Coping With Trolls and the Irretrievably Lost… but Thankful for You

I’ve had a bit of a tough week.  If I wasn’t the type who wants to please everyone, then the source of my temporary anxiety (a close cousin to temporary insanity, from which all sorts of bad things emerge), could be trivialized… but that’s me.

So here I sit, vacillating between two extremes.

Part of the tough week, of course, stems from the situation in Paris, where I was vacationing with my lovely wife (I wrote about that HERE) exactly one month ago.  Having just been there makes the news clips more immediate and vivid, and the emotions – including rage – that surface without arms-length recourse (because I’m an arms-length recourse kind of guy) are frustrating.  Unlike things we can excuse-away with a pithy “just part of life, dude!” rationalization, this stuff burns into the soul, while also showing us how people from all walks and corners come together as one mind and one heart.

From that alone, hope emerges.

Not so much with some readers of my book, it seems.

Closer to home, this week has been marred by three one-star reviews, one each for my three writing books.

Now, if you look closely, you’ll understand why this is just as embarrassing (to even mention it) as it is troublesome.  Each review was preceded by five or six glowing 5-star reviews, which for the more mentally healthy author would make the one-star hatchet job nearly invisible.

But any one-star review gets your attention, and you’d think it would be from any valid criticism delivered.  Not so.  It’s the crazy, clueless, misunderstood and downright vitriolic intention of some of them that irritates and festers.  People hide on the internet, saying things they’d never dare say to someone’s face… especially mine. If you’ve seen me, you get that.

Valid criticism is a gift.  It makes us better.  The clueless ramblings of the lost and angry reader… that’s just sad.

These aren’t my first encounters with the dreaded one-star, or the collision with someone who is bent on raining insults my way.  When the first troll popped up in the Story Engineering review thread a few years ago – a guy named Bunker, who had never published a word, then or since – I made the mistake of engaging with him, which turned ugly fast (he said he wanted to come to my house and throw books at me… I gave him my address and begged him to show up, but of course he didn’t, because this type of reviewer is cowardly to the core; the invite is still open, by the way).

I wrote one of my writing guru buddies (James Scott Bell) about it, and his response was as brilliant, nourishing and as enduring as it was brief.

He said: “Pffft.  A gnat.”

I have finally learned to not engage with gnats, because it never turns out well for either side.

Nonetheless, three more showed up online this week.  

Mean spirited, as if I’d just insulted the entire history of their family tree.

One of the them, in particular, a review (if you can call it that) for my new writing book (“Story Fix: Transform Your Novel from Broken to Brilliant“) chock-full of inaccuracies, misperception and misplaced vitriol.  And I choose to respond here simply to set the record straight, in addition to a much briefer response as a Comment below his review, which Amazon refused to take down (I’m always amazed at Amazon’s support of unfairness and clear slander in reviews, yet they take down responses that seek to clarify for readers who might be tempted to assign credibility; I’m also amazed at the number of people who click on finding such reviews helpful… that’s scary to me).

It takes a thick skin to publish anything these days.  Trust me on this.

This review makes several inaccurate claims.

First… that I promise definitions of important writing terms, but don’t deliver them.  Not true.  I not only deliver them, I shine a light on them in context to the writing proposition itself.

Definitions of important story elements and essences appear – each under a thick black graphic header that could be missed only by someone who really never read the book (or doesn’t think they’ll get called out, or is thick-headed enough to not understand what they were encountering, which in this case were the very definitions this reviewer claims aren’t there) – on pages 46, 62, 93, 102, 109, 112, 115, 127, 128, 133 and 136.  

Also, he claims the book is full of buzzwords.  Interesting.  This is like reading a book on, say, golf, and then claiming that words such as “chip shot” or “the rough” or “closest to the pin” are buzzwords.  The only person who could possibly find a random buzzword in my book is someone completely new to the writing game.  Which, in this case and supported by the review in whole, is clearly the case here.

