Critiques are a necessary evil of being a writer. It’s not something that can be escaped. But it is something that pays of immensely in the end.
Admittedly, I’m not always the best at handling criticism, even when constructive. I have gotten so much better about it in the last few years though, which is something I’m very proud of. I definitely catch myself feeling a bit put-down when I receive criticism sometimes. It’s definitely a work-in-progress for me but something that needs to happen as I pursue my writing career.
As Harper Lee said,
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
Why Is Criticism Hard To Handle?
I tend to take things pretty personally, even though nine times out of ten it’s not intended that way. I know there are lots of people that take criticism and think there is something wrong with their writing or that they’re not good enough. But that’s not true! We all make mistakes and we’re all learning.
As writers, we become so consumed with our stories. Our characters feel like friends. Our setting feels like home. Our plotlines have been meticulously created through hours of hard work. Our books are our babies. What happens when we feel like our baby is being attacked? Our defenses go up.
So, it makes sense why criticism can be hard to take. But it all comes down to thinking about the end process: completing a readable work of art for our audience to enjoy.
Don’t Take It Personal
Easier said than done, am I right? In all seriousness, as easy as it is to take something personally, you have to remember that a critique is not a personal attack on you and your work. These suggestions are what will help make your story better.
As the writer, we’re so heavily involved in the story that we simply can’t see what someone on the outside sees. You have to take their notes into consideration. After all, wouldn’t you rather hear about a note from critique partners rather than your audience when your book comes out?
It’s Your Story
Despite whatever criticisms you receive, you have to remember that your story is yours. If there’s a critique you receive that you don’t agree with, you don’t have to make the change. You should also never make a change if you don’t feel completely comfortable with it.
Consider some critiques as suggestions. Think over what they say and, if it makes sense, make the change. But don’t allow a critiquer to change your message.
In the past, I would sometimes feel obligated to make a change because another person told me I should. They might have said this character didn’t make sense or the storyline didn’t flow in a way they liked. So, I would make the change because I thought that if they thought that, other people might as well. That’s not fair to me or to my story. Never make changes you’re uncomfortable with.
Take Everything Into Consideration
It’s always a good idea to get more than one critique of your work. Every person is different and will interpret your story in a different way. You want to get a well-rounded analysis of your work so you can make changes as needed.
Before you actually make any changes, you’ll want to lay out all the big changes to evaluate. What makes sense? What do I feel comfortable with? Some of the suggestions made may conflict with each other. It’s up to you to determine what’s best for your story.
The Exception To The Rule
Not all criticism is constructive. It’s unfortunate, but there are some individuals that think being harsh is an excuse to be rude. Frankly, it’s not.
One of my biggest pet peeves is unconstructive criticism. If you’re in it to help me make my book better, I’m completely appreciative of that. If you’re harsh and unhelpful, I have zero time for that.
Again, it’s up to you, as the writer, to weed out the unconstructive criticisms. Don’t give those a second thought and don’t let them get you down about your writing.
Enter The Right Frame Of Mind
When you sit down to read your critiques, set yourself up in a frame of mind that is inviting to these new ideas. If you’re feeling down on yourself or your writing, or you’re just in a bad mood, skip it for that day. When you’re in that type of mind space, you won’t be able to take the criticisms effectively.
Be as open-minded as possible when you’re reading through these notes. Repeat the phrase, “This will help my story be even better.” At the end of the day, that’s all that matters!