1. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    Taking Criticism

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Unsavory, Jan 21, 2009.

    When I look at my own work and my own personality, I have come to realize that my worst weakness is in my ability to accept criticism, benefit from it, and move on. As a relatively new writer excited to review and share more work, I was hoping that some people here might have some advice on how to take criticism. What goes through your mind and body when someone absolutely hates your work? What tricks do you have to persevere and keep at it?

    For the record, I have posted one piece of work here already, and it went just fine. The people who reviewed it were helpful and nice, and I think I've already improved my writing because of it. But I've seen reviews here that I thought to myself were absolutely brutal. Not necessarily wrong or deliberately mean, but certainly difficult to digest. The great thing though is how well the original posters have consistently responded. I know I'm not going to be a great writer until I know how to take the bad with the good. Any suggestions?
     
  2. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    If you want to make it as a writer, or simply improve, you'll have to accept criticism along the way. Ego, by its nature, is a sensitive thing and can have murderous feelings if hurt enough. The thing to do after receiving criticism you might not be happy with, is to stick 'in your opinion' at the end of it. That's what it is - someone else's view of your work. It's not written in stone, or looming over you with a reaper's scyth, so take it onboard but not to heart. Easier said than done, I know, but it's what the game's about. Good luck with your writing.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not every criticism will be on point for your writing. Howe3ver, the only way to know is to take each point and try to find a way to apply it to your writing. If a critic clearly missed the point of what you were writing, ask yourself WHY he or she missed the point? Was it something ambiguous in something you wrote? Did you leave out important informatiom because you, as a writer, took it for granted?

    Basically, it comes down to one thing. You have to open your mind. Begin with the assumption that if they raised a point, that there IS a problem that need fixing, even if it isn't precisely what they perceive it to be.

    And remember that with very fiew exceptions, those critics ARE trying to halp you improve your writing.
     
  4. Mesuno
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    Mesuno Member

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    Also, remember that reviewers are trying to help you. If I read something I don't like normally then I just chuck it aside and don't think any more about it. When I set out to review something I put significant time and effort into the review. I explain why something works or doesn't work for me as a reader and normally make suggestions as to how it might be improved.

    As the others have said, you should be able to then look at your work and say 'OK... there is something in what he says... how can I use that to make it better.'

    What I'd love to see more of as a reviewer is someone coming back with a second version after I've done a review. That's great for me because I feel like my time has been appreciated, but it also gives the writer an opportunity to get some feel-good vibes from making their work better. It's too rare here that people repost a second version after a review, in my opinion. Lots of opportunities to learn from work are missed.

    So - remember they aren't out to attack you, and really just want to help you improve your writing. Try and take it in that spirit even if what they have said seems harsher than you might like.
     
  5. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    I'd advise you to take a five minute break after reading a person's review. In the heat of the moment, you may take a reviewer's comments in a different way than the reviewer intended. So, take a breather, come back, and read the post again. You'll probably find that the criticism is well structured and not intended to offend you as a person.

    Writing is a very subjective issue. Some people will like your work, others won't. That can't be helped, since everyone has their own tastes. However, as readers, we all have something in common: A love of the written word. It doesn't matter what genre we read or write in -- the books are basically the same. If a reviewer was confused by a plot issue or a device you used, ask yourself why that happened. Try to take on-board the advice s/he has given you.

    It isn't easy to accept criticism. I know it was very difficult for myself when I first posted my work on a forum. But I gradually learned to take the criticism on-board and apply it to my writing. I still cringe, though, when someone gives me an in-depth critique, but I'm very thankful that there are people like that who are willing to take an hour of their time (and remember that a person who reviews your work has done so voluntarily and oftentimes thanklessly; in that regard, you should never try to discount their review; simply accept it, take what you need, thank them, and move on) to review my work.

    The main thing to understand is that reviews aren't meant to hurt you. They're meant to help you. The majority of aspiring writers share one common ground: Their work is not yet of publishable quality. It is places like this that mould, shape, and tailor your work in an attempt to ready it for the world of publishing. Granted, there are some people who don't want to be published and who only write for fun, but the majority of us would love to one day see our work in print. To achieve this, we must be willing to learn, grow, and accept criticism in order to make our work the best it can be.

    Reviews are the basis for that growth. Not only receiving them, but also doing the same for another person. You would be amazed how much you learn from reviewing another person's work. As editor-in-chief for an on-line magazine, I have spent the last year editing pieces of work ranging from brilliant to average. In that time, I've learned so much more by "reviewing" those pieces. So, take a minute to return a person's critique. It will only help you.

    And remember: There's no pleasing everyone. If you look hard enough, you will find a critic for every piece of work ever written, even those lauded as the best. You are invariably going to get reviewers that don't like your work. Don't take it as an insult to you. Ask them why they didn't like it, and what you might do to improve it.

    I hope this helped.
     