Also, the reviewer says the book offers a “secret” to be revealed later (not true), and then claims I never deliver.  This is where I refer you to the 18 five-star reviews (out of the 22 posted thus far) who disagree, and to the Foreword by Michael Hauge, who is one of the most famous writing teachers in the entire world, who used the word “brilliant” in describing it.

So why am I upset by one poor, sad guy – three, if you count the other two this week – who doesn’t agree?  Especially when it’s abundantly clear that he shouldn’t even be reading a book on writing in the first place?

Interesting question.  After well over 400 5-star reviews across my three writing books, I should focus on that, instead.

I should focus on the good stuff, like other authors commenting on my work, which also happened twice this week (read it HERE and HERE).

I think I’ve finally figured it out.

As a reader, writing a novel can look so easy.  So the naive flock to a new writing book, unaware of what they’re walking into.  Like someone strolling the streets of New York and wandering into a conference on brain surgery, hoping to find a free donut.

But what real writers know is this: writing a novel is complex.  It’s challenging.  It’s not something everyone can do well.  The material in my books doesn’t shy away from this truth, and because I break the craft down into elements in way that nobody really has before, the new writer/reader may be intimidated, confused, and discouraged.  Because it’s all so darn complicated.

They came for the kumbayah, instead they got theory and charts and layers of perception instead.

Imagine buying a textbook on, say, how to install your own furnace, when you’ve never tried anything like that before. And then, when you are overwhelmed, when you realize how little you know, you blame the author of that book.

That’s what’s going on, too often, where my writing books are concerned.  This has been pointed out to me, many times, in fact, by writers who get it, who see right through these clueless one-star reviews (not all of which are clueless, some simply don’t like how I wrote the book, which is fair enough, especially since they are outnumbered across the board by about 10 to 1).

Writing a novel is every bit as complex as taking out a spleen. I know this because experienced doctors who seek to become writers have told me so.  None of them, by the way, posting whiny one-star reviews because they can’t recognize what is true or principles that are more complex than beginning-middle-end… or encounter words they need to look up, but don’t.

Challenging commonly held beliefs – writing is full of them – is risky.  It makes people uncomfortable.  I’ve heard about this one, too… in this book I go right at one of those lofty ideals, that any idea is worthy, nobody can tell you that yours isn’t.  But… it just might be, and that’s the problem that explains many rejections: agents, editors and readers don’t flock to – or throw money at – a bad idea, no matter how well written it is. I might be the first writer in this niche to suggest that maybe, just maybe, it’s a bad or even a weak idea that’s holding you back.  And then, because I realize that offering this without a solution is the kind of thing that is bad business, I give you criteria and checklists to see if that’s the case in your story.

For some, that’s a solution.  For others, even mentioning this is unthinkable.  And so, they blame the messenger.

One of those angry reviewers said I sounded like a college professor.  To her I say… thank you very much.

So, after setting the record straight on those missing definitions, I’m at peace with it all.

Trolls, the confused and the totally lost and clueless are on every corner, and Amazon invites them in without the slightest vetting or remedy.  And by the way, I’m all ears for valid criticism, even when delivered with brass knuckles and a complete disregard for the author’s intentions (certainly mine), which in non-fiction is always to help the reader.

I’m constantly told I’m too wordy… so be it, I hear you.  And I’ll hear the next guy who posts that, too, as if he’s breaking the news.  And I’m working on that, but I’m a conversational, informal writer, if you want a dry textbook, go back to school.

If you’d like to comment on these reviews, or any others, you can do so in the Comment section available below every review posting on And if you’ve actually read my new book, and are a serious student of writing (which mean’s you’ll know all the Big Words you’ll encounter), then you’re invited to review the book, as well.

