You are going to have to take criticism as a writer. If you did not realize this, I am sorry to burst your bubble. There is no such thing as a perfect book, and even if there was it certainly would not be perfect on the first attempt.
The truth is criticism can hurt. Your book is like your child. Nobody wants to hear someone talk negatively about their kid. Just like your child, your story is a part of you. Hearing what someone does not like about it can break your heart.
Authors have various degrees of unhealthy relationships with criticism. Some of us will avoid putting our work out there to avoid it altogether. Others will defend their writing no matter what, disagreeing with every negative comment a critic has.
Now I realize some people can simply be cruel. It is often best to just shut these people out. However, oftentimes critics make the comments they do as a way to help you improve your writing in the future. They are simply trying to help you be the best author you can be.
Learning how to take criticism can be a great way to improve as a writer. It may hurt, but the point of making mistakes is to learn from them. Getting negative comments on something you wrote can be a gift in disguise. Embrace it!
Here are some tips to take criticism as a writer and grow from it.
Listen to Criticism as a Writer
It can be easy to close your eyes and pretend you never saw the negative comment on your work, but what will that fix? No matter where you hide if you make a mistake it is still there until you fix it.
The second part of that is clear. You can fix it. This is especially so for an article posted online or a draft. If it is too late and a book is already out there, you can still learn so that your next book is even stronger.
Now, when I say listen I am not telling you to simply skim through the criticism or build a counterargument in your head. I mean truly absorb what the critic had to say. To take criticism as a writer you need to truly take it. Get a true understanding of what their issue was with your piece.
If you have to, take notes. This is especially true if the criticism was verbal, that way you do not lose the point the critiquer meant to make in your frustration.
Think of it as a relationship. You can not simply hear your partner, you have to listen to them. Otherwise, you are doomed to break up.
Hopefully, this criticism did not come from a partner, but hey that honestly would not be the worst thing. Blind praise from your family is pointless.
Constructive criticism can be gold if you truly take the time to listen.
Take Criticism as a Writer, Not an Angry Parent
Have you ever gone to a child’s soccer game and watched the parents scream at the refs for a missed call. How often have those refs changed their ruling on the field because a soccer mom hollered him he was wrong?
The answer is never. Screaming and yelling are not going to change someone’s opinion of your book. Nothing is and you are going to have to accept that.
Your goal after someone criticizes your writing should not be to blindly defend it. You should not be commenting with excuses or denying the critique. Accept that is how they feel about what you wrote and move forward.
All you will accomplish by writing angry comments back at negative reviews is embarrass yourself as a professional. Even if the review was in awful taste, keep your thoughts about it to yourself.
Reread Your Work
Now that you have listened to what the critique was about, take the time to reread what you wrote with the critic’s thoughts in mind. It may become abundantly clear that they were right.
When you do this do not come in with the mindset of proving them wrong. Read your writing with an open mind. Try to put yourself in the critic’s shoes.
A big part of this is understanding they do not have the same time investment into this work as you do. Unlike you, they do not know everything about this project and the characters by heart. If they stopped reading because they could not get into the story, explore the idea that the book may have a slow start. If you use the same words often, try and keep an eye out for them.
Note I am not saying change everything to fit what the critic had to say. I am simply saying to try and understand where the criticism came from.
Make an Objective Choice
A huge part of writing is making the decisions that are right for your novel. This is also so with critique. After taking an honest look at what the critic said, you have to decide if you agree.
Before you decide, throw away your attachment to your writing. Do not simply decide the critic is an idiot because it makes you feel better. Ask yourself honestly if making changes based on what the critic said would improve the novel.
Note, the answer may be no. It could very well be that your writing was simply not for the critic, but other people love it just the way it is. Not everyone has to love you. Especially if the issue is over a stylistic choice that others loved, feel free to tune them out.
On the other hand, you also have to be realistic. If a few different people make the same comment about being confused, the chances are your writing is a little confusing. Do not cheat yourself and your writing.
If Needed Make Changes
There is no shame in making changes to your writing as a result of a critic. You should be proud you found a way to improve.
If you can not change the issues with the critiqued work, remember to improve in certain areas in the future. Writing is about growth. Do not hang your head because your writing is not perfect. Making changes based on critique will bring your writing to the next level.
So long as each work you put out there is better than the last you should never hang your head!
No matter what you should still be proud you put your writing out there. That takes courage and so does accepting critique and growing from it.
I love when people critique my work. I have made many changes to my Instagram and this site because people pointed out there were things I could be doing better.
That being said, also allow yourself to enjoy the good comments. The chances are for every bad critique you receive you will also get a super positive review. For some reason, the negatives affect us far more than the positives.
Take pride in the things you did well. Just because you got some criticism does not mean your writing did not have a lot to offer. Do not let some criticism discourage you. If you are interested in having your book reviewed on this site, reach out.