  6. Fatalism
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    Fatalism Member

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    I take the criticism, abosrb it and move on. If someone absolutely hates my work, that's one person (or even more) that doesn't like it, and for some reason someone doesn't like it, I see what's not liked and fix it. And most of the time, that thing that wasn't liked could've been something you didn't like too but didn't really care about it, so changing it would be a benefit for you.
     
  7. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    I took criticism okay when I first started writing, but I just hate the ones that sometimes just bash your stuff for no reason or the people who think you aren't taking their advice when you clearly had them in mind when you made changes. In times that you might feel as though the person is being rude, I could say just ignore it and take a look at all the others.
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that's my take on it. :rolleyes:
     
  9. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Opinions expressed in reviews are like going to the supermarket...lots of stuff to choose from, but as an aspiring author, only YOU get to decide what goes "home" with you. Enjoy the variety of ideas offered..."taste" a few "new foods" that might look appealing...leave the rest at the store. But, there is never a reason to get mad at an onion, just because you prefer tomatoes. Same with suggestions in reviews...look at all of them and "take" the ones you like.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    But while you're at the supermarket, don't just decide that blotchy-looking round thing in the produce section is too weird to try. It may take some trial and error to figure it out, but that pomegranate might be just the flavor you needed to jazz things up a bit.
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Mmmm! Pomegranate. Yum.

    (Don't wipe your hands on your shirt, though. Those stains don't come out!)
     
  12. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    Thank you all for your comments. I found some of your words to be very inspiring and hopeful, and I agree that one of the most important things to remember is that the vast majority of people are there trying to help out.

    Daedalus, I think I'm going to bookmark your comment so that the next time I do feel stabbed in the heart I'll have something so rational and well written to put me back in perspective. Very much appreciated.

    It will probably be a while before I will feel experienced enough to consider myself a good writer OR a good reviewer but in the week or so that I've been here, I already feel that my work and understanding about writing has improved.
     
  13. Mcarpenter
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    Mcarpenter Contributing Member

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    I remember in my AP English classes, we wrote papers every night and had to trade with someone the next day and go over it with a red ink pen circling, referncing the error for them to look up in the Harbrace College Handbook and writing a comment to let them know what we though of their work. It was painful at first and we made jokes about pages that looked like they'd been 'bled' on. But I think what helped us to deal with it was the repetition of doing it over and over. Plus, we were all getting better at it and we could eventually see less red ink. Believe me, I was the worst in the class!
    All these people on here who are good writers had to go through the ringer at some point too*. It will pass as you get better. Remind yourself that everytime you come back you're improving yourself (which is way better than the alternative for all of us).

    *Except maybe Hellomoto, because apparently he's a twelve year old genius. ;)
     
  14. WhiteRider
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    WhiteRider Contributing Member

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    LOL! You've all said some good things, I do want reviews of my work and I can handle it pretty well from people that are nice about it, but if they're rude it hurts my feelings, I'm sensitive that way. I shouldn't be though, *rolls eyes at self* I just try to forget the fact that it was written to me and baout my work and just read it and try to see the good advice in it.
     
  15. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    On the other side of the field. I Have recently came out of a long held tradition that I was stuck in. Accepting criticisms 110% to the point that I would even begin to get depressed as I reread the story I had posted and realised all of the errors I had made in the editing and redrafting stage. Also, I would treat a review like gospel. I would even make alterations I was not happy with so they appeased someone I had never met.

    So I would say this: criticism is purely someone else's opinion, they may be right, more than often they are, but they are still an opinion, don't let it get you down nor rule your life. Write for your self, read a lot, and make absolutely sure the story is at a standard you are very happy with, profread and edit it untill you can read through it without seeing a mistake.
     
  16. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Accepting criticism is part of being a writer. If you put your work out there, it will be read and others will have opinions, and not always favorable. Heck, well established writers don't always get good reviews. When submitting, sometimes an editor will make a comment about what they saw as wrong with a piece--why it was rejected.

    One has to consider the source of the criticism. Is it backed up or explained well? Does it make sense to the writer?

    A key I use is if the same concern is brought up by more than one individual--especially independently--it's something I tend to strongly look at.

    In the end a writer cannot please everybody and the piece is the writer's work. But also, in the end, if one wants to be a successful writer, learning how to handle criticism--often that translates into rejection--a positive coping mechanism should be found and implemented.

    A thick skin has its benefits. A thin skin has its drawbacks.

    Terry
     
  17. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Agreed. I now realise that critique is someone else's opinion, if you understand them and agree with them, then make the appropriate actions to correct them, if they critique something you are happy with, accept it, give it a good think over, but if you don't want to change it, don't.

    It is your own work, and sides, even the most experienced professionals miss the obvious errors. I remember when I was reading Stephen King's 'On Writing' with his example of how to edit a short story draft, I picked up one or two spelling and grammar errors that made it past a) the man himself, who did not see it in his revisions, and b) his publisher.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A thick skin is generally good. An impenetrable ego is not.
     
  19. El902
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    El902 Member

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    Well, fancy seein' you here. You did a mighty fine job at the aforementioned editor position. Before I digress...