As for me, I’ll never post a one-star review, for anything.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, is gained by it, and having been in the bulls eye of a few, I know the damage it causes, not the least of which is painting an inaccurate picture for readers who don’t know enough to know a flawed review when they read one.  Damage… not so much for the author, who will get over it, but for the poster him/herself, who can’t hide behind ignorance and the misguided chance to see their name online, which won’t happen any other way.  Readers are, for the most part, smart, and they can smell a fraud with the first awkward sentence.

Amazon won’t take it down, either… you’re forever outed there.


Next April I’m participating in what might just be the most comprehensive, amazing, life-changing writing conference… ever.  Four days, only two instructors, and the deepest dive into craft you’ll ever engage with.  It’s not cheap, but if you’re serious about this you’ll want to consider it.  Click HERE to learn more… you’ll be seeing more of this on as the date approaches.


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36 Responses to Coping With Trolls and the Irretrievably Lost… but Thankful for You

  1. Tammy

    I agree; he’s a gnat. You, and your books, are a class act. Thank you for all your work and help for writers.

  2. To refer to a 1 as a gnat is to complimentary. Gnats have a necessary purpose, they feed bats.

  3. Oops, my bad. I don’t buy too much on Amazon, so I rarely write reviews there. I had written a glowing recommendation for STORY FIX here on Larry’s site, but it won’t show up readily in a while as other posts and comments supersede it. So I’ve now copied it as a 5-star review over at Amazon. Hope this helps, and I’ll do it more often. Let’s all get the word out on this awesome book (and Larry’s others, too). 🙂

  4. Wow. How anyone could rate one of your books with a one-star review is mind-boggling. I could read your grocery list and be totally engaged. This is exactly what I fear, but unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do, except hope that others don’t pay attention to trolls like this. I’m amazed that Amazon doesn’t remove reviews when the commenter clearly hasn’t read the book. They’re the first ones to remove “questionable” five-star reviews, but a one-star they’d don’t even bat an eye at. Personally, if I can’t give 4 or 5 stars, I don’t review at all. I’ve only left one 3 star review in my life, and felt horrible for days afterward, but I’d been writing smaller reviews on Goodreads as I read, so I felt the people following the reviews had a right to my overall opinion. I figured out the mystery by Chapter Two and kept reading in the hopes that it had a twist. It didn’t. I still feel bad about it, actually. Story Fix is an incredible craft book! It helped me to rewrite an old novel and make it publishable. It’s easy for me to say, “Don’t listen and move on.” But I know that won’t help you, wouldn’t help me either. The whole situation sucks. When you come across these ignorant people, think of those who absolutely love your work…like me. *hugs*

  5. Ed Giambalvo

    Somewhere among my e-mails I have a picture of Story Engineering – a hardcover version of the book – nailed to the wall of my friend’s garage. I can find it if you want it. This was the state it was left in by one of my writer friends upon first reading – basically his way of saying “I don’t need it.”
    In the end your book not only came down from his garage wall, but he has become very much a convert, and in fact is still learning from the wealth of information in your books.
    So I guess the point is, yeah, you do annoy some people, but the gold is there, waiting to be mined. Go get ’em, Larry!

  6. Laura Wilson-Anderson

    I did leave a one star review on Amazon once, but I feel I had a valid reason. I bought a cookbook of empanada recipes, and the text was something completely different. Self-publishing is a wonderful thing, but that author needed to check their file! It’s been a few years, and they never have updated it to the empanada file.

  7. Kevin "Bentimber" Steele

    Michael Hennessey, the infamous reviewer, is a mindless wanna-be, a literary poser. I personally own all three of Larry’s books – Story Engineering, Story Physics, and Story Fix. I refer to them every day — every single day — while I’m working on my first novel. I use them as my compass, my guide to keep me pointed in the right direction and on course for my first work. Any serious writer recognizes Larry’s books as go-to resources for literary success. Thank you, Larry, for these books.

