IELTS Speaking test in Vietnam – December 2018

The IELTS Speaking questions below were shared by M who recently took his test in Vietnam:

Speaking testIELTS test in Vietnam


– What is your full name?
– Can I see your ID?
– Where are you from?
– Do you work or study?
– What do you do?
– Why did you choose this profession?
– How was your first day at work?
– Have you ever used maps?
– Did you learn to use maps?
– Where and when did you do it?
– How often do you ask others for directions?

Cue Card

Describe a plan that you had to cancel for some reason. Please say

– What did you plan?
– Why did you have to cancel it?
– How did you feel about it later?


– How do older people feel about cancelling a plan?
– Why do older people find it hard to change their plans?
– How can technology help people to make plans?
– Why do children change their plans?
– Why do adults change their plans?
– Did you ever change plans because of the weather?

from IELTS-Blog


Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 462

For today’s prompt, write a set poem. Collectors often try to complete the set, though some break up the set. Some people set the record straight. Some things need to set (like glue or paint). I hope you’re ready to set the world on fire with your poems. Ready, set, go.


Build an Audience for Your Poetry tutorialBuild an Audience for Your Poetry!

Learn how to find more readers for your poetry with the Build an Audience for Your Poetry tutorial! In this 60-minute tutorial, poets will learn how to connect with more readers online, in person, and via publication.

Poets will learn the basic definition of a platform (and why it’s important), tools for cultivating a readership, how to define goals and set priorities, how to find readers without distracting from your writing, and more!

Click to continue.


Here’s my attempt at a Set Poem:

“the sun will set”

the sun will set in june
with or without a moon
& children stay awake
afraid of what night takes

the leaves will all fall soon
regardless of the moon
& children fall asleep
with secrets that they keep

i settle in my swoon
with this cold winter moon
& children seek & hide
their fears far from the light

& there’s the silent loon
as constant as the moon
& children start to sing
of love & lighter things


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He loves the seasons, the moon, and children.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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from Writing Editor Blogs –

Protect WordPress Writer Website Uploads

Very recently, it’s come to the WD team’s attention that there is a potential vulnerability in writer websites that use WordPress. Since our team has a few writers with personal websites, we checked out our WordPress-hosted websites. Half of us were okay; half of us were vulnerable.

But don’t worry!

There’s an easy way to check if your writer website is at risk. And there’s an easy fix if you find your site is vulnerable.


Write Effective Online Content

Whether using computers or phones, there are more people consuming online content than ever before. How to Write Online Content teaches writers how to write more effective online articles of all types. This includes news, feature articles, opinion articles, alternative story forms (listicles, charticles, Q&As), blog postings, and more!

Click to continue.


How to Check if Your WordPress Writer Website is Vulnerable

  • Go to your home page. For instance,
  • Add “/wp-content/uploads/” to the URL. For instance,
  • If you get a “Forbidden” message, then your site should be protected. Whew!
  • If you get a list of directories, then your site is vulnerable. But don’t worry, there’s a quick fix.

Protect WordPress Writer Website Uploads

If your WordPress site is vulnerable, the fix is as easy as inputting a plugin. Here are two that have worked for WD team members on their sites:

There are likely others that work as well. But we wanted to get the word out as soon as possible to protect other writer websites.

Even if your site is safe, please be sure to spread the word to any friends and family who may have WordPress websites.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, specifically working on the Market Books,, and maintaining the Poetic Asides blog. Thankfully, his WordPress site was already protected. Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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from Writing Editor Blogs –

IELTS test in Iran – December 2018 (Academic Module)

The IELTS test questions below are from Iran and were kindly shared by H (thank you!):

Listening testIELTS test in Iran

Section 1. About an exhibition program at the museum.

Section 2. Description of a city tour including important landmarks and time table.

Section 3. Don’t remember.

Section 4. About the effects of night work on shift workers.

Reading test

Don’t remember.

Writing test

Writing task 1 (a report)

We were given three pie charts describing the production of coffee, its consumption and benefits in different regions. We were asked to summarise and describe them.

