The Number One Literary Hazard Today

11

No one likes to become the target of negative criticism.

In a recent article written by Craig Murray here on Angie’s Diary about the forms of literary criticism a writer can expect to encounter these days, to my mind, he described the most unsavoury element, the internet troll, perfectly.Here is what he said:

“There are two types of negative criticisms you will get. The worst are the trolls, the angry, the jealous and the unskilled. They tend to be easy to spot because they will offer nothing of substance, no intelligent commentary. Insults may be tossed out, pointless comments that are lacking any substance about what was written. It happens. It will continue to happen.”

Do Not Feed TrollOver the last few years, more and more of these sick individuals have surfaced. The above aptly describes what awaits anyone, be they a new writer, or in the case of an established one who through necessity or frustration with their publisher, parted company with them to become an independent author, or Indie. Whether or not there is any truth to the rumour currently circulating within the writing community that a lot of the troll attacks are actively condoned by publishers, some major online book sites and a few disgruntled establishment authors, whose books are no longer selling, the fact remains that the troll attacks have quadrupled in the last two years.

I grant you that in a lot of cases, constructive criticism of many of the new books published independently today is fully justified. You will find that they are chock full of glaring errors, such as incorrect spelling, poor grammar, and as often happens with quite a few, no editing whatsoever.  Despite all of this, it does not justify the merciless attacks meted out by the more cretinous type of troll. Until the use of avatars and pseudonyms on the internet is outlawed once and for all, the world of literature will not become a troll-free zone. While both forms of anonymity still remain, these cowards will continue to lurk in the more unsavoury corners of the Internet, waiting to pounce on their next victim.

Were I to offer any advice to a new writer today, it would simply be this – if you want to remain unseen beyond the troll radar, under no circumstances ever participate in any form of free giveaway of your book, no matter how much you are encouraged to do so. Why – because that is when you will come to the notice of the trolls. They never ever pay for a book like any normal human being, preferring instead to get a copy for free.

While a lot of media attention is drawn to the vicious troll attacks against vulnerable young people on social media sites these days, I would argue that the often vulgar and downright abusive attacks delivered by the faceless cowards within the shadows of the literary world are equally as harmful. As yet I have not heard of a writer being driven to commit suicide, but sooner or later it must happen. Writers are like anyone else when it comes to being hurt by what the trolls say. Not all are level headed or adult enough to simply shrug it off.

You have been warned…

11 Comments
  1. Paula Boer says

    Anyone that places anything in the public domain, whether it be their writing, themselves speaking at a forum, or art work, must be prepared for negative attacks. Remember our lessons from childhood? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

    I know that is easier said than done. The point is, don’t let the trolls achieve their aims by letting their words get to you. True feedback, as Jack says, has more than abuse – in which case, consider taking it on board if enough people say it.

    Troll posts don’t affect other readers that are in the know – trust your genuine followers to discount troll attacks. In fact, some people are more likely to want to read your work to see if it really is that bad! Meanwhile, toughen up, and don’t let the trolls get you down.

  2. Jack Eason says

    Wise words Paula. 🙂

  3. Craig Murray says

    Well said.
    I have found even the term troll applies to two different categories of commentators.

    A.
    A pointless person who feels the need to leap about screaming “This is crap and I hate everything about it and about you and your mom is ugly as well.”

    B.
    Any person who disagrees with your position.

    Reader X. ~ “I read this story and found it quite terrible and full of glaring errors”
    Author Y ~ “Stupid troll, get lost!”

  4. Jack Eason says

    Thanks Craig, the article owes its existence to your description of the trolls. 🙂

  5. Jack Eason says

    Should anyone need further proof, even the girlfriend of a Hollywood A-list celebrity is not safe from troll attack. Her name is Lauren Howard. The following is a link to what is and has happened to her on Goodreads. http://www.stopthegrbullies.com/2013/08/20/the-attack-on-lauren-howard-part-1/

  6. Hank Quense says

    All this is quite true. As an author, I’ve experienced this trollish behavior. In one memorable comment I received, the troll said very little about my novel (an ebook) instead he vented his spleen on the license notes. He was particularly upset by the part that prohibited him from passing the ebook onto others. He literally dared me to stop him.
    I found his tirade quite amusing.

  7. rgabel says

    Craig Murray is correct. There are two categories of negative feed back. The one that states an opinion of the actual book/writing and one that is just the spewing of nonsense. I welcome constructive criticism in all aspects of my life. Every time I go to give criticism though, I think, how would I feel if someone said this to me. Then I try and put it in a positive light so the other person will be more willing to hear it. But rude, hateful comments are not constructive. They should not be tolerated, accepted or allowed. What ever happen to having manners? This is the thin veneer that separates us from being civilized or savages.

  8. Jack Eason says

    Here is the second part of the article about the vicious trolls attacking Lauren.

  9. Jack Eason says

    I’ve just read this quote by a good friend of mine, the writer Robert Bauval. It describes trolls and their ilk perfectly:-

    “There are many things that can be repugnant in human behaviour. As a writer I often encounter two of these: false modesty and zealous righteousness. I have no time or sympathy for such people. I say if you have talent at anything then be proud to proclaim it, and ignore those who fein annoyance at this. The greatest of achievement in life is to know yourself and your worth. Never sell either short just to please others.”

  10. Paula Boer says

    Being proud of our achievements is one reward we can, as authors, grant ourselves. Not enough of us acknowledge that. Even completing a manuscript is an achievement that takes dedication and effort, regardless of whether it is ever published.

  11. Kristin Fouquet says

    re: false modesty, I’ve always loved this quote:

    “My dear Watson,” said [Sherlock Holmes], “I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one’s self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one’s own powers.”

    ― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter

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