Sunday, February 14, 2016

Criticism And Ego

I've once again ventured into that fragile world where I'm trying to balance the need for honest feedback to make my work better with an ego that demands everybody like me.  I sent the first 10,000 words out to six beta readers and asked for feedback.  Two have already sent back stuff, and I'm waiting on the rest.

My ego wants those who write me back to tell me I'm the greatest writer ever, that I don't need to change a thing, and that they can't believe I'm not already on the New York Times' bestseller list since I'm obviously that talented.  The realistic part of me knows that's not going to happen no matter how much I want it for my feelings.  The pragmatic writer in me knows that if I got that feedback, it'd be just as useless as a comment board post that told me I sucked.

Putting away the ego is hard.  We can yammer all day about knowing the need for good criticism that makes our work better, but, deep down, we're all little kids who want everyone to like us, and it hurts when someone tells us they didn't like what we wrote.

A couple of tips when confronting this reality:
1.  Remember, you don't have to take their advice.  Reading tastes are subjective, and no matter how much we want everyone to like our stuff, not everyone will.  However, it's entirely possible that such criticism is as poorly thought out as they thought your book was.  This works best if you can look at the advice objectively - was it well thought out?  Did it make sense?  Did the reader even understand what they were looking at?  Did several of your beta readers catch the same thing, or was one of them an outlier?

2.  Ignore the impulse to engage on criticism!  This goes back to not engaging critics on review sites.  No matter how much a beta reader's comments hurt you, don't say anything but "thank you."  Remember, that person is doing you a favor by looking at your work on their own time free of charge...and you asked them to do it.  There have been times I've gotten criticism back and had the urge to type out a nasty reply about how that person obviously didn't get the point of the work(likely because they lacked the mental capacity...and their sexual prowess was questionable too!).  You have to stow your ego and remember that you need the feedback, and you don't have to take it.  If word gets out that you berate beta readers, you'll have a tough time finding another.

3.  Re-read the criticism a second time.  Face it - the first time you read someone's critique of your work, it's probably going to hurt(or at least it should if they're doing it right).  You might pout or declare that you stink and you'll never write again(along with writing that person out of your life).  But take some time to let it simmer.  Once you've calmed down, go back in and look at what they write about your work.  You'll be amazed by how much more objective you can be the second go around.

You're going to have to put yourself out there.  Isn't it better to discover the flaws while there's still time to fix them?

No comments:

Post a Comment