  8. anon

    1-star trolls are the biggest flaw in the Amazon rating system. I have received 1-star reviews from obvious competitors, people who clearly haven’t even read my books (characters’ names wrong, plots not even close, etc.), yet Amazon refuses to remove them (yet has no problem at all with deleting perfectly legitimate 5-star reviews (and, by the way, even if your cousin or aunt buys, reads, and likes your book, so what?). And don’t even get me started on Amazon’s heavy-handed and juvenile censorship policies. Amazon needs to clean up its act immediately.

    In no way do any of Larry’s book deserve a 1-star rating and it’s a blight on Amazon to allow such ratings to be published.

  9. Adrian Hilder

    Larry, you put your passion, emotion and style into Story Engineering and your way to present the material was with some stories up front to tell us why what is to come matters in the first place. I enjoyed it, it was all new to me – it worked for me. Story Engineering is still the most exciting book I’ve ever read because it enabled me to develop the story I wanted to tell. Incidentally, 21 months after reading Story Engineering I have a complete first draft I’m proud of and still very excited about as are the people beta reading it for me now. It would not have happened without Story Engineering. It is a complex business. I don’t know how it relates to taking out spleens but it does relate well to software engineering which is something I’ve been doing for 25 years.
    I always look at 1 star reviews first to see if the things people complain about will be a problem for me. Does not mean I would reject the product because they are there.
    Accept the fact your style and message is not for everyone, ignore the negative reviews and carry on talking to the rest of us who are listening.

  10. One of the major glitches with Amazon is that positive and useful reviews can be posted along side inaccurate and misleading reviews. And worse, posted in a way that underscores a lack of civility or kindness. Amazon must believe that they are doing a service for the world by showing what they think to be both sides of things. Problem is that it is very difficult to find truth or usefulness when it’s written by someone who just has an axe to grind. To quote a mutual friend — “fuck the haters.”

  11. I’ve spent decades learning the art of ignoring bullies and gnats.

    Still, when an ex-client recently told me he could have gotten his custom website on Fiverr, it hurt.

    When we knock ourselves out, when we, as Hemingway may have said, sit down at the keyboard and bleed, and someone spits on it, it hurts. No way around that.

    So what I do is go to Best Beloved and ask her to remind me that I’m a good person. She knows my flaws better than anyone, but she still thinks I’m a good person.

    So are you, Larry.

    (And if anyone ever does want to challenge you in person, can I come watch? They might be put off when you have to duck to come through the door.)

  12. Isaac Howard

    Larry, in the vague hope of turning some horrible criticism into some useful critique.

    When I first encountered your book Story Engineering, I was constantly perplexed by your inability to give clear and concise definitions of the words you choose to be claiming to help the reader understand.
    After suffering (and I’m not using that word lightly) through the first chapter on “The Power of a Fresh Storytelling Model”, I was upset over the lack of a clear and concise definition of the word story. After reading the first chapter three or four times. It finally struck me, that you don’t promise concise anywhere. After accepting that fact and rereading the chapter I’ve come to terms with you ability to define terms in concise ways.
    When I google story I get this (as one definition) ”an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.”
    You on the other hand define story as…well it takes you pages 10-14 of Story Engineering to give me an idea of what you think of as a story.

    So someone who was upset, and never saw the light you believe was shined on it. Might merely be frustrated by your book.
    Does that justify a one star rating? Perhaps.
    Will that person ever be able to learn from you? That depends on them, not you.
    Should you attempt, in a personal way to help that person understand what you meant? That’s a decision for you to make.
    Does the anonymity of the internet suck? Yep.

  13. nancy

    Your writing advice has kept me going for five years. When I finished my book recently, I gave it to Andrea Hurst, highly respected Editor/Agent, and she said, “Close. Just a few tweaks needed. I recommend consulting Larry Brooks.” As everyone knows, Andrea is not a gnat. And I would take her advice–and yours–over any internet nutcase.

