In today’s hyper-partisan land of the social media echo chamber, it sometimes seems to me that people are are no longer capable of hearing anything that isn’t 100% in agreement with them. You’re most likely thinking “yeah, so. I’m here to read about writing, not your social commentary.”
But this does relate to writing. In writing–and really, in any type of art–you have to have a thick skin. Rejection is certainly something you need to learn to accept, but so is criticism, which can be an entirely different thing than rejection.
Rejection is normal
Sure a rejection might sting, but when it comes to rejection in writing, it’s usually an impersonal activity. You send a story to someone you don’t know and they either agree to give you money for your story or they don’t. They generally aren’t looking to call your story good or bad; they are looking to see if it is a good fit for the publication.
But when it comes to received actual critiques of your story, that a different beast all together. Hearing a story is “not a good fit” is a lot different than hearing your story has problems and needs fixing.
Did I say “fixing”? Why yes, I did.
Receiving criticism is okay
That what makes criticism a good thing. When a reader or another writer (or even an editor inside the rejection letter) offers criticism, they are doing it with good intentions. The intent isn’t to attack you personally, attack your writing, attack your story, or anything else to make you feel bad. The intent (as long as it comes from an honorable person) is to help make you a better writer.
And that’s why all writers need to learn to hear things they don’t always agree with. If you only surround yourself with people who tell you how great you are, you will never know when something does need fixing.
How to receive criticism
There are a few somewhat well-know authors who can not accept any negative feedback. Some, in fact, have been known to respond to negative reviews on Amazon. Please don’t do that.
I’ve also met authors who respond to rejection letters. And they responds not by saying “thank you for your time,” but by telling the editors why they were wrong to not pick the story. Also, do not do that.
And finally when you receive criticism from a friend, colleague, critique group, or beta reader, whatever you do, do not get angry. They are simply trying to help, and if someone says “this isn’t clear,” then that’s what they mean. They don’t mean “Your writing sucks, so go die” so don’t react as if that’s what they said.
So please, please, please, after you finish that second or third draft and seek out some honest feedback, be open to what you hear. Only then will you be able to improve.
Where do you go for criticism of a work in progress? What sites would you recommend readers to try using for some honest feedback?