Writing task 2 (an essay)

Many people believe that TV news and media in general have a detrimental effect on our life. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Give your own opinion, including relevant examples.

Speaking test


– What is your full name?
– Can I see your ID?
– Where are you from?
– Do you work or study?
– What do you do?
– Do you like your job?
– Do you like paintings?
– What is your favourite painting?
– Do you plan your meals?
– What is your daily routine?

Cue Card

Talk about a successful complaint that you made and its result. Please say

– What was it about?
– Why did you make it?
– What was the result?


– Did you like the outcome? Why?
– How did you feel about it later?

from IELTS-Blog

2018 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: 30 Poetry Prompts

November was a lot of fun! I wrote more than 30 poems. And I’ve already received a few chapbook submissions. To make it easier to catch up and/or just write poems, here are the 30 poetry prompts collected in one spot.

Each day gives a hint at what the prompt covers. Just click on the link if you need more details or would like to read a few example poems.


Master Poetic Forms!

Learn how to write sestina, shadorma, haiku, monotetra, golden shovel, and more with The Writer’s Digest Guide to Poetic Forms, by Robert Lee Brewer.

This e-book covers more than 40 poetic forms and shares examples to illustrate how each form works.

Discover a new universe of poetic possibilities and apply it to your poetry today!

Click to continue.


30 Poetry Prompts for the 2018 November PAD Chapbook Challenge

  1. Glorious poem.
  2. Darkest hour poem.
  3. Tired of blank poem.
  4. Apologetic poem.
  5. Private poem.
  6. Lost and/or found poem.
  7. Occupation title poem.
  8. Poem that hints at something.
  9. Burn blank poem.
  10. Teenage poem.
  11. Forgiveness poem.
  12. Disaster poem.
  13. Quiet and/or loud poem.
  14. Hungry poem.
  15. Anti-blank poem.
  16. Brave poem.
  17. Broken poem.
  18. Child’s toy poem.
  19. Six words poem.
  20. Love and/or anti-love poem.
  21. Protest poem.
  22. Praise poem.
  23. I can’t blank poem.
  24. Salty poem.
  25. Line from earlier poem title.
  26. Ambitious poem.
  27. Shaky and/or sturdy poem.
  28. Mood poem.
  29. Remix poem.
  30. One more blank poem.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market, in addition to writing a free weekly newsletter and a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine. He is always glad to have one more poem to write. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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from Writing Editor Blogs –

What Binge-Watching ‘Stranger Things’ Taught Me About Storytelling

As fans eagerly await Season 3 of Netflix hit series Stranger Things, author Scott Hildreth offers three storytelling lessons and editing goals writers can glean from the show.

Sunday night at about 11:45 p.m., I turned off the TV. My wife was stacking dishes, cups and a popcorn bowl into the dishwasher. “I think this is what the kids call binge watching.”

We had spent the better part of two weekends watching the Netflix show Stranger Things. It was a fantastic experience.

We aren’t in our 20s any longer, so we struggled to stay up past midnight. We have jobs, so we couldn’t push through two seasons nonstop. However, we did manage sneak in a couple of episodes throughout the week. Then, on Saturday, after we finished yard work, we parked on the couch and plowed through the rest of the seasons. We have talked about the characters and scenes. We have used funny quotes in conversation and have recommended the show to others.

5 Lessons Writers Can Learn from the Film ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’

As I thought about this experience, it hit me: This is the passion we want from those who read our stories. We want them to push past bedtime, snatch a chapter here or there, and fight sleep to finish. In today’s reading environment it is more important than ever to keep readers hooked on our stories.

Ebooks and E-readers are convenient, but they create problems for the author — hundreds of other stories are one simple click away. If our storytelling allows the reader’s mind to wander, she will choose another book, and we may never get her back. It is imperative that we keep readers as hooked into our stories as my wife and I were when we binge watched Stranger Things.

