If you want to become a writer, at some point it’s inevitable that you’ll come up against negative or unpleasant feedback.
This might be in the form of a bad review of your book, but more likely you will face a range of criticism before the manuscript even makes it to the published stage.
It can be a difficult thing to deal with, but it doesn’t have to be.
Take a deep breath
The first time you read a harsh piece of criticism it can be upsetting.
You’ve poured weeks, months, even years of your life into this story and someone is telling you that it’s not as great as you’d hoped.
It’s natural to feel hurt or disheartened, but the trick is to move past this stage. Remember that the feedback is meant to be constructive; it should help you to improve your work. If you let it bother you so much that you want to give up on your project, then you’re never going to get to the published stage.
If you’re not used to criticism yet, or you’ve received an especially challenging critique, it’s okay to put it away for a few days and allow yourself some space to become less emotional.
Read it several times
To get the most out of a written critique, make sure you read it more than once.
Chances are, the first time will sting and you won’t take in the finer details of the feedback. Once you’ve had time to accept the initial criticism, go back and read it again, taking note of the actionable points – the things that you can change.
Look at the feedback objectively
Reading is subjective. What one person adores, another will hate. That doesn’t mean that you can completely dismiss constructive criticism (most of the time), but you can be selective about the changes you choose to make.
After all, it’s your novel.
Whenever I receive comments on my work, I find it tends to highlight problems that I already knew existed. Perhaps I didn’t realise the scale of the issue, but I’m rarely surprised. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to hear: sometimes it’s hardest to face the negative comments that reflect the problems we’ve already identified in our writing, because we can see the truth in them. We know our work is flawed.
Accept that it will help
The main thing is to remember that constructive criticism should help you to improve your work.
You don’t have to make all the changes your reader or editor suggests, but at least some of them will probably be worth the effort.
If you understand that critical comments from a reader give you a fresh insight into your work, and will push you to edit harder, then it’s much easier to get over the initial hurt.
Don’t take it personally
It’s hard to be objective when it comes to your own writing, because it’s a personal thing. But most editors are not giving feedback to upset you, or make you feel bad about your own abilities. They want to see you succeed and push yourself to make your work as good as it can be.
If you can separate your feelings from your writing, even for a short while, it will make the critique so much easier.
What are your tips for handling negative feedback?