“You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like.”
—Phyllis A. Whitney

10 Steps to Dealing With Mean-Spirited Critics, Comment Trolls, and Other Jerks

1. Write.

2. Keep writing.

3. Whenever you think about it, write.

4. If you’re angry, write anyway.

5. If you’re feeling insecure, write anyway.

6. If you’re depressed and think no one cares about you or your writing, write anyway.

7. Don’t work for hours on the perfect zinger to respond with. Work on your writing.

8. If they convince you that you’re not a real writer, write anyway.

9. If you need to delete their comment, do it. Then go and write.

10. It doesn’t matter what they said or why they said it or who they are. It only matters that you write. So get to work.

PRACTICE

Write about a mean-spirited, Internet troll, critic jerk who finally gets his or her comeuppance.

Write for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to give feedback to a few practices by other writers.

Happy writing! 😉

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • annepeterson

    So true. Why would we let what others think stop our writing. If anything, we should write more.

    • Exactly, Anne. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  • This post arrived in my mailbox just as I finished reading yet another comment from a fundamentalist Christian who loves to bomb my blog. Talk about amazing timing! Not only was your solution perfect, the writing practice gave me an opportunity to vent my frustration. As I post what I have written, please let it be understood I have no qualms whatsoever against Christians or the Christian faith. I just have a problem with trolls:

    Elmer Meets God

    Elmer A. Fund, a mentalist Christian, spent his days happily
    trolling well-meaning spirituality blogs that didn’t agree with his
    black-and-white way of thinking and “setting them straight”. For each “Jesus Bomb”, as he liked
    to consider his enlightening diatribes, that he dropped in the inviting little comment boxes, he felt all the more grandly about himself.

    One day Mr. Fund woke to find himself before the pearly
    gates of Heaven. Only instead of receiving a hero’s welcome as he anticipated, God stood frowning down on him.

    Not really seeing a problem, Elmer asked, “Why are you not pleased with me, God? I did your work. I set those heathens straight!”

    “Who are you to judge the heart of a heathen?” God asked. “Do you know better than
    I?”

    Elmer was struck dumb a moment. Was He serious?

    “I know as well as you because I accepted your Son and I followed your book!” he sputtered.

    God’s frown deepened and Heaven darkened a bit.

    With a voice that roared like thunder, God set upon the hapless Mr. Fund:

    “You criticized the writing of books that came before yours. You belittled the perspectives of others. Am I not and have I not always been? I created the Heavens and the Earth including all those who came before The Son and the book you follow. I have flowed through every mind, every being, everything thing since the concept of Time was born. So every word spoken by every person you have trolled were MY words, Mr. Fund. You ridiculed my own words in my own name. Even your words are my own but not in the way you think. You’ve only succeeded in showing others how not to be.”

    Elmer could only stand red-faced and stare. He opened his mouth to protest but the moment he did God shut the Gates in his face.

    “I’m sorry, Mr. Fund, but you aren’t ready for this place,” God sighed and hit the eject button. “Will they ever learn?”

    • That was awesome! Man I love this exercise!

      • Thank you to everyone who replied. I appreciate the feedback. Unfortunately, Mr. Mental is still trolling my blog with renewed fervor but this little rant really helped let off steam! Great exercise!

    • Paul Owen

      That’s quite the comeuppance! Nicely written, Jean.

    • Amazing. I love when that happens.

      And this is incredible, Jean. Way to hit ’em where he lives (or not).

    • jennastamps

      That was really fun to read :).

    • Amazing use of the negative input! “Even your words are my own but not in the way you think. You’ve only succeeded in showing others how not to be.” Lovely insight.

    • Oh, it must have been so much fun to write thatt! Internet trolls make me mad. I laughed when I read that “God hit the eject button.” Very well done.

  • A hundred faces stared up at me; easily two hundred judging eyes waited for me to mess up. Still, my set went perfectly; my voice spilled into the microphone and my jokes echoed into the auditorium, my confidence reflecting in my monologue. Most of the people laughed; some were indifferent. There was one face, though, that was clearly less impressed than his fellow audience members.

    In between jokes I heard, “You suck!” and an obnoxious, “Boo!” I ignored him at first, simply speaking louder: Hey don’t you hate it when, and Speaking of, how about those people? The laughter continued. It wasn’t until that one voice yelled out, “Kill yourself or someone else will!” that I lost my temper.

    A collective gasp resonated into the room and silence befell my fans. “Who the hell said that?” I demanded. Scanning the general area of where I heard the jerk I saw him; he was actually beckoning me; he held his arms out and closed, open, closed his palms like I was a dog and he wanted me to come. I said, “With all due respect, sir, I don’t come to your job and yell at you through the drive-thru.” An uproar of laughter followed and the man’s face reddened. He yelled a couple four letter words at me.

