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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March 27, 2008

The Power of Chocolate

With Easter just behind us and several chocolate eggs still sitting on my counter, I am reminded of the many comments I’ve read over the years on writers’ forums and listserves.

A writer posts the sad news of yet another rejection.  His/her fellow writers chime in with supportive comments and one common suggestion:   Eat some chocolate.

Another writer posts the jubilant news of an acceptance or even better, a payment from a publication.  His/her fellow writers chime in with congratulatory comments and one common suggestion:  Eat some chocolate.

As I stare at a small pile of brightly wrapped chocolate eggs, I begin to wonder why chocolate seems to be the treat of choice, whether it’s to console the rejected writer or help the published writer celebrate a success. 

What exactly is the power of chocolate?

One site online suggests that chocolate effects the same parts of the human brain as marijuana, however, it would likely take 25 lbs. of the yummy confection to create the same buzz as smoking one joint.

Another website tells of a study where the results suggested eating chocolate might actually enhance cognitive performance, including verbal and visual memory.

And I’m sure we’ve all heard that dark chocolate, in small doses (like the equivalent of 2 Hershey kisses/day) is actually good for our hearts.

There are even studies debating the positive and negative effects of chocolate on our moods. 

But as writers, does any of this apply to our reasons for eating chocolate as we are subjected to the ups and downs of the writing biz?
I don’t think so!

The power of chocolate is that it makes us feel good – at least temporarily. 

Now put down that chocolate easter egg and get back to the business of writing.

February 16, 2008

Handling Rejection

We all know how it feels to open the mailbox and see that SASE sitting amongst the bills and coupons.  Another rejection!

Writers who are serious about getting published will see plenty of rejections in their mailboxes, most likely before they ever receive their first acceptance.  Rejections can be extremely frustrating and have put an end to many an aspiring writer’s career.

But let’s think about what’s behind these rejections…

 1.    Some rejections occur because the writer didn’t know the market
        well enough and subbed inappropriate material

2.    Some rejections occur because the writer sent out a piece that
       wasn’t tight enough or just wasn’t quite ready to be subbed out

3.    Some rejections occur because the publisher was inundated with
        submissions and the writer’s manuscript had to compete with
        an incredible amount of material

4.    Some rejections occur because the publication had already printed
       something similar to what the writer has sent

5.    Some rejections occur because the editor didn’t feel strongly
        enough about the piece to take on the project

And I could go on and on and on and on with valid reasons that writers get rejected.

The bottom line is this:  rejection stinks!

So as a writer, make sure to study your markets, send out ONLY your best work and then let it go and start working on something else. 

Rejection isn’t personal.

Rejection isn’t necessarily an indication that you are a bad writer.

Rejection isn’t a reason to give up.

If you get personal comments from an editor, read them and really evaluate if what they say can help you improve the piece before you send it out again.  And rejoice in the fact that the editor took the time to actually comment – that’s a good sign.

My favorite rejection, yes I have a favorite, was from a magazine.  The editor said:  “I enjoyed reading your work and regret that we do not have any more room for rhymes in this issue (referring to the theme to which I wrote an appropriate piece).  Instead of feeling badly that my piece didn’t get accepted, I studied their future themes list and tried again.  The second time, the third, and the fourth, were all rejections. 

But…the fifth time I was successful and will have two pieces coming out with that publication in 2009, one in May and one in December.

How do you handle rejection?

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