Friday, August 2, 2013

How Not to React to Criticism of Your Writing

Not too long ago, famed author Anne Rice stirred up controversy when she supposedly had fans attack the Facebook pages of people who were critical of her works in reviews. I felt this could serve as a lesson for anyone who dares to put their work out there to the public - no matter how famous you are, someone isn't going to like the work you do, and you'll often find yourself in a position of defending yourself and how you go about it.

For the record, "sic 'em, boys" is not generally the preferred method.

Did Anne really tell her fans to attack? No. Should she have pointed out the review? It's within her right. What's the problem? She had huge amounts of fans and only asked they be civil, later.

This is hardly Anne's fault, but I'd wager, could have been thought-out better. Some fans are crazy enough to camp out on their adored favorite writer's front lawn, after all, or at least threaten to, so why should it be surprising that they'd stalk one of her bashers? On the internet, that goes double due to the relative anonymity of everyone.

Here are a few ways you can handle criticism without stirring up trouble:

  • Understand that everyone gets critique. Everyone. People will hate you when you write or draw something one way, and an entirely different group of people will hate you when you do the opposite. You can't please everyone, and the sooner you stop trying to, the better your writing will become.
  • Realize that taking time to cater to haters does nothing except take time away from your true fans. Your fans deserve 100% of your time - always and with no exceptions. They're who you're writing for, and long after your detractors have moved on to trolling someone else, your fans will still be there expecting wonderful things from you. Don't let them down.
  • Know that trolls exist and learn how to spot them. If someone criticizes your work in a very vague manner ("You suck") and/or you find your arguments going in circles when you engage someone about their dislike of your art ("Shut up, you suck"), then you're not dealing with a legitimate critique and you should forget the insult and move on. Simple as that.
  • Know when critique should be taken seriously. Editors, publishers, reviewers, panel judges and other professionals have limited time to look at the abundance of work they are handed each day. If you don't get a response, which is normal, then assume your work wasn't up to their standards. These people want you to succeed - really, they do! But they would be doing you and your potential for greatness a disservice if they rewarded your work with a publishing contract/feature/a gold star and it was sub-par. Be your own worst critique and strive to do things that challenge you.

It's sometimes hard to see one critique pop up in a sea of praise, and we often focus on the negative more than the positive, but keep these tips in mind. Sooner or later, you will have critics, and it's up to you to keep this most important goal in front of you: Keep improving and keep creating!

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