The bully factor is well-known to anyone that puts their thoughts or ideas into the nether realms of the internet. The stories of anonymous people trolling your work, posts, or tweets are (in)famous. Rachel Thompson wrote one of the best articles about it after the Fifty Shades debacle on twitter.
The bully factor is just as damaging when it comes from well-meaning but ill-informed “just trying to help” messages.
(side-note – I dealt with this from my previous editor. He managed to get me so frazzled, I ended up making larger mistakes and letting him direct my story, some of which I am still correcting. I will not name the editor here because he has a family and a job to do. I still feel he is a good editor. He just wasn’t the right fit for my genre and characters. I think the world of him and wish him the best in everything he does.)
Fan opinions of a writer are a sort of lifeblood. There is something we missed or there is something that felt disingenuous about situation A. Constructive criticism is how we improve as authors (along with dedicated practice) and fans observations are invaluable for this purpose.
The email/DM/tweet etc… that begins with “If you wrote it more like (insert famous author here)” isn’t helpful. Any advice to force an author into using someone else’s voice is not just unhelpful, it is damaging. Take the generic away from the criticism and it often becomes constructive criticism and is more likely to help. “When Sara did this, it didn’t feel right. This example from (insert famous author here) is closer to how I felt she would react.”
The first example is a well-meaning bully statement to an author. We have enough internal bullying to give away for Halloween treats as the wonderful Veronica Sicoe points out here.
The second is still an active statement, never be passive if you can help it, but it gives a more concrete idea of what you felt was wrong without the “you should write more like…” connotation.
No person is more hyper critical of an author’s work, than the author themselves. Reinforcing the internal demons with generalizations can cause the author to hide under a blanket and start singing the thunder-buddies song.
Please don’t take this as a statement of inaction towards the fans. We love you. We love that you took time out of your life to read our work. We love that you had thoughts and feelings associated with the characters and plots dancing in our brains. Above all else we value your opinions about the work. Continue to send helpful comments and messages. Along with experience and reading, they are how an author grows to write better novels and better characters.
I want to thank everyone who have taken the time to send me messages. The effort is not lost on me. You really are the best and help shape future works. In the end, once the novel is published, it is no longer my story. It will be yours.