THAT GUY – THE ONE CRITIC
For everyone that’s either had experience with a writer’s group or even a published novel or two, along the way, you’re going to run into that one person (guy or gal, sorry about the sexist title, I didn’t want to make it too long) that just hates your work. Hey, it happens.
How do you deal with this?
I’ve preached over and over again (insert your cliché here) about finding the right critique group. Despite your best effort, a group is exactly that, a group of people with differing personalities, likes and dislikes. Maybe you’ll get lucky and everyone will be great. It’s really important that your group has a no blood on the floor policy. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be one or two that just get under your skin without quite going over the edge.
How do you handle these people?
This could be a double whammy if you’re an accomplished author that happens to be in both a critique group and have a book or two under your belt. You may or may not be getting it from both ends. On Amazon, say, there’s that one guy or gal that can’t find a good thing to say about you. While this person may not quite go over the line with spite, he or she makes it clear they don’t like your writing. What they say in another context might be considered constructive, but in your case, their words give you nothing useful. Yet, your second book comes out and guess who shows up with another negative critique? What’s obvious is this is the only person saying those same things. Maybe one or two more might chime in but only because they have another agenda and join in just to add fuel to the fire. Then at the writers group meeting, you get the same thing. That guy or gal that doesn’t like your voice. Even though you’re a published author with a following, this person almost talks down to you like you’re an amateur and needs advice on how to do it right.
I have my own that one guy. I’ve known him for years and he’s an occasional member of our critique group. He’s heard me read different genres, from adventure/thriller to icky bug to fantasy and even non-fiction. His mantra never changes until the other day, he’s never given me anything I could actually use. He’s a rather harsh critic, but never quite goes over the line into blood on the floor. One thing is very obvious. He hates my writing style, my voice, no matter what I write. I’ve listened to him critique others and he can be just as harsh, but never with quite as much venom as he saves for my work. I’m sure he thinks he’s being helpful, but what he’s doing is attacking my voice.
I’ve thought of confronting him about it, more than once, but decided it isn’t worth it. I take it as a given I will never please him as long as I commit anything to words, so I do my best to dig for any clues to something useful with his harsh words. Besides, it’s not my place to argue but to absorb and either take it or leave it. After so many years, he finally noted something useful on the most recent sample he got hold of. Yeah, even he has come up with food for thought.
I let him say his thoughts, say thank you and move on. To anyone else, his same mantra and obvious dislike for my voice would tend to get under one’s skin. To me, it’s just part of being in a group.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE YOUR ONE GUY (OR GAL)?
I expect that when my books get out there, there might be a few critics that will be haters, snipers or somewhere in-between. Will I take it to heart? No.
How many of you have that one guy or gal? How do you handle this person? Do you keep quiet and let them say their thing and move on? Do you confront them?
The way critique groups should be run is that they’re not argument sessions. A brief back and forth about a point might be okay, but to get in all those with something to say, a protracted discussion about some point, and particularly and argument between two people just wastes time. I assume a good group leader will nip this one off before it goes on.
My strong suggestion is to blow it off. Listen to what they have to say each time, even if it gets under your skin. Of course you know they hate your writing, but so what? Work on what else they’re saying. Maybe they’ll add something to their rant that you can use. That’s what I do with my that one guy. Look for that nugget. You might just find it! I finally did after many years.