    “Maybe you’d like to come up and show me how it’s done, then? Whaddaya say, folks? You wanna hear Oscar the Grouch tell some jokes?” More laughter and some enthusiastic applause. The cheers followed him as he strutted to the stage with unfounded confidence. You’ll need more than confidence to play with the big kids, I thought.

    As he stepped up and stood next to me I said, “What’s your name, sir?” He said, “Luke.” I said, “Well, Luke. I hope the other Dukes of Hazzard aren’t here to see you embarrass yourself. Hold on a second.” I stepped up to stage front and spoke to a woman in the front row. “Ma’am, you got a phone? Good. Get ready to phone in a terrorist threat, because this guy is about to bomb.” I turned back to Luke; sporadic laughter and clapping spread out before the two of us. I handed him the microphone.

    I waited all of three seconds and heckled him. “You ever hold a microphone before? Tell us some jokes.” My voice sounded small in the large room. He cleared his throat (into the microphone, the amateur) and took a few steps back. “Well, uh,” he started. “You know when you’re drivin’ on the freeway and uh, some jerk you know, cuts you off. And he don’t signal.” Someone coughed. “I mean what’s up with that?” I shouted “Boo!” repeatedly and the crowd followed my lead. They booed and hissed and Luke protested, sputtering half sentences and random vowels into the microphone.

    • Paul Owen

      I liked it anyway, lack of troll notwithstanding. Nice comment about the drive-thru. Ha!

    • Juliana Austen

      Very good – there is such satisfaction in outclassing these jerks!

    • jennastamps

      You exemplified Joe’s post perfectly with your example. I loved reading this. Thanks!

  • Paul Owen

    Well, I got attention as a seasoned literary critic, but the
    way it happened, it’s so unfair. There’s a popular site where people post
    snippets of their writing, and most of it just isn’t that good. And we need
    people like me who will just say it like it is, right? Okay, maybe some of my
    comments are a little snarky, but sometimes being blunt is the only thing that
    works. Keeping a shred of humor about it would help some people. When I said my
    3 year-old could tap out a more coherent plot line than that one guy could, it
    was just supposed to motivate him to work a little harder. You wouldn’t believe
    the reply he posted!

    So anyway, there’s another writer whose mystery plot I said
    appeared to be created by Mr. Obvious himself. That was about a year ago. Last
    week I saw an interview with a newly published author; her first novel has
    gotten stellar reviews, and Amazon can hardly keep up with orders. The
    interviewer asked how the author kept motivated to finish that first book, and
    she mentioned my critique. They put the text on the screen, including my user
    name. The author said it made her so mad, there was no way she’d quit writing
    her novel. Some appreciation, huh?

    But wait, it gets worse. I was on the website that day,
    adding a helpful comment to a posting that really needed my help. My posting
    got so many replies that the web server crashed. The same thing happened the
    next day. So now the site admin has blocked my ID, and I can’t post anything!
    That just seems like censorship to me, but it did give me more time to work on
    my own novel. I’m going to post a chapter on a different site tomorrow.
    Everyone is sure to love it.

    • Juliana Austen

      Oh yes! Very well put!!!! You have captured the self righteousness perfectly.

      • Paul Owen

        Thanks, Juliana!

    • jennastamps

      Wow, it took me a while to know if you were writing fiction or fact. This was fiction, right? It was very well written, either way!

      • Paul Owen

        Definitely fiction! Thanks for the note, Jenna.

    • Perfect. This character you created kind of creeps me out–I think it was the line “…a post that really needed my help.” That sounds like something a serial killer might say to justify his practices…
      Great job!

      • Paul Owen

        Haha, thanks Karl. I was feeling a bit creepy writing it.

