Dramaquill's All Things Writing

May 30, 2011

How do you handle negative feedback?

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I’ve always been a firm believer in getting constructive criticism on my work. I belong to a critique group and have nothing but the utmost respect for the other members. I know that they spend a great deal of time reading what I submit for critique. They see things not only through the eyes of other writers but as readers as well.

As a writer, I need to write what I’m passionate about but I also need to write for my readers. If nobody enjoys reading my work, then I’m no longer effective as a writer. I don’t want my writing to be self-indulgent.

But the very nature of asking for feedback means that people are going to tell me what they think. That’s right – what THEY think. Not what I want them to think. Sometimes, they don’t like what they read.

So how do I handle negative criticisms?

First of all, they have to be constructive. A comment like “This chapter sucks” is neither constructive nor helpful. But comment like “This chapter had a lot of description and not much action and I found that it didn’t hold my interest” give me something to think about.

When I get negative feedback, I have a three-fold plan for how I deal with it:

DIGEST

SIMMER

DECIDE

Upon initial reading, it’s often hard to see past the criticism. Instead of having an immediate reaction, I try to just read through everything to get an idea of what the reader thought. Then, I put the critique away so that I can digest everything that’s been said.

Next, I leave the writing to simmer for a few days. Usually, I get antsy to get working on it again and that’s my meter for how long to let it simmer.

Finally, I go back and read every comment, one at a time, and decide whether or not I agree with what has been said. If I do feel inclined to try the critiquer’s suggestion, then I do some rewriting and see what happens. If the changes truly do make it read better, then I’m grateful for the suggestion. If not, sometimes I let it simmer some more. If I strongly disagree and don’t feel that the comment warrants any rewriting, then I leave my original words.

It’s difficult to receive feedback, especially when it’s not positive but if it’s constructive, then it warrants my attention.

I have had what I’ll refer to as “mean” critiques (not from my current group who I’ve been with for many years now). It’s hard not to let those comments bring you down and question your writing but I’ve come to the conclusion that when someone just rips your work apart without a valid reason or explanation, then I need to just toss that aside and instead, rely on the comments that can and do make my writing better.

How do you handle negative criticisms?

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