Last time, I looked at how to deal with your own inner critic, and this month it seems appropriate and timely to look at external criticism. Any kind of feedback on your writing—whether good or bad—can be useful, but the negative stuff can hit hard, causing a burst of emotions within you. What’s the best way to deal with that and respond to those who criticize your writing?
Since the latest and final series of Game of Thrones aired, more than a 1.5 million have signed a petition to have it remade. The petition calls the main writers, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, “woefully incompetent.” Benioff and Weiss, and the show’s network, HBO, have not yet responded. They probably know that it rarely helps to react impulsively to criticism when you’re full of those initial emotions.
‘Writers are like prize fighters,’ said Norman Mailer. ‘You wake up, sit down at your desk, put yourself through your paces—and wait for the critical blows to fall.’
And Mailer knew what he was talking about. Gore Vidal once likened his book The Prisoner of Sex to ‘three days of menstrual flow.’ Some years later, Mailer saw Vidal at a party, threw a drink over him and punched him. As Vidal got up from the floor, he is said to have replied, ‘As usual, words fail him.’
Authors, a typically solitary pursuit, can feel particularly vulnerable to those harsh critical blows. That’s especially so these days as they can appear not only in the established media but on book forums or even on your own social network pages. Or maybe from that one—you know the one—in your writing group who can’t resist getting in that little dig.
And what do you do? You can get angry, consider hitting back, worry about your writing, start thinking about changing your new book to suit the critics, or worse, consider giving up writing altogether.
So what can you do when confronted by a bad book review or harsh criticism? Change your whole writing style because of some negative feedback, or persist in believing you know better? [Read more…]