As they old saying goes, ‘you can’t please all the people all the time.’ As a writer, you will quickly learn the brutal truth of this statement. I have already made the statement that you will come across those readers who will have nothing better to do with their time but sling shit at you to see what sticks. These people are known affectionately as ‘trolls.’ They come in all shapes and forms. For the most part, they are quite easy to spot because they will be spewing little more than destructive criticism. The type of comments that they may leave could be:
1: an attempt to point out every minor mistake that your work has in it, even mistakes that do not actually exist, in an attempt to make the writer look like an idiot and themselves seem superior; these comments could range anywhere from typos to discrepancies in the storyline
2: a personal attack on you or your work, usually something along the lines of “Don’t quit your day job because you suck as a writer” or “You should try taking some writing classes to see if they can help you improve because this was really bad.”
3: an attempt to point out how unoriginal your plotline is, poke fun at the names of your characters, give a lot of tips on how ‘they’ would have written it (I have yet to figure out why trolls think writers would give a rat’s ass how they would have written something when 1. they didn’t write it and 2. they aren’t writers in the first place)
4. any variation of these comments
5. comments that are designed to make you out to be a bad person because they do not agree with your point of view/opinion
This is not, of course, all-inclusive. Trolls can be the occasional asshole who just wants to leave their own two cents worth on a work in an attempt to gain attention by either the other readers or the writer. Some will even use the writer’s work as a way to make themselves seem like a more morally/politically correct person because they do not agree with the topic/opinion/view-point of the writer and waste no opportunity in playing hypocrite by pointing out all the perceived reasons on why the troll thinks the writer is in the wrong. They can also be a person who makes it their life’s work to follow a writer around and leave deconstructive comment after comment after comment on a writer’s work. Again, it’s usually for no other reason than to gain attention and to see just how mad they can make the writer.
Trolls are really the internet’s version of bullies. And like a bully, the best thing to do is to ignore them. Some of us like to say, “Don’t feed the trolls.” They are, after all, merely attention whores. You take the attention away from them, they will get tired of trying to get your attention and eventually move on to someone else who they can elicit a response from. And then, of course, there are those of us who like feeding the trolls. If you are really good at sarcasm, have a knack for twisting someone’s words around and using those words against the original owner, and can really think on your toes, then playing around with the trolls in a ‘word fight’ can be fun. I have discovered that most of them are not actually that intelligent, and the few that I have come across that actually did have an IQ above that of a kumquat, did not know enough about writing or the specific genre that the story in question was written in to keep up with my witty banter on the subject matter. Under most circumstances, once you get the upper hand on these trolls, they are quick to scurry back under their bridges. They prefer picking on those authors who will not fight back or who cannot hold their own in a word war.
And sometimes, if you are really really lucky, you will come across your very own stalker troll. I had this happen to me once. This little tale is the reason why I cancelled my Facebook account. Now let me point out that since this happened, my ‘psycho fan’ (a term of endearment, mind you) has apologized for her actions, but I think my experiences bear repeating if for no other reason than to let other writers know that their own experiences, feelings, and reactions have merit.
I learned the hard way to keep my personal accounts (like Facebook, Twitter, etc) separate from my accounts used exclusively for networking my writing career. But back in the ‘good old days’ I would occasionally post the status of my writing career on my personal Facebook page. My close family and friends already knew that I was a published writer. When this happened, I had just been befriended by a woman who said she was interested in the fact that my profile stated I was a writer. Things were great for the first few days. It quickly became apparent, however, that anyone who did not share her views or opinions became an instant target for her rants. (I’ll talk more about those types of trolls in a minute) Since I have been writing for twenty-eight years I have become accustomed to having people rant on and on about how much they disagree with what I have to say, so I paid it little mind. Then came the day that I posted the synopsis for the novel that I am currently working on. The next thing I know my Facebook notebook page is filled up with comment after comment from this woman bashing everything about the novel. That in itself did not really bother me either, since I know that not everyone will like my ideas. But then she created this lovely little note on her Facebook page basically slinging shit about me personally, making it sound like she knew me personally when she didn’t, and giving bad reviews of my published novels that she had not actually read. I don’t mind bad reviews, but I draw the line at people making assumptions about me and my work that are unfounded.
To make a long, involved story shorter, I discovered a whole new type of troll that day. In addition to the ones who just like using your work to gain their own 15 minutes of infamy and those who like annoying writers to see how upset they can get them, you will have those trolls who will target you for no other reason than the simple fact that they do not agree with your point of view. Some of these trolls will be content to merely state their opinions and leave it at that. Others will make it their mission to harass the writer about the same point (or multiple points) over and over again.
If you stay in the writing game long enough, you will eventually come in contact with a troll. If you are a really good writer (or a really bad one), you will come across a whole tribe of trolls in your writing career. The best thing you can do is ignore them. They tend to be attention whores so when you take the attention away from them (by either not responding to comments that you have no control over or not posting comments that you do have control over) they often slink back under their bridge…or at least go find another writer to harass. Unfortunately, this will not work with all trolls. Some trolls are determined to catch the attention of someone, anyone, at any expense, and will not cease their trolling comments regardless of what you say, or don’t say. With these types, there is no right or wrong way to handle them. Chances are they are going to harass the writer regardless.
So what should you do when you come across your very first troll? That is entirely up to the writer and the situation at hand. But most experienced writers will tell you, “Please don’t feed the trolls.”