Dealing With One-star Reviews and Other Writing Disappointments

Insert cliché about finding the silver lining here.

I have mentioned before how fraught with fear and anxiety this publishing-my-debut-novel journey has been (and will continue to be — apparently, even on your 16th book, those feelings of insecurity don’t go away). But this week on The Ball, we’re talking about how to weather those storms. How to stay grounded and be grateful even when you get less-than-awesome news (like a 1-star review on GoodReads).

For me, this is simple. In fact, it’s so simple that it’s going to sound trite and clichéd and everything I try to stay away from when writing. But the truth is this: I am living my dream come true.

That’s what I tell myself — and that’s what my husband reminds me — when I get mired in the anxiety (is my current novel any good?) and discouragement (ONE star? I mean, shouldn’t the fact that it was readable and not filled with grammatical errors at least merit one and half stars, even if you hated it??) and down-right depression (like when I scrapped 12,000 words of a WIP that had taken me three months to write and completely started over).

I wrote a novel. I sold it to a big publishing company. It is going to be published and sold in stores. And this is what I’ve wanted ever since I was a little girl. To be fair, I also wanted to live on a Care Bear cloud and marry Bo from Dukes of Hazard, so I didn’t get EVERYTHING I wanted.

That feathered hair! Those bell-bottom jeans! How could a gal resist?

But I’m living at least ONE of my wildest dreams and it’s an amazing feeling. When I focus on that fact, it’s easy to feel grateful and lucky and happy and forget about the fear, anxiety and insecurities that plague me every now and then (read: most of my waking hours).

So tell me, how do you weather the storms? What are you most thankful for? And most importantly, were you a Bo or Luke girl?



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Colleen Oakley is the author of BEFORE I GO (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, Jan. 2015), a love story. A former editor for Marie Claire and Women's Health & Fitness, she's now an Atlanta-based freelance writer. Find out more at

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This article has 6 Comments

  1. As a kid, I was a Bo girl. As an adult, Luke all the way–though I have a soft spot for Roscoe. 🙂 Great advice, Colleen. We are living the dream!

  2. I’m with Amy on the Bo/Luke question 🙂 And I think doubt is one of the trickiest things for a writer to manage — it pops up when you least expect it, and can be hard to kick out.

  3. Oh man, how can you resist Bo’s cocky grin? Def a Bo girl back in the day. But maybe if I watched now, Luke would be more interesting.

    And Colleen — definitely a good reminder for the rest of us. It’s so easy to get caught up in this drama, and to equate yourself with your work. We’d definitely got to remember not to take it personally.

  4. The version of Dukes of Hazzard I remember had Jessica Simpson in it. Probably not the one you meant. 😉 But yay for living your dream!!

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