So you’re a writer who has just finished a project. Something you’ve been working on for years or what feels like years has finally made its entrance to the world.
Maybe you’re excited for feedback, waiting to hear what the first person you have so generously given a copy to has to say, or maybe you don’t want to know.
Either way, criticism of your work is going to wind its way into your bubble of accomplishment whether you ask it to or not. There isn’t always a way to prepare for it, but there are ways to make it easier to handle.
What’s the point?
The first step will be in deciding what you want to get out of the criticism. Are you hoping that weak areas in your story can be exposed? Simple editing and typos corrected? If you are looking for something specific, make sure you communicate that with the people requested to review your book. It would be disappointing to put your work out there and expect a report of the main character and receive back grammatical fixes.
If you don’t identify what you’re hoping to get from putting your work out there to be criticized, then prepare to be disappointed. Try not to waste a reader’s time, or your own by asking for criticism without outlining your expectations, even if it is something as simple as ‘can you relate?’.
Secondly, once criticism is received and you’ve had time to digest it, feel free to ask questions. If you don’t understand or agree with a particular point, ask for more information rather than automatically writing it off.
Your reader isn’t purposefully interpreting things a certain way, but it could be helpful to find out what led them to think a particular thing when you were aiming for something different. Your critic is most likely not out for blood, they are a third party trying to improve your book because you asked them to, not to damage you or your writing.
Retaliation: don’t do it
It’s not the best response to write a scalding message back to a solicited or unsolicited critic, no matter the format, and this includes anonymous posts and social media.
There may be immediate satisfaction in retribution to the person who criticized your work, but chances are it will not make them change their mind. While that may be your gut response, try to see if there is anything of value in what they are saying. And if you want to hear from them, reach out in a way that maintains professionalism, don’t blindly attack back.
Ultimately it comes down to you deciding if what they said holds any value. Taking criticism doesn’t mean accepting everything someone said as gospel. Sift through the different messages they are sending and search yourself to see if there might be any truth to it.
As hard as it may be to gain perspective on something that you put so much work into, that’s exactly what you must strive to do at this point in the writing process. You released the book to fly out of the nest, so you need to deal with what it brings back. If the criticism you received does nothing in the way of improving your work, and you were able to determine that with a clear mind, then it is your call to discard it and continue writing in a fashion you see fit.