  14. Lauren Sweet

    Larry, I understand where you’re coming from! As a freelance editor who works with novelists, I’ve encountered many would-be writers who are shocked to learn that writing a good novel requires many skills and techniques that they not only have not yet developed, but didn’t know existed. They have never heard of narrative tension or pacing or structure or numerous other things that will make their story successful. Sometimes I can help them; sometimes I can’t because it’s cost-prohibitive for me to try to teach them everything they need to know to make their manuscript publishable. And sometimes they get angry or offended because I have to tell them how much isn’t working in their manuscript, and how much they have to learn. Not only have I personally learned a great deal from your books and from your presentations that I’ve attended, but I recommend your books and website to my clients and writer friends ALL THE TIME. (And I’ve seen the positive results in people’s work.) You are an immense resource for the writing community, so don’t let the trolls get you down!

  15. Kerry Boytzun

    The elephant in the room is that Larry’s books require that you already can proficiently wield the English language. Last I checked, Larry wasn’t teaching people how to read or spell English.

    Yet I’ll bet all my money that the alleged support people at Amazon do NOT have a proficient command of the English language. Having spoken to them on the phone recently, I can tell you they do NOT. This will get you by for supporting credit cards and maybe level 1 computer support, but it will NEVER EVER allow these support people to manage product reviews and comments written in ENGLISH.

    In short, they can’t understand what is written to the degree of being able to determine if the comment is relevant, idiotic, illogical, sarcastic, belittling, uplifting, inspiring, or demeaning.

    Understanding English at this level of context is NOT just reading. When people ask you if you read something, they are really asking what you understood from the article. That is a loaded question. People today have very poor abilities to understand English as is evident by how they talk and communicate. Ask any professor or teacher and they will tell you this about the students entering their classrooms at college.

    By the way, writing stories is like saying you want to play baseball at the NCCA and higher level. We expect that you can proficiently wield a bat, glove, ball, and have experience with the game. Yet it is clear that people who don’t have this level of skill analogous to writing fiction—are creating one star reviews, blaming their woes on Larry’s and others books. FAIL.

    It is worth noting that around 2006 the big computer companies started moving their IT support offshore. Gone went the decades of experience the domestic IT support had, and the customer was stuck with the alleged learning curve of the new crew. I can tell you that the offshore locations have a huge turnover. People use step by step scripts to allegedly help you on the phone with your computer. Many of you have experience the less than stellar support. The learning curve never stops, and the tech support is a joke compared to the support I received in the 90s. In the 90s I could talk to Compaq, IBM, Gateway, HP, all with amazing knowledge and technical abilities. Now I have to teach half the guys what is going on, not to mention they can’t UNDERSTAND me. The elephant in the IT support room is competent ENGLISH.

    Why would supporting Amazon’s reviews and comments, the backbone of their marketplace be any different than the IT support?

    Bottom line here, is that Amazon is supposed to be providing competent support to fulfill keeping up their end of the business deal, and that is to provide a “saleable” marketplace. They are NOT. They’d rather save money then pony up and provide people who can perform the job competently. If you aren’t a master of the use of English, then you have ZERO chance of determining what is a fair vs unfair review because you have to be able to understand—masterfully–ENGLISH. FAIL.

    In summary, Amazon behaves like they do because they are unable to fulfill their end. You create a product to sell. They are supposed to provide a saleable marketplace. The inept reviews that are continually allowed is revealing a failure to provide that saleable marketplace. One star review = the product can’t perform as advertised. This means the toaster didn’t toast, the lawn mower didn’t mow, the frying pan melted on the stove, the radio wouldn’t make sound. A one star review is not the place to vent your inability to master the product. In the case of a how to English book, ONLY fluent, competent support people in English can judge such a product. If Amazon won’t provide them, then they are failing to provide a saleable market for these books! This also goes for 5 star review that are bogus.

    All it is going to take is to have some other Internet marketplace provide competent people to support it–and Amazon will be toast. I doubt that will happen.

