Posted in writing

Criticism, helpful or hurtful?

Every author has that moment.

A scene has been burning up in their mind for the past few weeks. After carefully planning it out, they sit down and get it typed out. It’s not like other writing sessions where they force themselves to focus, this time things are going wonderfully. The muse is there and he is on fire.

In no time, the author is sitting back in their chair, proud as can be. The scene/chapter they just finished wasn’t just good, it was spectacular. The diamond in the rough. A crowning jewel of a chapter.

Of course the author doesn’t want to deprive the world of the joy of reading their work, so they show it to someone else. As the person reads, the author’s chest just puffs up as they imagine the words of praise soon to be coming.

But then after the person finishes, boy do they have a lot to say.

And it’s not always easy on the ears.

Criticism. It’s hard to take. But why is it so personal and hard to hear?

Well, to start off with, author’s spend a lot of time writing and rewriting. Heck I’ll say it takes me over a half hour to write each of my blog posts. But those are about 400-600 words each. Now double imagine the time which goes into writing an 80,000 word novel.

Also now to mention, a lot of us have day jobs. I know I certainly do. I wish I could stay home everyday and type up the ideas burning away in my brain. Alas, this does not put food in the fridge or pay the bills, so I’m forced to get up every morning before the sun and head off to work. So all the time I spend on a novel is after I’ve already put in between forty to sixty hours a week in the office. (When I was writing the first draft of my first and second novels, I was working roughly eighty hours a week)

So we want to hear all our hard work is paying off, we want to know we’re not just wasting our time typing up garbage.

Doesn’t the person know how long it took and how much sleep I sacrificed to get this piece written?

But it also depends on the type of criticism being given.

If someone reads your work and says this sucks and leaves, it isn’t very helpful. Sure, it could suck…or it could be they were in a bad mood, or they just didn’t care about your writing. Heck they could even hold a grudge against you, who knows.

Now if someone says well, this scene isn’t very good, let me tell you how to make it better.

Ding ding ding, you’ve hit the jackpot.

It’s hard to here sometimes, no one wants to hear how their work isn’t very good. But hearing how to make it better, always works out best.

Then there’s the plain and simple I liked the piece, good job. Sure it appeals to the ego of the writer, but it really doesn’t help very much. Unless you’re reading something has been polished and shined and gone over so many time, a plain old good job is nice, but doesn’t go very far.

Of course if you combine the last two, these two go hand in hand. Starting out with a nice comment to make the author feel validated is good, then diving into what needs work and finally editing on a nice note.

Constructive criticism. It hurts sometimes, it really does. It’s hard to get back a stack of papers and see some editor scribbled all over them in red pen. But this is how we grow.

Many many many years ago, someone pointed out to me I started all my sentences the same way. At first I was shocked and then I got angry. How dare he! But after I calmed down, I saw the guy was right. From then on, I started to keep a close eye out on my beginnings. It’s been almost seven years, but I still hasn’t forgotten his comment.

So fellow authors, even though it hurts, remember they’re trying to help you. It’s a lot better to get kind words of advice from someone who cares then nasty ones from someone who doesn’t. Just take a look on amazon reviews. People will rip your work to shreds without thinking twice.

If needed, take a step back and wait for the sting to go away and your ego to take a hike. Your work will be better off in the long run.

What’s the worst/best  criticism you’ve ever gotten?






Hi, I'm Ames! Welcome to my blog. About me Female Favorite foods: Apples, fried chicken and grilled cheese sandwiches. Hobbies: Traveling, reading, learning languages, writing and cooking. Favorite TV show: Big Bang theory. Hopes for this blog: People I don't personally know read my blog.

2 thoughts on “Criticism, helpful or hurtful?

  1. As a friend, we want our writer-friends to excel and produce the very best best work they can.

    But each of us is different. We have our passions. There are the things we love and things we don’t care for. If we happen to personally know a writer, then we should, as a friend, know how to approach them without flaring their tempers. Gentle guidance is the way.

    Of course, some criticism is easier to level and easier to take then others. In my book, there’s a scene where the antagonist is holding a coffee cup. Then she and the protagonist begin to toss a small piece of wood back and forth between them while they have a conversation. Three different people pointed out she never put down the cup before beginning to toss the small piece of wood! I call this a “linkage Error”. This is a simple fix, not only in time and effort, since, all I had to do was insert a single sentence, (_ _ _ _ _ _ _ placed her cup down on the bench.) but more importantly, it doesn’t constitute and “attack” on my work per se. Other things which are not attacks, but simple corrections is when another author has intimate knowledge of a certain subject. I recently said to another author, “In the UK it’s spelled “cheque”, not “check” like we do in the US.” However, suppose someone went on a tirade about how one (or more) of my characters was T-Freakin’-Totally unbelievable. This is a different matter. Yes, I may get my back up!

    If someone told me, “Your book and you suck,” well, years ago, we had a certain snappy reply (I won’t say it here). These days, I might just smile and walk away. but, yes, I would feel slighted.

    Amazon reviews can get ugly, it’s faceless people hiding behind a screen name. But I can tell you, authors are also shielded by publishers, agents and assistants from even constructive criticism. Often, the successful author never sees it. They want more books from the author so they can make more money. A publisher knows a certain work is basically rubbish, but rubbish sells! Some publishers only deal in rubbish, but the fans are more then willing to pay for the genre.

    My best critique was a fellow who wrote my publisher a very nice, one page letter and pointed out how well my article was constructed, how it went against the usual grain in such matters, but illustrated my points, while also entertained the reader.

    My worst was a fellow who wrote a poison-pen email calling my article trash and me a moron. I was going to flame him. Then I thought better of it. I was 99% sure who he really was, and who put him up to it. I calmly deconstructed his comments, one-by-one, called him on a point where I knew he was lying, then challenged him. He never responded.

    Liked by 1 person

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