When a Writing Critique Slashes the Heart

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

We writers are a passionate, emotional group. While these traits help us create beautifully worded fiction and non-fiction, nothing slashes the heart deeper than a harsh critique of our work.

We might catch ourselves reading a harsh critique and thinking:

  • “Even an idiot would get this.”
  • “What? You’ve got to be kidding?”
  • “Obviously, my style doesn’t suit you. Too bad. You’re missing out.”

Don’t get all self-righteous on me. We’ve all thought and said the above. Hopefully, we didn’t contact the person and blast him/her. We all learn from our mistakes.

Never hurts to be reminded what we post online, stays online.

Not every person who reads our manuscripts feels the same way. We are diverse people with opinions, views, and ideas. Once a writer understands the freedom of perspective, we are also free to write our brand and what is in our heart about the subject.

The only attitude we can project is the reader is always right—even when the person isn’t.

How do we handle those anger-filled, bitter, and hurtful comments?

Below are a few ideas that will help us maintain our professionalism with poise and respect for ourselves and the person who made the blunt statement.

  1. Know the difference between a critique and a criticism: Critique: an analysis of a literary work.                                                                                                                Criticism: the disapproval of a literary work based on the person’s interpretation or regard of the contents’ faults or errors.
  2. The criticism isn’t about you personally but what has been written.
  3. Don’t respond to the critique in the heat of the moment. Give yourself time to process. Don’t get involved in an argument.
  4. If the review is vicious or has insulted your integrity, ignore it. Delete if possible.
  5. If the review simply hurt our feelings, be gracious and thank the person for their feedback.
  6. Read the assessment carefully. Are any of the comments valuable? Are changes needed if not in this piece but in the next? Is this an opportunity to grow as a writer?
  7. Consider seeking guidance from professionals in the publishing industry whom you respect.
  8. In some situations, an offer to refund the person’s money may be in order, but be careful in choosing that alternative.
  9. Refuse to quit!

Honestly, I choose not to read my reviews.  If they’re good, I’m afraid I’ll get a swelled head. If they’re bad, I’ll cry for six months. I’m confident my editor will let me know if I need to be aware of a pitfall or celebrate a triumph.

What is your best method of handling a harsh critique?