What was it about Stranger Things that kept us from searching out another show? Why were we willing to put things on hold until we finished the seasons? As I thought about this experience, from the perspective of both a writer and consumer, I came up with three ideas.

1. Design chapters with the purpose of keeping the reader hooked.

Stephen King says that the paragraph is the basic unit of writing, “the place where coherence begins and words stand a chance of becoming more than mere words.” (SK, On Writing, p.134). This is true for the writer; no need to argue with the King. But, for the reader, the chapter is the basic unit. Most readers think one chapter at a time; as we read, we focus on the chapter endings. I even have my kindle set to show how many minutes are left in the current chapter. Because of this, we need to build chapters with the reader in mind.

The producers of Stranger Things developed each episode as a chapter in the story. Each ended with a scene that left the viewer wanting more. “Wait, we can’t stop here. One more show.” If it was late, we would say, “Let’s just watch the first five minutes of the next show, so we will know what happens.” You know what happened next; the opening scene sucked us in. One of us would say, “We can’t quit here. Ok — we have for just one more show.” An hour later, we faced the same dilemma.

The episodes didn’t all end with cliff-hangers. The characters were not always facing mortal danger. To be honest, it would have been easier to turn those off. We are smart enough to guess that the heroes wouldn’t die.

Instead, each chapter ended with a shift in the storyline or lingering questions. Something peaked our curiosity. We did not keep watching because we cared about the characters. We had questions and we needed an answers; something gnawed at us and wouldn’t let us walk away from the story.

To keep readers committed to our stories, it is crucial that we build chapters with these goals in mind. We need to remember that each reader has dozens of options. The chapter break, end of one and start of the next, is the perfect place to set the hook.


1) Look at the last pages/scene of the chapter and ask, “What is on this page that will compel my reader to turn the page and begin the next chapter?”

2) Look at the opening page of the next chapter and ask, “What is in the opening scene that will push the reader to keep going?”


2. Keep the tension by maintaining both macro and micro conflicts.

The mortal sin of fiction writing is creating a peaceful world. As James Scott Bell says, we must push our hero through a “doorway of no return,” (JSB, Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure) that moment when he is unable to go back to normal life. The rest of the story is made up of his struggle against various obstacles to achieve a goal.

In Stranger Things, the heroes are searching for a lost friend and stumble into a situation that, if left unsolved, would destroy their town. This is their macro-objective — the big crisis that must addressed for the story to end. We need to know, will they make the rescue and save the town?

But, as I think about what keeps a reader, or viewer, pushing through the story for hours, it is usually more than a single macro-conflict. The successful story-teller creates hooks throughout the story by introducing micro-conflicts. The author of Stranger Things included conflicts between characters, sexual/romantic tension, lousy weather, internal doubt, and even unconnected “bad-guys.” These micro-conflicts kept the viewer worrying about how each would resolve and how they might affect the larger struggle. Sure, the overall problem pushed the characters ahead and this is what makes the story. However, readers have short attention spans and many of options. Sometimes the macro-conflict is too large to hold their attention. As we write, it could be helpful to include a string of micro-conflicts to keep the reader engaged and concerned.


As often as possible ask, “What micro-conflict can I drop-in, and carry across several chapters, to keep the reader hooked.” Look at relationships, character flaws, new characters, or even back-story issues.

3. Don’t resolve too soon — force the reader to wonder how things will work out.

As we got to the last episodes of Stranger Things, the macro-conflict seemed worse. The micro-conflicts continued to swirl, and some had crept into the main storyline. I remember saying, “How are they going to tie up all these loose ends?” When questions like this gnaw at the reader, there was no way she is going to stop reading.

We want our readers to ask similar questions as they near the end of the book. We want them looking at the page count, or the Kindle percentage, and asking, “How is she going to get out of this mess in the last 10% of the book.”

Of course, we want a satisfying ending, an honest conclusion. We don’t want to introduce deus ex machina, a hidden clue, or unknown character. But, short of these cheap endings, we want to hold the tension until the last possible moment. In many cases, the reader can anticipate the ultimate ending. Most know that the detective will solve the crime and that the zombies won’t eat the whole army of good guys. But we can keep them wondering by whom, how, or at what cost, will the resolution come.

