinking?
      Best of luck to you!!

  4. I loved your book and as I told you before, it helped me get in touch with my own feelings.

    1. Thank you so much Toni! Looking forward to seeing you again soon:)

  5. I like your attitude; those who appreciate your books will outweigh the rude ones, certainly.

  6. I really appreciated this. I just went through a situation where someone's words cut through me and I had to find a way to deal with it. It's tough because we are human and sensitive and who wants to lose that?

    1. I count on the kindness to outweigh the meanness. I hope it always does.Thank you.