Yesterday I posted a short story up on Write On! Teens for some feedback, and so I’ve been thinking about writing feedback, and how some people take it personally.
About a year and a half ago I entered a short story in a writing competition. I came up with an idea, wrote the story, and then sent it off to someone who offered to critique it for me. The results? She guessed my twist about halfway through, skipped to the end, and told me that it was a crappy idea, and I should start again. She offered to send her a new story if I was up to it.
To be honest, I was really annoyed with her. I raged to myself for a bit about how “she didn’t even read the whole thing – how could she tell me it was crap?” A mild-depression stage set in, and I decided not to enter the comp, because clearly I wasn’t meant to be a writer. The third stage was defiance: I was a good writer, even if she said I wasn’t! I was going to write a new story and not show it to her!
Finally, I had a realisation. It was nothing personal. Sure, she told me my story was no good… but reading back on it, I realised it was a pretty bad story. She was spot on with her advice. I could do better! And she invited me to send her another story: if that wasn’t a sign of her faith in my writing, what was? So I wrote a new short story, sent it off… and she loved it!
The moral of my story is this: when you get bad feedback, you need to realise that it’s nothing personal. It’s not a personal attack on you as a person or a writer… heck, it’s not an attack at all. It’s helpful. I think all new writers should learn this. The sooner they do, the better they’ll be. This is a good reminder for more seasoned writers too.
So, when we get a critique we don’t like, my advice is to let it sit for a few days. Don’t email a reply straight away, even if you think you’re okay. Wait a few days to clear your head, then send a polite email thanking your critique partner for their feedback.
What are your thoughts on all this? If you’ve ever had a bad critique, how did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!