Rather than imagining the story line like an airplane, strong take off and gradual landing. Stories that hook readers and force them to stay up late, are more like roller-coasters — click, click, click, and a sudden drop to the end.


Ask, “How am I maintaining tension? Can I legitimately push this resolution later without cheapening the story?”


While we are on the topic of story resolution, keep in mind that the real power of a show that people binge watch is the transitions between seasons. The story resolves, but we have achieved something special when we create a moment at the end of the book that signals there is more to come. This pushes readers back to their favorite bookstore, or website, to buy our next book.

We must remember that the reader has many options. The screen and the page are different mediums, but we can learn a lot about storytelling from film-makers and TV shows that people binge watch. We do well keep our readers wanting “just one more chapter…” This build loyalty and a readership that keeps us in business.

Learn more about the craft and business of writing in these upcoming online courses: is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and affiliated websites. 

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How Writers Can Use Social Media to Find More Success With Their Writing

Many writers know they should be on social media. And many others are already on social media but not exactly sure if they’re doing it right. So, here’s a post on how writers can use social media to find more success with their writing.

I’ve collected 10 tips on how writers can use social media. I know these work, because I used them myself. And I know many writers who’ve found success employing them. So let’s get started.


How to Sell Books With Social Media!

Tip 9 below explicitly tells you to avoid hard-selling your wares on social media. But it can be done effectively when it’s done right. Which is why Writer’s Digest created Advanced Social Media Skills for Selling Books, a conference session video download led by Kristen McLean, a social media and data analytics expert who does this sort of thing for a living.

Learn the techniques and strategies that get results without driving away your connections.

Click to continue.


How Writers Can Use Social Media to Find More Success

  1. Put your writing first. It’s easy to forget while in the throes of building your personal brand that the writing should always come first. If you feel at any time that social media is blocking your writing, pull back. Thousands of followers can’t buy the book you didn’t write. Always let the writing know it’s your first love.
  2. Try every platform. Don’t jump on every social media platform on the same day. But get a profile on Facebook. Then, jump to Twitter. Link up with LinkedIn. Make a move on Instagram. And every so often, try a new platform. Some will appeal to you; others won’t. But the only way to know is to try them out.
  3. Be public. If you can’t get over the obstacle of making your social media profile public, then it’s going to be very difficult to use social media to find more success for your writing. That doesn’t mean you can’t find writing success, but social media won’t be much of a help. When you make your profile public, more people can find you…and that’s really the goal of this post. Making your profile private encourages obscurity. That said, only share things on your public profile that you’re comfortable sharing.
  4. Brand yourself. Every social media platform provides writers with ways to brand themselves. Think about your avatar image. Craft a snappy bio and/or tagline that shares who you are and what you care about. Some sites give you enough room for a catchy sentence, while others afford you the ability to write a paragraph (or three). Use your creativity to differentiate yourself from every other writer on social media…while remaining true to your brand and your goals.
  5. Be consistently active. This might mean you post once a day…or multiple times a day…or a few times a week. The main thing to keep in mind is that you need to be active. Because inactive accounts look like abandoned accounts. Stalker accounts look like abandoned accounts too. And well, stalkers are kind of creepy, right?
  6. Find and follow good content providers. One trick to being consistently active is to find great content providers. Most social media sites make it easy to share content. So find and follow people who align with your writing goals. Also, find and follow literary agents, as well as magazines, websites, and book publishers that align with your writing niche(s). Plus, writers who write in your genre(s) are great people to find and follow too, whether they’re established or not.
  7. Share great content. You might’ve picked this up from reading tips five and six, but it never hurts to point out the obvious. The great thing about social media is that you don’t have to write everything. You can see a great post and share it with your followers. This is called curating, and it can help you gain new followers if you do it well. Speaking of which, be sure to add your own comment when you share content. This helps personalize the content through your lens and includes you in the conversation if your “share” or “retweet” is shared or retweeted in kind.
  8. Share your writing. Of course, create your own posts. But also, share links to your published writing and upcoming events. And don’t be afraid to share some of your unpublished writing, whether you’re looking for feedback or to build enthusiasm for an upcoming book.
  9. Avoid being a used car salesperson. Let’s do a quick empathy experiment regarding social media. Ask yourself these questions: Am I joining social media to buy a bunch of stuff from other members? Do I want all my new “connections” on social media to immediately pitch me on a book or “opportunity” to send them money? If you answered yes to these questions, then please buy my forthcoming book on Amazon. If you answered no to these questions, then back off the hard sales pitches when you’re on social media. My assumption is that 99.9% of the people on social media would answer no these questions. You should assume that too.
  10. Engage with your connections. Social media is at its best when people engage each other. So if you see a great post on a topic, don’t be afraid to like that post and leave a comment. To take this a step further, craft posts that encourage feedback from your followers. This is an excellent way to build deeper connections.

One final tip: Tailor your approach to each platform. While your writer brand should stay consistent across social media sites, savvy social media users know that how you use Facebook is different than how you use Twitter. And that Instagram requires a completely different approach. It can be a fun challenge. But remember my first tip: Put your writing first.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, specifically working on the Market Books,, and maintaining the Poetic Asides blog. He can be found on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social media sites. And, of course, follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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from Writing Editor Blogs –

IELTS Results competition winners in November 2018

November was a very good month for many test takers, and in particular for the 7 high scorers who won in our IELTS results competition. They received band scores ranging from 7 to 8 – a real reason for celebration!

Congratulations to:

Academic Module – 1st placeBand 8 in IELTS

  • Rehan Gamage from Sri Lanka, Band 8
  • Kauser Dahegamia from India, Band 8
  • Hafiz Haseeb from Pakistan, Band 8
  • Mayank Jalan from India, Band 8

Academic Module – 2nd place

  • Karandeep Singh from India, Band 7.5
  • Swathi Raveendran from India, Band 7.5

Academic Module – 3rd place

  • Sumeet Makwana from India, Band 7

IELTS Results such as these take people one step closer to their dreams. These IELTS scores mean people can study or work in a country they have chosen, and give themselves and their families a better future. To mark this happy occasion we are sending certificates of achievement to our winners’ email addresses. Winning IELTS results will be displayed in the IELTS-Blog hall of fame – so if YOU won, please feel free to show them off to your friends!

We’re always trying to find out from the winners how they did it. Often it turns out they used IELTS-Blog’s books and services – this was the case with Rehan Gamage (Band 8), whose success story was published on IELTS-Blog.

We’d like to ask the winners – please be kind to the other test takers who are still preparing for their IELTS exams. Do share your stories and tell us how you studied, and what helped you achieve success in IELTS. Any useful tips will be shared on, so everyone can use the same technique and get a better score in their own exam this month.

P.S. IELTS results competition runs every month, and everyone is welcome to participate. Learn how to enroll here.

from IELTS-Blog

A Starter Guide to DIY Audiobooks

Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry. For indie authors or traditionally published authors who have retained their audio rights, now may be the perfect time to consider creating your own audiobooks. Here’s your how-to guide to DIY audiobooks.

If you haven’t heard, audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry. People are listening to books on their phones in the car, while commuting on public transportation, exercising, gardening, cooking and the list goes on. According to the Audio Publishers Association (APA), audiobook sales in 2017 totaled more than $2.5 billion, up 22.7% percent over 2016, and unit sales were up 21.5% percent. The most popular genres continue to be mystery/thriller/suspense, sci-fi/fantasy and romance.

For indie authors or traditionally published authors who have retained their audio rights, now may be the perfect time to consider creating your own audiobooks. Before you dive in, here are some things to keep in mind.

Is Audio Right for You?

Do You Have the Rights?

