Thursday, 9 July 2015

Guest Post: How To Survive A Critique...

I'm pleased to have horror author Eden Royce, guest post on the blog today. Eden has offered a very informative post that all emerging authors should read regarding how to accept critiques and negative reviews. Definitely something every writer should know...


How to Survive Critique With Your Writer’s Ego (Mostly) Intact

As a writer, I know how hard it is to conceive and create and finish and polish and edit your work. That was a lot even to write in one sentence. I’ve been in a writing critique group and seen the looks on some writer’s faces when they are given constructive criticism. It’s somewhere between biting their lip to hold back the flood of curses and steeling themselves to defend their creation to the death.

It can be hard to hear that someone didn’t care for or understand your work. But in order to grow as a writer (or in anything for that matter) you have to deal with the hard stuff. You have to get feedback and critique from others who will be honest with you. Preferably before you publish, but some reviews will come after your work has reached the virtual and/or physical shelves.

But it can be hard to deal with. It’s your baby, your pet project and you have an innate instinct to protect it. Even some of the most well-known and well-respected authors have fallen prey to lashing out at reviewers. I won’t name any here, but you can search for “authors behaving badly” to find a few. How can you avoid this so-easy-to-fall-into trap?

A few suggestions on how to survive a critique or online review.

1A. Let your work sit before you share it with anyone. You’ve just finished your writing project. Walk away from the computer. (Save your document first!) Go do something else for a while before you send that document to anyone. Only you can decide how long this break should be. Spell check it, then read it again for typos and omitted words you may have overlooked. Polish it. Reread it. Don’t send it to anyone until you’re sick of rereading it.

1B. Don’t hit reply. If it’s an online review or you’ve received an emailed critique and you feel the need to respond, fine. Write about how you slaved over the piece and how it’s brilliant and groundbreaking. Write it in a notebook and scribble away. Open a new Word document and type yourself into carpal tunnel. It bears repeating. Don’t hit reply. Then go back to 1A.

2A. Find a Beta reader (or two or three) you trust. A Beta reader is one who reads your work after you’ve been through it and polished it the best you can. This person should be one you feel comfortable with. One who if they point out some issue with your writing, you won’t feel like dirt. (Even if they’re a bit giggly or snarky about it.) One of your Betas can be your friend, brother, sister, whoever…but they should ideally be a book lover.

2B. Know who to share your work with. [This is another type of Beta you should have. If you can find 2A and 2B in one person, keep them!] Share mostly with people who read in the genre you write when you’re looking for feedback. At the very least, have someone with a good grasp of story who understands how to structure, pace, and characterize a tale read your work before sharing with your final audience.

This may take some trial and error to find the right person, but it’s worth it. They will be familiar with the tone of the genre and be likely more receptive to being pulled into your story. And that’s what you want. Other authors are usually a good choice for this. But be a bit wary as some writers have a tendency to give feedback that equates to what they would do with the same storyline. More on that later.

3. Don’t share your work until you feel it’s ready. This is huge. If you’re feeling tender and unsure about your work, don’t send it out there for publication or to a general open forum critique. I share only when the story or novel is finished. I used to request critique on work in progress, but I found that to be less helpful than having a finished project. Want another reason not to share your unfinished work? Read this post from Becca Mills’ blog. 

4. Remember not everyone knows how to give a good, constructive critique or review. Unfortunately, not even all writers and editors know this. Some people think it’s just:

“I didn’t like this. It was boring. I didn’t finish it because the main character was stupid.”
That’s not constructive. And it’s a bit harsh. Why was it boring? What did the character do that was so stupid? Now consider this:

“I thought the story had too much description in places where I wanted action. The main character is supposed to be 29, isn’t she? There were places where she reacted more like a child than an adult. I found that frustrating and I was taken out of the story.” 

Yes, it’s longer, but it’s more helpful, isn’t it? Before you send your story out to someone to read, take the time to read their other reviews or ask authors you know who they use to Beta read their work.

6. Don’t fret. This is mostly for reviews after you’ve published. First of all, see if it is truly “bad” feedback. Most professional reviewers are constructive in even their harshest criticism. See if there is anything positive or useful in the review and put it aside to read when the initial hurt or fury you feel has died down. Think like a reader who didn’t have the benefit of being inside your head when you wrote the story. See if you agree with the comments. Does your trusted Beta reader agree? If so, consider making changes. If you don’t, keep moving.

7. Finally, but foremost, find a coping mechanism. Everyone has opinions and the right to share them. But that’s what they are: opinions. When you read a poor review, don’t dwell on it. Do something else. Watch that movie you’ve been putting off, call a friend, play a video game. Or do something constructive that gives you visible results: garden, rearrange your closet, bake cookies.  

Thought I was going to say have a drink there, didn’t you? Well, you can. Just stay off the Internet if you do.

Eden Royce is descended from women who practiced root, a type of conjure magic in her native Charleston, South Carolina. She currently lives in Kent, The Garden of England, with her husband and a maniacal black cat named Samurai. You can read more of her work at and at or follow her on social media:


1 comment:

  1. This is a great post! I would add an important note on giving good feedback, the old fashioned sandwich rule. Start with something positive, sandwich in the stuff that needs work, and end on a positive note. It makes critique a lot more constructive and easier to accept. You're more likely to take critique from someone who appreciates something in your writing then someone who is entirely negative, even if it's constructive! My two cents! Great thoughts. :)