DEALING WITH CRITICISM
What happens to you as a writer, when you pour your heart and soul into your work, only to have someone of literary importance trash it with either a downright nasty barrage of comments or some offhand snide remark that cuts to the bone? How many of you have had that happen? I’ll hereby raise my hand. “Ooh ooh teacher! You can count me in!”
Yeah, folks, when you consider my 600+ rejection status, I didn’t get a lack of response to all of them. Though the majority were either no response, a polite no thank you, or the return of an obviously unread manuscript, I lucked out in two out of one hundred times by receiving actual feedback. Fifty percent of said feedback was good. The other half would make someone that didn’t have their heart and soul dedicated to this passion quit and find another passion. I think those really nasty ones, in at least a couple of cases, were meant to toughen me up, to tell it like it is, or to jolt me in their twisted way into changing my work into what they thought would be a best seller.
Then there were the others that were just plain thoughtless and rude. They were made by people that had no filter, no idea of what it was like to be diplomatic, or how to use tact.
If you haven’t dealt with it yet, be prepared. If you’re just starting out as a writer, one way or the other, someone is eventually going to look at your stuff. They’re going to give you feedback. You have to start from somewhere. The way they tell you what’s wrong is going to vary. You have to be ready for anything.
DEVELOP A THICK SKIN
To succeed and become a better writer, you have to learn! That means you aren’t going to be a perfect writer right out of the gate. I don’t care how much learnin’ you’ve had or think you’ve had at school, college or from that random writing course or seminar. Maybe you’ve had no training at all. In the real world, there’s a big difference from a classroom to getting published. Of course, it’s a bigger curve if you’ve had no training at all, but either way, someone is going to tell you you’re doing something wrong. It’s all part of the process.
I came from the technical writing world, and trust me, it’s a different world from not only fiction, but from non-fiction! Technical writing is not selling writing for commercial applications, at least not in the same sense. Even there, someone looks over your shoulder and provides a second set of eyes.
That all leads back to you having to deal with at least one and hopefully lots of other people that are going to guide you, criticize you in a (hopefully) positive way.
IT DOESN’T STOP THERE
You’ve won the lotto and all your talent and luck got you that deal and now you have a book on the shelves. Too late to take it back now. The book is out there for whole world and now a different and undisciplined group of people have you at their mercy. If you think you had it bad before, think again.
There are the book critics, paid to either slam you or make you look good. Then there are the independents that can go either way. However, the biggest and most varied group will be the readers. Every web site that sells books also has a place available to leave customer feedback. This is where the knives can really go deep.
Are you ready for the really nasty stuff? The worst and nastiest, most unfiltered mean jabs come from customers. They can tear down any confidence you thought you had if you aren’t prepared.
Remember, you made it this far. Those idiots slamming you have done nothing except spew out poison because they can. Do they have a point? Maybe. Even if they do, you can’t let it get you down, because there should be plenty of others that loved your stuff. If not, maybe it just wasn’t the right time for your story or enough people are not seeing it. Maybe you need to adjust your marketing.
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONAL
The point is, it doesn’t matter if it’s experts or readers. Don’t take criticism personal, whether it’s intended to be or not. You have to develop a tough skin to be able to survive in this passion. If you have any hope of continuing with writing, it’s all part of the game. You can’t be the sensitive artiste and expect to survive. The idea is to cut through the crap and look at the big picture. Forget the personal jabs, the lack of tact and get to the bare facts. Does what they say have any merit or are they just blowing smoke? Do others say the same thing but in a nicer way, or is this slug the only one? If there’s a consensus, maybe it’s something you have to look at. If you’re in the early stages of writing, you can change it. If the book is already published, think about the next one.
Harsh words should bounce off like the empty thoughts they are, because they can’t harm you, unless you let them. Where have we all heard that before?