• Ivy L. James

How to Handle Criticism as a Writer

Updated: Jan 29

Unless you're planning to keep your story hidden in your sock drawer forever, criticism is coming. You'll get criticized by your critique partners, by your beta readers, by all your editors, and eventually by complete and total strangers.

This is a terrible job, isn't it. Sigh.


Well, we have to learn how to handle allll that criticism. So here are my tactics:

  1. Accept that criticism is coming.

  2. Recognize helpful, requested criticism.

  3. Let it sit for a while.

  4. Remember that you are not your story.

  5. Highlight the positive feedback.

  6. Remind yourself that not everyone is built for your story.


1. Accept that criticism is coming.

It's nice to imagine hearing only "this is the best story I've ever read, it's perfection incarnate," but that ain't the way it is.


Every story receives criticism about one thing or another.


Don't be surprised by it—it'll hurt more. You'll fare better in the long run if you mentally prepare for it.


2. Recognize helpful, requested criticism.

Did this feedback come from a CP, beta, or editor? If so, you literally asked for it.


Remember, they're on your side. They provide this feedback in an effort to help you. They want your story to be the best it can possibly be.


They aren't out to get you. They don't Skype each other afterwards and clink their champagne glasses like "hahaha, got 'em again!"


It's for the GOOD of your STORY. I can't emphasize this enough. I have to remind myself of this every time.


3. Let the criticism sit for a while.

Take a step back from the criticism and breathe. Things will feel better once the initial shock and hurt have passed.


Is it solicited, constructive criticism? In that case, wait a bit so you can (ideally) come back and see it as objective feedback, not an insult.


4. Remember that you are not your story.

Breathe, okay? It's not about you. Not really.

You and your skill are separate beings. You as a person does not equal you as a writer.


You and your skill are also separate from this particular piece of writing. This story might need work, but it doesn't mean you're a crappy writer or a crappy person.


5. Highlight the positive feedback.

Good feedback tells you what works in addition to what can be improved. Time to focus on what works!

Whip out a real, actual highlighter or pen. We're about to star, underline, circle, and draw arrows to all the nice things your readers said.


Don't live for the compliments -- this is the prime road to people pleasing, and criticism will hurt even worse. No thanks.


Appreciate the good things for what they are. Remember that compliments exist. Criticism of one aspect of your story doesn't negate the good things in another section.


Positivity!


6. Remind yourself that not everyone is built for your story.

Not everyone is your target audience. Even in your target audience, not everyone will connect with your story. And that's okay.


There is no perfect book, and no book appeals to every single person. My favorite books of all time have received 1-star reviews (which offends me personally).

And when it comes to unsolicited criticism...you didn't ask John McJohnson over there what he thought. You don't have to listen to him.


If you do pay attention to the negative reviews from randos, acknowledge what you can improve on, and then move on. Try not to dwell.


TL;DR

As writers, we have to handle a lot of criticism. Here are our ways to do so:

  1. Accept that criticism is coming.

  2. Recognize helpful, requested criticism.

  3. Remember that you are not your story.

  4. Highlight the positive feedback.

  5. Remind yourself that not everyone is built for your story.

It's gonna be okay. I promise.


Now go forth and handle the critics like a pro.


I believe in you!

"Make the Yuletide Gay" is now out in the world! Add it to your TBR list on Goodreads. Read Chapter One for free: Chapter 1: “Good Sir, That's a Lotta Snow”!


You can buy "Make the Yuletide Gay" from NineStar Press or from your preferred digital store!


Looking for more fun writerly and adulty things? You can follow me on Facebook ("Author Ivy L. James"), Instagram (@authorivyljames), and YouTube ("Author Ivy L. James")!

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