‘Listen To Constructive Criticism’

Here is another marvellous post from Nicola Morgan’s ‘Help! I Need a Publisher’ blog, this time on how to respond to criticism.

“[The writer] continued by explaining that the person giving her feedback had said lots of positive things but had suggested that x and y should be changed, but that she’d actually got a publishing deal and x and y were retained. Therefore, the person giving the feedback was wrong.

Oh goshy goshy gosh. And feckity gosh all over again.”

It’s talking about writers, of course, but the advice actually applies to anyone who ever gets feedback about anything – everyone in other words! You should read the whole thing, because as always Nicola whacks the nail firmly on the head.

It’s quite pertinent to me at the moment. Just this week my beloved WIP has gone to reviewers for the first time. Friendly ones to begin – fiancée, family, friends – but there’s still a slight frisson of trepidation about what they’re going to come back with. After that round of editing it’s off to a professional, and that’s where the gloves will really come off!

I’m generally pretty thick-skinned, so I think I’ll be fine. I’m also a realist; this is my first novel. There are going to be things that need changing. Possibly quite fundamental things. I may well be several months further from being ready to publish than I think I am. Oh no! Right?

Wrong. That’s fine. I’m not in a rush. I’m going to damn well wait until this book is the best I can make it before I send it out into the world – first impressions count after all. And to make it its best I know I’m going to have to take the nasty with the nice – it’d be ridiculous to ignore any feedback which could help. Especially when I’m paying for it!

Or as Nicola so neatly says: “If I value someone’s opinion I cannot only value it when it suits me.”

How do you respond to criticism, readers? Openly and appreciatively? Or with fingers firmly in ears?

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2 thoughts on “‘Listen To Constructive Criticism’

  1. Expect to have your heart broken. It doesn’t matter how thick-skinned you may be, how much you know your first draft is going to suck, on some level, you’re still deeply attached, and one of your reviewers is going to criticize something you didn’t realize you loved, and it’ll hurt. Then, about an hour later (if you’re lucky), you’ll look at it again and realize, damn, they’re right. Then again, if everyone else comes back and says they loved the same thing, then you know it’s probably just that one person. I’ve been advised that if one editor/beta-reader points out a problem, and you really don’t see why it’s a problem even after carefully considering what they said, it’s probably not a problem and it’s just that particular person’s tastes. If two come back with the same problem, you might have a problem. If three come back, you definitely know you need to rethink something. Watch for the trends in critique.

    Usually, I roll with it. Sometimes, when I have a particularly brutal critique that rips apart my entire story, I feel like crap for a few hours and weep over it. Then, I force myself to go back and reread, see what the reader meant, and figure out where I’m going after that. Accepting critique, I’ve noticed, is a combination of having maturity and the experience of having critique given to you. One of the things that rightly pisses me off about my particular degree in fiction writing is that we’re not allowed to critique each other’s stuff. We’re not allowed to point out where things aren’t working, only the good stuff, so we don’t hurt people’s feelings. I think it’s a dumbass way to prepare a bunch of writers for the real world. A writer needs to expose themselves to critique, otherwise, when it counts, they won’t be able to take it.

    I’d also suggest finding yourself a few other writers to look at your work (if you haven’t got some lined up already). A combination of readers, writers, and editors will really help you work out the issues with your MS.

    I’m going to go read that blog now.

    • Excellent advice as always – thanks 🙂

      Not critiquing the work of others on your course seems utterly daft – as you, say how are you going to learn to deal with it in the real world? Madness!

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