  • Juliana Austen

    Caroline opened the door to her late husband’s study and took a deep breath. She had seldom been in here when he was alive – it was his private place, where he wrote, a personal space for inspiration he had said. It was a lovely room, the morning sun shone through a window overlooking the garden and the walls were lined with books. She sat down at the big walnut desk and turned on his computer. On the desk was a file full of printouts – his letters to the editor and more lately he had taken the time to print out his commentary on various blogs. She suspected he planned to compile them into an anthology of criticisms and essays, after his book had been published, of course.
    As she waited for the program to open she thought about Stephen he had been so clever, so erudite it was a huge tragedy him dying so suddenly and under a bus too. He would have been appalled at the thought but it had been unkind of his sister to suggest that if he hadn’t been so vain and had actually worn his glasses he might have seen it coming.
    The screen glowed and she tentatively opened one of the files, a research file it seemed – lots of references and quotes.
    Caroline opened another file – plot outlines, character sketches – it all looked very complicated, she thought. Stephen had been working on his novel for twenty years. He had taken a year off work to attend a Creative Writing course – the University had been in another city – that had been a hard year, alone, supporting them both on her meagre salary. Stephen had said that sacrifices had to be made for Art. One of his classmates had since won a major literary prize with her third novel. At the time Stephen had not been very impressed with her talent but, as was his way, he had taken the time to write a detailed criticism for her – pointing out where she had gone wrong and what she could do to improve her work. She had not been very grateful, Caroline remembered a late night phone call – the woman had been drunk – she had shouted down the phone, called Stephen a toxic wanker – most inappropriate!
    Ah here we go she though as she opened Chapter One – there was a cover page with his name and that of his agent – Adrian, Stephen’s old friend and colleague such a nice man but a bit of a lightweight. Caroline always thought he had not taken Stephen as seriously as he should.
    She scrolled down to page one – it was blank, Caroline frowned and opened Chapter Two – also blank. Maybe this was just a preliminary file. She opened the other files and yes there were notes and copious quotes but the body of the work was missing. Maybe he had hand written it – she pulled down one of his Journals – she always gave him one at Christmas they were very expensive. She opened it up – there was a page of inscriptions – dedications, she smiled he must have been trying them out – she scanned down the page but there was not one to her. She turned the page but it was blank, she flipped through the book all the pages were blank.
    Just like the computer – blank, empty pages. There was nothing there.

    • Wow. Spooky stuff, Juliana. I loved this. It’s publishable too, I think. Send it to a flash fiction zine?

      • Juliana Austen

        Thank you!

    • Paul Owen

      Thank you for this good reading, Juliana. I liked the under-a-bus reference – hoping he didn’t get thrown there 🙂

  • Though I don’t deal with trolls or their like yet, this is great advice. I get the gist that he wants us to write, but I’m too busy writing to dwell on that piece of advice.

  • Very good advice! Hope you don’t mind if I share (credit included of course).

  • I have loved the book ‘The Novelist’ from the bottom of my heart…and then came ’14 Prompts’ which is a beautiful ‘write-through’ exercise excavating the heart of a writer-a-dream-to-come-true…and now these 10 steps.God bless!

  • Write no matter what people say? Gotcha! 🙂

  • I just scrapped comments on my site entirely. It’s been more than a year, and I don’t miss them. Any comments my readers make on my works, they send me through social media — Facebook, Twitter, etc. I think maybe people are bit more polite when they have to make their comment through an identifiable account.

    • Interesting point, Gabriel. That’s one reason I like Disqus. You can track people’s whole history. But your solution sounds like it works well.

    • Agreed. I only allow register users to make comments on my site. So far, I haven’t had make any rude comments, thankfully.

  • I loved this post. It was so good I read it out loud to my husband. Thanks for writing it! And Is it mean-spirited to point out an error to someone, perhaps a sequential numbering mistake? Or if someone wrote something so awesome that it was bound to spread like fire, would it be nice to mention it?

    • Yes, that WOULD be mean-spirited, Kelly. 😉

      Also, I’m shocked I missed that one. Maybe these trolls have a point!

      • I didn’t catch it the first time I read it, only when I was reading it out loud. It really is a great post.

  • Perfect timing Joe, I have been battling with a certain critic of my work for some time now and finally over Christmas I decided to let them go, out of my life forever.
    It doesn’t mean I can suddenly write freely and well but it means that the possibility is there.
    I turned on the radio in the car, something I rarely do, yesterday and three authors were talking about how to begin writing. Two old writing buddies and I are going to meet after Womens’ Christmas (oh y’all just have to look that up – only the Irish!) to talk about starting a group again with a serious intent to get published.
    There will always be critics and internet trolls, one of our Government ministers ended his life because of the internet vitriol he received due to cutbacks, but we cannot stop just because someone doesn’t like what we write.
    Why do we write? Because we have to!
    And just in case you’ve gotten this far, the critic I let go, I didn’t murder or divorce them I just shut off that part of my mind that says “Suzie can’t write for toffee!”
    Thank you Joe for this post, good timing!

    • Oh critics. I’m sorry to hear that, Suzie. I’m glad you got rid of that jerk, though, if only in your mind!

    • Good for you Suzie! Honestly, if people have nothing nice to say, they should say nothing at all.

  • This was great! Last night, someone took the time to write a review saying that her fifth grader wrote better fiction. Writing is the best revenge.

    • Ugh… I hate that. I got one recently that called my article “adolescent ramblings.” It took all my self-control not to reply back defensively.

  • very real, all we need to do is write

  • andy_myster58

    loved this. Christian fundamentalist here but not into bombing others. In fact, I work hard at building others up.

    Andrew Logan
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