    Incidentally, ALL the one star reviewers for Larry’s books clearly lack English proficiency, and as a result, lack the ability to contextualize what Larry teaches. The end result is you get someone whining that they don’t understand it and blames it on the book. A how-to writing book isn’t a magic pill that you lean back and read, like an entertainment novel. You have to apply the ideas to writing and WRITE something. Like in school, if you don’t understand something, ASK the TEACHER!

    Maybe these guys went to some different kind of school, where if you don’t get the mark you want, you whine about it? Oh, and you never asked the teacher anything during class?

  16. tessa apa

    Do you ever get that feeling that maybe, just maybe, they read a different book and posted the wrong review???? Some of my one stars I HONESTLY thought they must have read the wrong book – but I guess that’s what happens when they read one page, or perhaps the free sample, and decide they know enough to write a review. Still, why does it sting so much? Why do I read those reviews over and over and not the 5 stars? – thanks for sharing this, it is quite wonderful to know you’re human too xx

    • I once made a comment to a good friend about Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and they said, basically, “Why would ANYONE listen to that clown?”

      I had to ask a few questions to be sure we were really talking about the same guy and the same book.

      Yup, sometimes, the connection is lost.

  17. Tamara Meyers

    It’s human nature to defend our honor, to want others to understand that what that cretin said about us isn’t true, but when we react to their opinion we give them credibility that they don’t deserve. When you give time and energy to idiots you tell them that they are important and that their opinion matters. As hard as it is to do, the best thing you can do is ignore the blood-sucking, little fleas, it will drive them crazy!

  18. Coincidentally, I just read an article on why we place too much emphasis on negative experiences relative to positive ones (sorry, can’t find the link). The bottom line is that survival wired us that way: positive experiences usually aren’t life or death, but missing one negative warning sign may result in getting eaten by a lion. We have to work on overcoming this bias that’s maladaptive in the modern world.

    As for wordiness, I’d be getting into pot & kettle territory. My only suggestion is that you spend too much time repeatedly trying to justify the validity of your approach. For those who don’t get it, repeating it isn’t going to help. For those who do, it just gets in the way of getting to the meat. I would recommend one “why you should listen to me” section at the front, then just stick to what you’re trying to teach.

    BTW, I haven’t gotten to your latest book yet, but I have read and reviewed the previous one, and followed your block for a couple of years now.

  19. Victoria

    Oh good grief. I, personally, have always found your work to be sophisticated and helpful. Sorry to hear about the gnats.

  20. Lola LB

    Now, I’ll preface this by saying that I haven’t read your book, so my comment is not going to refer to your book. I’ll just be using an unnamed book that represents a few bad books that I’ve read in the past.

    What if you got a book, read it to the end and thought “What? Is it really that bad?”, put it down, and then picked it up again weeks later to reread it and it really was that bad, and deserved a 1 star?

    I still shouldn’t go post that 1 star review on Amazon?

    • What you should do, Lola, is up to you. I’m not Larry, but here’s why I don’t leave 1-star reviews.

      The point of a review is not to express our opinion of the book. The point of a review is to help other readers decide whether or not it’s for them.

      In my experience, the best way for them to get that is to read positive expressions from people who liked it. Yes, there’s some value in the comments of folks who didn’t like a book. But I have yet to decide for or against a book because of negative reviews. The positive reviews either tell me it’s for me, or that it’s good, but not for me.

      In a system like Amazon’s comment system, where trolls, bigots, and cranks have free reign, the more positivity I can foster the happier I am.

      But I’m curious if folks have a reason for posting 1-star reviews besides venting. Is any book so dangerous people have to be warned against it?

  21. “They came for the kumbayah, they got theory and charts and layers of perception instead.” That is so classic.