    I have to agree with the sentiment of returning the critiques. If you take the time to break another story down to it's nuts and bolts, look at each word critically, express every dislike you had, you're going to come across as harsh yourself. It's, in my opinion, inevitable in an in-depth critique because to truly help another person, you have to make their flaws plain and clear. Never with negativity, but sometimes just the simple act of it can come across as negative.


    It's a lot to take in at first (I'm assuming you've just begun writing? Sorry if I'm wrong--I hate sounding like that 'older, wiser person advising the new comers' because after so many years, I'm barely ahead of those new comers :D) but don't doubt yourself so much--if doubt is the correct tone I'm picking up. Every new experience has its ups and downs, but I've got to say, writing has been the best, and no matter how many harsh and downright mean critiques I've gotten, they've only made me learn. I'm only echoing what's already been said, but even if it's mean, whoever left the comment liked your story enough to point it out. That's a good compliment in itself, so it'll balance out :)

    Good luck to ya'

    Oh, and,
    That couldn't be more true. Being 'tough' enough to handle a harsh crit is one thing, but being as big-headed as to discount anything negative is just plain ol' silly. Balance is the key :)
     
  20. laciemn
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    laciemn Senior Member

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    I have learned so much from the criticism I've received. My favorite kind is when the reviewer actually cares enough about the essence of the story to help sort out the stuff that's just getting in the way. I remember a few particular reviews that have actually helped me improve as a writer more than I realized back then. Negative reactions to criticism is probably just insecurity in your ability to write, which I think most writers suffer from. Try to remember that you're trying to improve, so helpful advice, even if it seems harsh is often far more important than, "I like it!" or "Write more please."

    Many times people who take the time to really tear into your fic are the people who saw something there that makes them think it will be worth their time. Perhaps they think you or your writing is worthy of improvement. Some people are just complete pricks and offer no helpful advice. Just ignore them.

    I also want to say that other, more skilled writers can often spot critical flaws in your writing that you would never get with hardly any effort. This can save you a lot of heartache later and make you a better writer.
     
  21. iMazed
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    iMazed Member

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    I know exactly where you're coming from. I'm the worst person ever when it comes to taking criticisms, although I don't like to show it. The way I learned was because my boyfriend told me to suck it up and just listen to his point of view :D

    Fact is that you can read, re-read and re-write all you like, but some thing you just miss because it's something you wrote. Often it takes a different pair of eyes to see what is wrong with the piece. So, like my boyfriend told me, I shall tell you now: take a deep breath, suck it in, release and remember that criticisms (especially here, where we come together to help each other) are meant to help you improve, not knock you down. It has been said before by the people before me, and I couldn't agree more. Good luck!
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Different eyes will also bring up ways of looking at your work that you had never thought to consider. For example, many beginning writers have an intuitive sense that intricate sentences rich with adjectives make good writing. The opposite is often true. While there is a place for a flowing, descriptive sentence, the simple declarative sentence is both powerful and underused.
     
  23. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    Talking simply about taking it if you're someone who can't stand someone hating your work, just remember some things.
    1. Everything thinks differently. Not everyone will love what you write.
    2. Everyone has those pieces that just didn't go well. It doesn't mean you're a bad writer.
    3. 99% of the critiques here are trying to help you, whether they're doing it softly or just coming out and saying what they think. You can improve from those critiques.
    4. If by some chance you really ARE a horrible writer, which I don't think is true of anyone, it's still not your fault. So don't feel bad about it.

    Hope that helps!
    Nate
     
  24. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I haven't read through the entire thread, but here's a point a lot of people don't seem to consider.

    The average tutor makes around $15-20 per hour from what I know. My father did this for a couple of years and made either $20 per hour, or $100 per session. We may be the blind leading the blind here at times, but I have seen some pretty amazing critiques.

    When someone pulls your writing to pieces and corrents every little mistake you've made... they're performing a professional service which you would normally have to pay good money for. Not only is it a compliment that they think your writing is worth the time, but the time they spend is also worth plenty.

    Don't pass up a freebie. If you take note of every correction, apply what makes sense to you and suits your style, you could improve your writing skills astronomically in a single day. That's just too damn awesome.

    I *love* it when people can point out my mistakes. Every correction saves me time, and nothing else is worth so much. I aim to be published eventually, so I see my writing as a kind of small business in the works. If someone can help me get it off the ground a little sooner, I'd be eternally grateful to them.
     
  25. fulfilling_prophecies
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    fulfilling_prophecies New Member

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    I have to agree with Kas. I love it when people tell me that my dialogue needs to be revamped or my structure needs to be stronger. Because let's face it. You'll waste so much time looking over your work, trying to find what's wrong with it. I was in a writing group a couple of years ago and it helped so much! They point out things that you might have missed or may not have thought about. We're all writers. We might as well help each other out because what comes around goes around.

    If you don't like a criticism, then you shouldn't consider a career of being a professional writer. There would be people out there that would rip your work to pieces. It could basically ruin your career.
     

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