Handling criticism is always a hot topic on blogger and author forums and tweetchats. Simply put, a negative review is difficult to handle no matter where it comes from, but it is unfortunately a fact of life. I taught English for far too long, watching how differently my students reacted to the same book, and so I truly understand this. Even Harry Potter is not loved by all, so why in the world would my writing be?
So how does an author, blogger, writer, etc. go about reacting to other’s negative responses?
Well, I try to learn from the critiques. Usually there is a good reason why a person is being critical. I once did some ghost writing for a radio personality out of Louisiana who had a national following. He wanted a novel that reflected the stories of many of his listeners, a story about a kid growing up in the inner city and being drawn into the world of drugs, etc.
I was extremely proud of the first few chapters I sent him. I started with the now-grown main character in the hospital, a consequence of his choices, and then flashed back to his childhood to start the rising action. I even threw in some very poignant foreshadowing. Guess what? The radio personality hated it! He couldn’t understand the flow of the story and said it made no sense.
His criticism helped me to remember a very important ghost writing fact: I have to write for my audience! This particular radio personality had no real formal education, and so I was writing way over his head! His listeners wouldn’t be interested in that type of book! They just wanted some good action and a juicy story, not a complicated plot with literary devices! Good lesson learned from some very strong criticism.
Now take my newest novel Beware the Ex-Varto. Readers were quickly responding with, “Who proofread this? Too many typos!”
Yikes! My ears still burn while I am typing this!
However, it helped me track down the fact that the wrong (unedited) version of my book had been formatted for the Kindle and then uploaded, so it allowed me to backtrack and get it straightened out. (Unfortunately it was after 400 copies had been downloaded, so it also led to me becoming agentless, which you can read about here.)
In the end, though, I actually appreciate critiques as long as they aren’t mean-spirited. If they are, I try not to pay attention to them!
Handling criticism was a brief topic at my Central Florida Blogger Conference last year where keynote speaker Marc Middleton, 2-time Emmy winner and 3-time Sportscaster of the Year winner, made a very important point: “If you are not being criticized, then you are not relevant.”
Since hearing Marc speak, I have said this quote not only to myself but to others as a way for them to handle criticism, too, mean-spirited or otherwise.
So, keeping all this in mind, I was thrilled to have this recently posted on my Facebook wall by Marc:
It is always great to hear when people do like your stories!
How do you handle a negative review or critique? Any tips for other writers out there?