    As a copywriter and marketer during the day, I just want to point out two things:
    1) You’re not making a real difference until you get some haters
    2) Not only should you not expect to please everyone, you shouldn’t want to please everyone either. Being successful in any field- writing included- means you need to bring something different to the table. Something that is uniquely you, and comes from your experience and knowledge. You, Larry, are definitely doing that.
    3) Personally I never bother the 1-star reviews unless there are a ton of them, percentage-wise. It’s always clear to me that those reviewers were not a good fit for the product. If I want to know the downsides of something, I look at the 3 star reviews, and occasionally the 2 star ones.

    So view the haters as a sign of success. Don’t answer them, ever- just raise a cup of good wine and offer them a toast 🙂

  22. Sandy

    Hi Larry,
    When I heard the news about Paris, I blurted, “Larry just got back from there”. My hope is the rage and shock warring in your soul left you vulnerable to those three single irrelevant stars and that your cleansing blog settled your heart. Story Engineering, Story Physics and Story Fix are masterful and stand on their own – no justification needed.

    Don’t change who you are or how you write because of another’s opinion. The words you choose and the style you embrace are windows to the man inside. You can’t possibly know the thousands of us out here benefitting from your insight, instruction, guidance and generosity. Stay the course !

    Now, not another moment wasted on Trolls . . . a Deconstruction is much more fun and time better spent. May you have a brighter week and a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  23. Chris Crawford

    I glanced through the reviews.
    “Vine Voice.”

    But you read the thing, and it’s not a one-star review. If I ever gave that few stars, It’d be for books I not only didn’t like, but feel missed the mark so badly that I want to warn others. Not something I’d reference in the future.

  24. Bill Cory

    @Larry, I just want to say another “Thank You.” I “discovered” you in between Story Engineering and Story Physics, and they saved me from giving up writing. I could put together decent sentences and all that, but I didn’t know what a STORY really had to be in order to be worth publishing. I’ve mentioned this before, but I had already written a 104K and a 99K draft before I found you. Both of them were drek, but I thought my concept was good. I then devoured everything you wrote, spoke and blogged, including your $49 and your $99 story analyses (wherein you agreed the concept was very good and gave me valuable advice). Today, I can happily announce that my book is (self) published. Yes, self-published because I’m a control freak and inordinately impatient. I stayed in the lane you recommended, dumped most of the thematic in favor of the dramatic, and now, those who have read the book (editors and lay people) have said I hit the mark.

    So, thanks a million. And I apologize but I haven’t yet reviewed Story Fix, which is just as good in its own way as the first two. I’ll take care of that soon.

    Now, for self-publishers, who do you know who is the Larry Brooks of book marketing?

    Thanks again, very much – Bill.
    Ps. When I come to Phoenix researching my next book, I’d like to buy you a beer or two!

  25. To all… I’d like to weigh in by saying I appreciated your support and wisdom in response to this post, which was really an unloading I felt I needed to put out there. Many of you have counseled me to ignore the nay-sayers, and I hear you. I’m leaving this less-than-productive expenditure of energy behind, with a fresh renewal of enthusiasm for discussing craft and the writing life.

    In closing, I’d like to offer the words of Abraham Lincoln, who said this:

    “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” That applies to me on this issue, certainly, and just as certainly to the trolls, to whom I am saying, “Pffft.”

    • Larry,
      Your interview with Joanna Penn on Youtube was life-changing for me. But that was years ago, and there are literally no other videos of you! C’mon, those of us who go to Youtube for instruction from the masters would LOVE more interviews of you.
      It seems like a person of your caliber could do a podcast tour of every writing podcast out there. I’m pretty sure that would be a win-win.
      Thanks again for everything. I just ordered your latest book, “Story Fix”.

  26. Rudi

    Let me say just this, Larry: as a seasoned writer I have your first two books on writing and value them very highly. I just ordered the third one, because I very strongly believe I can again learn a lot from it, as I did from the other two. Those one star ‘reviews’? Envy and jealousy, nothing else. Every published writer has to face it, I’m afraid.
    Thanks a lot for all the things you thought me. Keep up the good work, and keep smiling. (All the way from Belgium)

  27. Mike Lawrence

    First, the first thing. In July 2001, I had dinner at Windows on the World. It was my first, only and last visit to the World Trade Center and it was glorious. Best meal I’ve ever had to this day. When I saw the images two months later on T.V., I too suffered from “just been there” reality crossover. You’re not watching images; you’re standing there because it was just a moment ago that you *were* standing there. It’s like manning the rail for passing the Arizona. You have to be there to know. I know.

    As for the trolls: you can tell how you’re doing by the kinds of problems you have. Every single one of the reviews of my book – all three of them, is 5 star. They are the real thing, too, from people who actually purchased and read the book straight out. No beta readers or star pumpers. Just folks who liked my work. And, now for a big fat secret I will vehemently deny if ever mentioned again: I’ve sold 10 copies. That’s 4 in binary, so it could be worse, but not much.

    If you don’t have a one-star review, you’re not trying hard enough. I’d take it any day, right along with your sales report. It is, believe it or not, a testament to your success. If somebody isn’t disagreeing angrily, you’re not saying anything important.

    Here’s the thing. I started writing my first novel in 1992. I had no idea how to do it. Sure, I’d been to classes and read the books of the time, but it was all so ivory tower and I didn’t understand any of it except “conflict” and “description”. “Theme” sort of. “Plot” – not hardly. I tried to write the way I saw it done in other novels. I learned to end chapters with suspense without realizing what it was. I based my story on a concept, without realizing what concept is. I drew most of the right characters, without knowing why. I had character arc nailed without knowing the meaning of the term. And I drowned the page in a river of purple ink. Because that’s what I was told to do.

    I didn’t know what I knew and, more importantly, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. There were all the usual suspects from all the gurus: character, conflict, metaphor, simile, POV, theme, blah blah blah. So many tools in a box, along with wood and nails and nobody explaining hos to actually put them together.

    So, it remains an unfinished work sitting in a folder somewhere.

    Then, a short 20 years later, you come along and say, “yeah, hammer, saw, nails and wood. And here’s how to make a bookcase with all that.”

    Oh. Wow. And because of that I wrote a complete novel, published it via KDP and sold 10 copies. With 5 star reviews! And it is the most amazing thing ever.

    And if you hadn’t done that for me, and thousands of others, you would never have gotten that one-star review.

    And the only thing I would have is that old novel – a mess of incongruous literary mulch sitting in a folder somewhere.

    So don’t let the troll get in your head. I’ve waited too long and I’m just getting started. I need you to keep writing stuff so I can figure out how to sell 100.

    That’s what is important here.

  28. MikeR

    I pay =no= attention to “on-line reviews,” one star OR five, because (a) anyone can post one, and (b) I really don’t care what ‘other people’ think. I’m going to go straight to the actual thing that I am buying … just as I did that day at the bookstore when the title, “Story Engineering,” piqued my curiosity. (The on-line equivalent of that page-flip is: the preview.) A short perusal of THE ACTUAL WORK is what’s going to prompt me to buy it.

    If my motivations for considering a book are that I am looking for the opinions of “an expert,” as in this case, then I am not looking at what someone else thinks of that expert: I am looking at what =I= think of that expert, as it specifically relates to =me=.

    Therefore, I cordially suggest: “don’t even look at ’em.” I do =not= believe that a book’s reputation or salability is based on reader-contributed “stars,” period.

    You happen to be, not only an expert, but an extremely good teacher. This is fundamental, because when I buy one of your books … or, any other book of like nature … I am doing so because I wish to be taught. I have publicly stated that you genuinely have a gift for teaching … even through an extremely limited form of expression called “a writing book” … and I will publicly state this again. Why do I say this? Because you earned it. That’s why.

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