This post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.
As I stated in the previous post, one reason writers may be afraid to share their work is a fear of rejection or criticism. While no one wants to hear people bash in their writing, the truth is, feedback, editing and proofing is all part of the process. That doesn’t mean all feedback is created equal, though.
Listen to any professional writer, or even your writing professors, and they will all tell you that to be a published writer, you have to have thick skin. Pretty much every published writer (even your favorite author) has been rejected — sometimes many, many times — before they found a place that accepted their work. This has, up until now, been one of the most difficult parts of the publishing process. I say “up until now” because with the dawn of the digital era, writers can now skirt around needing an agent or a publisher and go directly to online eBooks and print on demand.
To learn and grow as a writer, you have to be able to disconnect from your work enough to see the value of other people’s feedback. You have to be willing to scrap what doesn’t work, edit what does work, and polish things to a gleaming shine. This sometimes means making difficult choices and going against your emotions. It sometimes means having the courage to let other people into your world so that they can help you make it better.
Types of Feedback
There’s a few different kinds of people who give feedback, some more useful than others.
The I Like It. These are people who probably really do like your work, but don’t know how, or don’t feel qualified, to offer suggestions for changes. They try to be a good friend, though, and encourage you to keep going by telling you what you hope to hear – that your work is good and someone likes it. However, that doesn’t help you make it better. If you have friends like this, don’t get too frustrated with them. Just recognize they’re probably not going to be the ones to go to if you want serious suggestions. (Though sometimes if you ask a few “why” questions, or for very specific feedback, you can get a bit more out of them!)
The Trollface. These are guys who never like anything and rarely have anything nice to say. While there might be something useful in their drivel, I’d take it with a grain of salt and not try to sift through the garbage too much. Chances are, they’re not trying to help and only trying to bring you down.
The Nitpick. These are people who can get annoying, but actually may have good points for you to consider. They often pick about every little fault they find (which can be annoying), but some of these faults may be good questions to ask yourself about your story and characters. If you deal with a Nitpick friend, insulate yourself and know that you don’t have to change every little thing that someone else suggests.
The Balanced. These people are hard to find! Not only are they honest about what they do like (and tell you why they like it), but they also are honest about what doesn’t work in your writing, and are not afraid to tell you. They are really trying to help you make your writing a better piece and tend to offer you good suggestions from a reader’s perspective.
In the end, you as the writer must decide what is best for your story.
At the same time, don’t dismiss an idea just because it hurts your feelings. Try to be open to ideas that other people offer you without losing your own identity. Writers have to create a feedback filter and learn to identify what will make the work stronger in the end. Writers also have to create soul shields and not allow the writing sprit to be crushed when you deal with people who simply have nothing better to do than criticize.
Approach sharing your writing as a learning experience or another form of brainstorming. Let your writing be fluid and always ready to change, never set in stone. Don’t take feedback personally and learn to identify people who honestly want to help. Those are the people you want to keep sharing with – just make sure you let them know how they’ve helped you and how you’ve implemented their ideas!
Don’t let fear of criticism be the thing that keeps you from opening the doors to other people. If your favorite authors have lived to see many rejections, know that you’re not alone. It’s those who keep writing despite the rejection that eventually make it.
- Do any of your favorite authors talk about their experiences and rejections before becoming published?
- What sort of feedback helps you most in your writing? Do you keep an open mind when editing your work?
- What sort of feedback do you give other people?