You know, I’ve written a few articles about rejection on this site, but I haven’t every really touched on criticism. In my head, they’ve always sort of gone hand in hand, but in real life, it’s not like that at all.
When a rejection comes, it means that’s it. That particular editor doesn’t want your story. Move on.
But when a critique partner (or friend, or family member, or beta reader) gives you proper criticism, he isn’t doing it to reject your work; he’s doing it to help you improve it.
Don’t get defensive.
It can be difficult to hear someone point out what is wrong with your perfect novel. But you have to remember: they are not attacking you or your writing. They are offering criticism to help you find areas in that specific piece that have problems. (Note: If someone is attacking you or your writing, they’ve got other issues and you shouldn’t waste your time with them.) Be thankful there is someone who is willing to find the problems you’ve missed.
There is no reason at all to get defensive about it.
In fact, don’t “defend” your work at all.
The most important thing you can do when hearing criticism of your fiction is to shut up and listen. Don’t interrupt and try to explain it. Don’t tell them that they are missing the point. Don’t do anything; just listen.
The feedback they provide may or may not be helpful, but if you’re only planning your rebuttal to what is said, then you’re not truly listening at all.
If you really feel the need to explain something, don’t do it until after they are finished talking about it. And if you do feel like the reader missed the point, keep in mind that it’s your job to make sure the writing is strong enough the get the point across. “I was shooting for X, but that’s clearly not how you saw it. Do you have any advice?”
Someone just read your story or novel and gave you an honest opinion. That’s great! But it doesn’t have to stop there. If there is anything specific the reader didn’t mention, ask. “Was this character realistic enough?” “Did the ending make you want to read another book in the series?”
Keep an open mind.
Finally, remind yourself that one person’s opinion is just that. You don’t have to implement a single suggestion they make. But you do have to give it an honest consideration. Weigh the pros and cons of every suggestion, but in the end, it’s your story and it’s up to you do write it the way you think it should be written.
That is, until it gets to the editor’s desk 🙂