Six Steps to Cut Critique Sting

by Melissa Borg
February 5, 2020

I have to agree with Ernest Hemingway about writing.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Ernest Hemingway

I don't think my blood is in every period and semicolon yet as I edit, I stumble across blotches and stains of my own DNA, thoughts, feelings, and self underpinning the fiction. The tiny pops of me are what makes fiction fun to write but scary to share.

So if we know we are part of the page, how can we receive critiques pre-publishing of your blood, sweat, and tears? Here are a few things I've learned from my family, sports, and theater experiences that help me cut the sting of the critiques, in no particular order.

1. Just shut up and take the note.

  • Try to keep from blowing up or blowing them off by degrading them or their feedback. Think carefully about what they said and either use it or don't, it's up to you.

2. Know there is a difference between constructive feedback and unhelpful feedback.

  • If you get the note, "I couldn't finish the book, it's too dry," isn't helpful in actually telling you what or where it's dry or even what they mean by "dry."
  • Now if the reviewer actually pointed out a section and specifically said, "The character talked about the book she read for five paragraphs, but you never brought it up again so why is it so important?", that's constructive criticism.

3. If there is a point where you don't understand, ask for clarification.

  • Don't be afraid to ask specific questions such as, "What is your favorite part? Why?"
  • Only make sure to ask writing-based questions, then listen carefully to their replies.

4. When you get all your notes together and feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that will be needed to make all the changes, take a deep breath. Remember, it's still your story, so you don't have to take every note and apply it.

5. Not everyone gets or will like your style of writing, that's just the fact. I love Shakespeare on stage but reading it makes me go to sleep. So just know that not everyone will get your writing style and that's OK they don't have to.

6. Say thank you to your reviewer. They took their precious time to not only read what you wrote but left you comments to try make your story better. (Even if you don't agree with how to make it better.)

These 6 tips will help you take the sting out of the criticism, build your tolerance for feedback, and allow you to improve your craft.

Keep learning and growing,


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