I have focused the last few Author’s Learning Workshops on editing. Mostly, they’ve looked at the practical points of editing, but they haven’t addressed the emotional part of editing.
Critiquing your own work can be hard. Having other people tell you how to improve your work can be even harder. This may well be the most difficult part of writing. Often, our peers are our worst critics. They know the rules of English grammar. They understand plot arcs and character development. Your Great Aunt Susie is more likely to tell you she loves your work than pick it apart
That being said, being able to accept criticism is huge. While hard to hear, it’s also good to know where you’ve gone wrong.
Here are a few things to remember when accepting criticism:
1) Not all criticism is valuable. Someone may say they dislike it. Another person might say they love it. If you are getting a greater response in either camp, fine. That’s what reviews and stars are for, but if one person tells you they don’t like it, that’s OK. You don’t have to change your work because one person doesn’t like something. They are entitled to their opinions.
2) People don’t have to be rude. Choose critique partners that can gracefully and politely give you advice. Just because you need criticism, doesn’t mean you need to sit through someone’s tongue lashing. It’s okay to protect yourself.
That being said, sometimes even the most politely delivered criticism can hurt. Step back, give yourself some time to lick your wounds, and then come back and look at the feedback with fresh eyes.
3) Follow the rule of three. Once, and it might just be someone’s opinion. Twice, and it could be a coincidence. Three times and you probably need to fix the issue.
4) You don’t have to take criticism. Suggestions from other writers can improve your work and lead you to a revelation. However, it’s your art. If you don’t like people’s opinion, and you love what you’re doing, then just do it. No one gets to tell you how to live your life. You do you.
5) Always improve and respond to grammar criticism, but weigh your thoughts before you change your narrative and story arc. I am super grateful when people point out missing commas, misplaced capitalization, or some wonky grammar. However, if they told me that my MC couldn’t tap dance and do the hula, I might tell them it’s none of their business.
6) Don’t kill the messenger. If you are in a critique group and receiving your feedback in person, it is always polite to allow the person to finish speaking and thank them. Don’t justify and don’t debate. Just take notes, and deal with your feelings later.
7) Thank them! Whether or not they have given you helpful advice, somebody cared enough to read your work and take their time to share their thoughts with you. That’s square one!
Learning to process feedback is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Writers with grit and tough skin succeed in this business.