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Taking criticism

Usually when people hear the word criticism, they don’t think of it as a positive thing. I mean, no one wishes they were imperfect at anything. But we’re all imperfect. That’s just life. I admit that I had little moments of terror every time I hit the ‘send’ button to email my WIP to a beta reader. Would they hate it? Would they hate me because it was such a complete piece of crap? The usual irrational, fleeting thoughts.

But when I get comments back, it comes with a different feeling. Excitement. I know, weird, right? Excitement is the way to go, though, honestly. It's easy to get defensive and hug your manuscript to your chest to protect it from harm, but that won't help you improve.

Should you take every last scrap of advice you receive? No. It’s not really even possible to, because odds are, you'll get some conflicting advice. But should you consider every comment seriously? Absolutely. Because it's only you who suffers if you choose to ignore advice just because it's hard.

In my experience, 99% of the people I’ve come across in the writing community really do want to help. They’re not scheming to sabotage your chances of landing an agent, or giving you horrible criticisms while sitting at home in their Voldemort mask and doing evil laughter. It’s hard sometimes to swallow your pride and accept that your writing or your query or your synopsis isn’t perfect, but in the long run, you’ll be so much better off if you take it all in and accept advice graciously.

If you're someone who struggles with criticism, I recommend dipping your toes in slowly. Start with your mom, or your husband, or a friend. Someone who might comment on a few sentences here and there, but will overall give you positive feedback. Then when you get an actual beta reader, you'll still be floating on your cloud from the praise, and your ego won't take such a hit. And if your confidence is easily shaken, pick betas who will word things gently rather than ones who are blunt. The way someone hands out their advice can make a world of difference.

But above all, remember that when it's all said and done, your writing will be more amazing than you would ever have thought, and you'll be forever thanking those people who made you look more closely and push yourself harder.
Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

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  1. I totally agree. And love the "Voldemort mask" comment. :D

    If you can't handle criticism though, what happens if you start querying and the rejections come in? Because unless you're the next JK Rowling (and if you are, I'd like to meet you) there will be rejections. Everyone gets them and some cut deeper than others.

  2. SO well-put. *much applause*

    Horserider's right -- and even if you land an agent, there will be agent revisions, and then editor revisions, and then more editor revisions, and then quite possibly some negative reviews... the earlier you learn to take criticism, especially well-meaning, constructive criticism, the faster your journey to publication will be. Period.

  3. Voldemort mask...LOL.

    And Horserider, even JK got rejections!!!

    Great post, Kaitlin. I've come to love criticism. People see things that I'm just too close to the story to see, and once I make those changes the whole thing is so much better. I LOVE it.

    I read a blog post once by a published author who talked about her first bad review. She said she was expecting a few, but this one was so cruel it seemed like a personal jab at her. She was devastated.

    Then she got over it and wrote another book.

    That's something we all need to face if we want to be published. We write, we revise, revise again, put it out there, have it torn to shreds...revise, find an agent, revise, find an editor, revise, get it published...then it's on the shelves, and with a few words a reviewer can destroy us. IF we let them.

    Or we can just take what we can from it, and write some more. :)

  4. I'd like to point out that Kirsten and I posted almost simultaneously. I wasn't just paraphrasing her.

    Great minds think alike, and all that. ;)

  5. This is so true, Kaitlin. Everyone else has already said it, but critiques are something you have to get used to in writing. And if they help you improve, why wouldn't anyone want to hear some constructive criticism?

  6. You need thick skin to keep putting your babies out there and hearing they are ugly. Okay, not quite that bad, but everyone is right. There are always more comments, suggestions, changes, and edits at every stage. I look forward tomy bets comments because I know they have my best interest at heart and are helping me make my story the best it can be. Even if it means deleting entire chapters. Um okay, that not so much!

  7. I think if you can't take the criticism, what is the point of putting in out there? If you only want positive feedback, then you aren't going to get the right information you need to make it better. In other words, I think you should take the criticism, and think how much this is going to help you in the long run.

    By the way, the "Voldemort mask" comments had me smiling the rest of the way through it. Very clever!

  8. Kaitlin,

    What a great blog on criticism! I know we've all been there and done that! It was ironic because someone out of the blue had emailed me on AW the other day to tell me how much they enjoyed my prologue and first chapter of The Road to Damascus...after I thanked them, they came back with a few suggestions. And what to do you know, they were GREAT!

    I think most everyone appreciates constructive criticism. I've had awesome beta readers for all my projects, and while sometimes their comments stung, in the end, it was for the best. Hannah, Kody, and Kristen really helped to whip The Guardians into shape, and I owe them bigtime! LOL...along with some agents who were kind enough to give feedback...with their rejections!

    Haha, loved the Voldemort allusion...We just love our Harry Potter allusions don't we?

    Great job!

  9. The best thing I could have in my writing process is honest critiques from friends and colleagues who weren't afraid to tell me the absolute truth. It stings at first, but my skin grew thick until I came to embrace criticism. I no longer let family, non-writing friends, etc. read my work with an eye to constuctive feedback. I love 'em, but they love me, too; too much to be "mean" or "critical." Great post, Kaitlin!


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Item Reviewed: Taking criticism Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward