Friday, March 6, 2009

How Do You Deal With Criticism?

This is really me searching for advice.

Who do you listen to you? Fellow writers, your best friend, your teacher? If someone critiques you, what process do you go through to separate the valuable stuff from the bullshit? How do you keep a critique that seems like a critique of you as a writer in general, not just of a certain work, from bringing you down completely?

Give me your methods, folks.

<3 hannah


Angie Frazier said...

This is a great topic! I have been through a lot of critiques, with all different results. Yes, there have been a few people who truly just wanted to beat other writers down and criticize. I usually knew when this was happening when they NEVER found anything good to say about the project. Or when they rewrote sentences or paragraphs for me. Um. No thank you.

I rely on fellow writers who I have developed a relationship with. This takes time and luck, and lots of trial and error. When comments makes you go "Oh, yeah!" that is the advice you want to follow IMO.

Heather said...

I try to look at all of it openly. Obviously it's harder to take critique from someone who has poor reading comprehension or is biased against genre... but I still try to take in what they say.

I really try to look at it honestly and ask myself if the book would be better with the change or without the scene or whatever.

Sometimes a small change can fix things. Sometimes the person giving the critique hasn't read the entire book and doesn't understand the need for certain choices and conversations

But usually critiques point to things that I knew I needed to fix in the first place.

I do keep a doc filled with some of the nice things people have said about my writing in the past. That way, if I get too discouraged, I can go back and remind myself that I have my own moments of writing brilliance. Once in a while.

Martha Flynn said...

I take all critiques seriously but break down whether the change would improve my story. When critiques seem generalized to my writing, I always ask for clarification back to a specific scene. Maybe I've been lucky to have great partners, but so far it's been a really positive process for me.

Donna said...

I give my work to specific people to critique with different intentions from each person.

I know where I stand with my own work and I usually know, going in, where my weaknesses are and others usually validate those. If someone brings something else up that I wasn't aware of, I go back and take a look at it and if I can understand where the critter is coming from, I note it.

I've had one critter in particular come back on a short and he gave some tips but said he scanned the rest because he just couldn't finish it. Definitely wasn't my best piece of writing, especially since it was an experiment, but that's not how a good critter acts. If someone politely asks for a critique and you agree, then you don't read half of it and skim the rest because you thought it sucked. Sure, the guy made some good points but they were kind of invalidated by the fact that he couldn't be bothered to read the rest. It's not like it was an epic piece. It was about 2,000 words.

So I think it's different for everyone and just something you learn to weed through as you go through the process. If multiple people say the same thing, that's a pretty good sign to listen to them. Everything else you take as you will.

Sage said...

I've only had criticism of the beta kind so far, no reviews or professional criticism.

There are WIPs that I have been completely open to whatever criticism I've received for it. Others that I've been devastated by negative reviews. Some negative crits were more crushing after so many positive ones, and some because of other things going on at the time.

When I get a harsh crit on something I love, I usually have to take some time after I first read it and think about things. Then I can go systematically through the line-by-line things they mention, using what seems reasonable and skipping what is absurd and making a judgement call on the in between. I tackle the big suggestions last (unless they're needed before working on the other stuff) because that gives me more time to accept it and to figure out how to deal with it, or decide if it really needs to be dealt with at all.

This is for betaing. Naturally, a review for something published would be different. Nothing you can change then. So negative reviews would probably upset me, maybe even make me angry or defensive, but... the book would be published and there'd be nothing to change. I'd just have to remember that it's just one person's opinion and move on. After all, there are plenty of books/shows/movies that I love and *know* are good that I'll find on Amazon and see reviews trashing them. And I hope I'll keep that in mind for any future reviews of my own.

The other day I said I wasn't going to read any reviews if my stuff was published..., but I probably won't be able to help myself. So I'll just have to try to keep a cool head when the inevitable happens.

Anonymous said...

You know, for some strange reason, criticism has never bothered me. I usually listen to advice, consider it, and either use it and/or decide that it's not for me. But it doesn't hurt me.

That's why I never fully understand why writers freak out about rejection letters. Yeah, they're tough, but why would you rail at the agent or editor? They're doing their job. YOUR job is to keep writing until someone says yes.

Just my two cents. :)

StrugglingToMakeIt said...

First of all, I'm glad I found this blog. I've been following it on Blogger since someone brought it to my attention, but just recently started reading.

I agree with a lot of what others have said. Often, the comments that I take most seriously are the ones that give me "aha" moments.

Most of the time, I read the comments through once, think about them, put them away, think about them some more while thinking about my WIP and then finally I'll go back to my WIP and compare my notes with the comments. This is usually how it works. Unless I just get a crazy comment that doesn't make sense and/or something over-generalized or obviously meant to just be mean.

Also, I always keep the comments saved somewhere so I can revisit them as I go through the various rounds of revisions.

Usually, my critters/betas are great. I'm happy to have them in my corner.