Writing Tips

How to Handle Criticism

As a budding writer or author, you will suffer through a great deal of criticism. Everyone’s a critic, and everyone criticises art. That means you and your work will be a big target.

They’ll say your writing is dull. Your writing is too descriptive. Your characters don’t work. Your plot doesn’t make sense. Your plot is too slow; it’s too fast. You used the wrong “your” once. You copied Harry Potter. You don’t understand your genre. You’re writing for the wrong audience. You’re writing too much. You’re writing too little.

They will find a fault, no matter how perfect you write. People always do.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they’re right. Of course they are! The first way to deal with criticism is to determine what to listen to and what not to listen to. This is crucial. Every writer will need to adopt this power. The power to see truth in criticism but also recognise non-truths.

From there, you will need to learn what to take onboard and keep in mind for next time, and what to completely dismiss. This is down to you. You can only grow as a writer if you hear what people say and decide, humbly and honestly, what is true and what is not.

Here’s a few quick tips that should help you on the road to dealing with criticism:

  • Ask your inner critic if it’s true.
  • Discuss criticism that you’ve received with someone you trust to tell you the truth. They will help you determine whether it’s worth taking onboard or not.
  • Check if anyone else has said a similar thing to you before, if so, it’s probably true.
  • Read a lot of books, essays, articles (etc) and see if those works are making the “mistake” that you’ve been accused of. If not, then maybe you have made an error. However, don’t take “original” to mean “not okay.” Plenty of works have broken the rules and become global wonders in the future.
  • Go with your gut.

The last point there is the most important – go with your gut. Ultimately, it is up to you if you take on criticism or not. It’s up to you if it’s true or not. If you have a reason for what you’ve done, and you can back it up, then great! Forget them! Ignore them. Don’t take it onboard. Loads of people will have differing opinions about what you’ve produced, and that’s a good thing. Listen to some, and block out the rest. Don’t let them drag you down; instead, deal with it logically.

Things to bear in mind when it comes to critics:

  • Everyone is different
  • Everyone is entitled to their opinion – but it’s just an opinion, not fact
  • Some people simply want to drag you down and make you doubt your work
  • People will compare and tear apart your work, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good as it was before
  • It’s some people’s job to review and critique, so they naturally look for faults
  • You can take something onboard without taking it to heart – it’s not personal
  • Remember that it may help you to become better, so it’s a good thing
  • Everyone has their own tastes and wishes; no one can tell you what your story should be
  • Take what they say as suggestions, not commands
  • Never stop growing; never stop loving what you do; never stop getting better
  • Read, read, read, and develop an eye for what’s good and bad for yourself – it will help you determine if a critic is right or wrong, as you will have critiqued work for yourself
  • Do not lash out at a critic for what they’ve said

Good luck.

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