Audiobook sales are growing, but that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone. If you are traditionally published, read over your contract or talk to your agent regarding the audio rights. If your publisher holds them, it’ll be up to them whether or not they want to exploit that opportunity (though you can certainly make your wishes known—best done through your agent, if you have one). If the rights remain yours, then the decision of whether or not you’d like to pursue the format is yours, too. And for self-published authors, of course, it’s all up to you.

The Making of a Grammy-Winning Audiobook: Directing Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist

What is Your Genre?

Certain fiction genres perform better than others as audiobooks. Investigate yours: Look at how flooded the bestselling audio lists are in your category, whether or not the same handful of bestsellers dominate there, and how many titles are performing exceptionally well. For example, romance readers are huge consumers of digital content in the genre sometimes consuming two, three or four a month.

Do You Have an Audience?

As with other areas of publishing, a platform is an early key to success—and the stronger your platform in other formats, the better your chances of succeeding in a new one. If you have an ebook that has a strong following and is doing well on digital platforms, investing in creating an audiobook makes sense.

Create Your DIY Audiobook

It’s easier than ever to create and release an audiobook DIY style, and new platforms spring up regularly. For a full-length novel, you can expect to pay, on average, $1,500–$3,000 for your audiobook. Here’s a look at some of the current leaders on the field:

  • ListenUp Audiobooks
    In 2016, ListenUp partnered with Canadian-based ebook platform Kobo to offer special discounts to Kobo Writing Life authors interested in turning their ebook content into audiobooks. ListenUp was developed as a way to extend to independent authors the same services they offer to major publishers at a reasonable cost. They can help you choose a narrator, produce the book and make it available on the various audiobook platforms. Authors retain the rights and receive eighty percent of the royalties for each sale.
  • Findaway Voices
    Based in Ohio, Findaway Voices helps authors with each step along the way. After you create your account and provide the information about your book, the Findaway team provides you with 5-10 narrator choices. Once you make your choice, the book is produced (takes about 6-8 weeks). Then you can have Findaway distribute it to their 29 different channels or you can take care of it on your own. Authors retain the rights and receive eighty percent of the royalties for each sale.
  • ACX
    This is Amazon’s platform that offers an indie audiobook service similar to that of self-publishing an ebook through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). You can narrate the project yourself or hire your own voice artist. Once created, these audio titles are distributed through Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

With ACX, all of the choices require a seven-year commitment. Exclusive contracts get a higher royalty payout (40% of retail sales), but the audiobooks can’t be published on any other platforms apart from Amazon/Audible. With the non-exclusive option the royalty is lower (25% of retail sales), but authors can publish through other venues. There’s also a royalty share option, popular among those with smaller budgets, for which the narrator/producer and the author split the 40% royalties 50/50, with no upfront costs.


How to Reach More Listeners

Once you have your audiobook available on the different platforms, here are a few ideas for ways to reach more listeners:

  • Link to your audiobook on your website (include sample)
  • Pitch your audiobook to sites specific to audiobooks ( and
  • Pitch to podcasts
  • BookBub ebook promotions can spike audiobook sales

Audiobook popularity continues to rise, so now may be the perfect time to provide your readers with the audiobook versions of your stories.

Learn new writing and publishing skills in these upcoming online courses: is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and affiliated websites. 

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from Writing Editor Blogs –

5 Tough Tips for Surviving (and Triumphing Over) Really Rotten Book Reviews

Negative reviews of your work can cut deep. Author Pamela Jane offers five proactive measures you can take to stay strong and move forward when dealing with bad book reviews.

You know the feeling—the shock, the shattering pain, the sick sensation in the pit of your stomach. A reviewer has just demolished your book and you feel stunned, attacked, and ashamed.

Make no mistake; you have just been very publicly humiliated.

“Newspapers last forever! I will regret this forever!” the famous movie star, Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) cries in Notting Hill when the paparazzi snap photos of her and William Thacker, half-dressed. Thacker (Hugh Grant) responds by asking her for a “normal amount of perspective.”

But those were newspapers. One can imagine them yellowing, burning or, as Thacker suggests, lining waste paper bins.

But the cloud really is forever; the cloud is eternal.

Recently, after a blistering review of his new novel, a friend sent me an email with the subject line “I’m going to Jump off a bridge.” I knew exactly how he felt. (I also knew he was not going to jump off a bridge.) But the incident brought back the pain of a bad review I received years ago, words that seared into me like fire.

It was my second children’s novel for Houghton Mifflin; my first book with them had sold well and received sterling reviews Now my new book was being destroyed by small, sharp stones hurled by a faceless librarian hiding in a cubby hole (I imagined). She described my main character, who I had imbued with my own heart and soul, as “extreme and poorly characterized.” As far as she was concerned, the book was better suited for – well, lining trash cans.

Over thirty books and dozens of published essays later, I have gained a normal amount of perspective regarding reviews, both good and bad. And, to think, it only took thirty-five years!

Below are five tough tips for surviving the hurt, anger, and humiliation generated by a rotten review.

And I promise it won’t take you thirty-five years to master them.

5 Tough Tips for Making the Most of Bad Book Reviews

Tough Tip #1: Fight back (in positive ways).

The cloud looks ominous when darkened by a negative review, but you too can use the internet to fight back.

I’m not, of course, suggesting that you launch a social media tirade against the reviewer—that will only hurt you. But you can take more proactive measures that focus on the positive qualities of your writing.

Many blogs review books or interview authors, and you can make your own YouTube videos or podcasts describing your book and your writing process. The opportunities are limitless, and more crop up all the time.

Tough Tip #2: Find one thing to laugh about.

I’m not suggesting you break into gales of sunny laughter while witnessing your creation being publicly ripped to shreds. What struck me as funny were the words that hurt most at the time, that line about the main character being “extreme and poorly characterized.” This brought to mind something my mother used to tell me, as a child: “You go from one extreme to another!”

If she’d thought about it, I’m sure she would have added, “Not only that, you’re poorly characterized.” Hey, I was writing about myself. It’s not my fault that I’m poorly characterized!

Tough Tip #3: Write—and don’t obsess—about it.

Madeleine L’Engle, the author of the classic Winkle in Time, considered her 30s a total failure professionally. When she received yet another rejection for The Lost Innocent, L’Engle covered her typewriter, vowed to abandon it forever, and walked around the room, sobbing.

Then, suddenly, she stopped. In her anguish, she realized she was already considering turning this moment into a book about failure.

Write about failure, rejection, or a bad review; find the story, the pathos or even the humor in it.

Critical Thinking: The 5 Factors That Earn 5-Star Book Reviews

Tough Tip #4: Remember this is just one person.

A review is the opinion of one person, albeit one who has a public forum. Maybe his dog just threw up on the new carpet, or the toilet overflowed, or your main character reminds her of her rotten ex. And maybe readers will find and love your book, despite the lousy review. (This happens frequently with films.)

Tough Tip #5: Separate feelings from action.

No matter how awful you feel, keep writing and submitting manuscripts. Don’t let your emotions dictate your actions! This rule is unbreakable.

According to research conducted on the neural circuitry of lobsters (which, surprisingly, resembles ours) the harder you fight back, the more serotonin flows through your brain, and the more likely you are to recover from setbacks, and succeed.

After my friend’s recent bad review, I dug out the rotten review of my own book from 35 years ago. Then I found the reviewer’s photo online. She really does have a face; she’s not just a disembodied knife! What’s more, she is successful; has her own literary agency now.

I’m happy to say that I’m not at all resentful towards this person anymore. That’s all in the past. My perspective now is completely normal.

But, sometimes, secretly, I suspect that she might be just a tiny bit poorly characterized.

Pamela Jane is an essayist and the author of over thirty books, including An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story, and Pride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lover’s Romp Through Jane Austen’s Classic, which was featured in The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, BBC America, and The New York Times Sunday Book Review.  Her essays have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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