How To Handle Criticism In Writing – 10 Tips For New Writers

For those of you starting your writing career, you’re probably getting feedback about your work for the first time.

And if you’re about to submit your work for critique, but you’re unsure of how to handle the feedback, I’ve got 10 tips for you on how to handle criticism in writing.

While most apply to critiques from beta readers, some can apply to feedback from a critique partner or editor as well.

Build Your Armor Now

Whether you’re getting feedback from trusted friends or strangers, you should probably build some armor right now.

When you write a story, the book is like a child to you. You want to send it off into the world and hope it succeeds. But when people come to you and say it wasn’t so great, or it had flaws that should be worked on, you might feel devastated.

However, if you brace yourself for the impact, the blow won’t be so hard. That’s not to say you should be expecting negative criticism, but you should be ready for any type of criticism coming your way.

Listen First, Adjust Later

The goal of critiques is to point out what’s keeping your novel from being the best version of itself.

The readers helping to critique your work will give you their first impression of the story. They can point out if your protagonist is relatable, if there were plot holes, or if they found your story unoriginal.

So when they send you feedback, listen to them. Worry about fixing your book later and really try to understand what the reader is saying.

Constructive Feedback Vs. Bad Feedback

Now, it’s also important to differentiate between constructive feedback and bad feedback. Constructive feedback will help make your story better. Bad feedback has no purpose.

Bad feedback is the type of criticism that doesn’t point out the flaws in your work, it only aims to deliver insults. Many of these are just trolls or people who aren’t taking critiques seriously.

They may not even care about your book and only want to nitpick the smallest details, such as pointing out how your protagonist should have brown hair instead of black, or how two characters who have no romantic chemistry should fall in love. And yes, these types of feedback do exist.

Know The Reasons Why

The best way to understand which criticism is constructive or not is to ask the reader, “why?”

Why don’t they like the heroine? Why do you think the villain was uninteresting?

If reader A says: “I didn’t like your protagonist because she was passive and insecure about everything that happened to her.”

That’s constructive.

If reader B says: “Your heroine sucks. I didn’t like her.”

That is not constructive.

All constructive feedback has a reason behind it. If they didn’t like a character, they usually have a reason for it. If they don’t, their feedback won’t be of any use to you. This goes for positive feedback as well. Readers will have a reason for liking your character or scene or plot.

Don’t Take It Personally

Say you’re putting together a set of stairs. Someone volunteers to test it out, but they come back and say you need to work on some things. They’re not saying you’re a terrible carpenter, or the stairs are a disaster.

They’re saying you need to add things to make it sturdy. And if you don’t listen to them, the next person to use those stairs will be fairly disappointed.

There are readers who genuinely want to help by pointing out what doesn’t seem to be working for your story. It’s not an attack on your or your novel, it’s to help polish your book.

Don’t Be Quick To Defend

You shouldn’t need to jump at every feedback and justify why you did what you did. If people say they don’t understand the magic system in your fantasy world, you don’t need to explain it to them, you just need to find a spot in your story to do so.

When you release your novel, readers won’t have you with them to explain what they don’t understand. Your story should do all the work without needing you there.

Never Go On The Offensive

Don’t unleash your wrath against readers who gave negative feedback. It’s best to politely ask them why they feel that way and then move on.

When it comes to trolls or people who just want to insult your book for no reason, it’s best to ignore them and go about your day. Trying to justify yourself against people who don’t care to listen is pointless.

Don’t Use All The Feedback

If one person says the protagonist should have fallen in love with the childhood friend instead of the love interest, but ten people say they have no problem with the love interest, it may just be a very personal preference.

Most feedback are usually personal preferences, but it’s a case of majority rules.

Remember, you’re not looking to please everyone because that’s impossible. But you’re also not obligated to please just one person. You have the freedom to pick and choose what you want to change based on the consensus.

Keep A Folder With Positive Things

This isn’t to boost your ego or be used as evidence against negative feedback.

It’s to remind you that you’re doing some things right. Sometimes, we hear negative things less than we do about positive things. So when we receive negative criticism, it stays with us longer because we rarely hear it so often.

When you only remember the one negative feedback compared to the ten good ones you received, your esteem might be shot down. Keeping a folder filled with positive things can take your mind off of the negativity and get you back to writing.

Keep Writing

No matter what happens, you need to keep writing.

Now that you have constructive feedback, you can use them to polish your story. And soon, you’ll be on your way to publishing. Criticism is inevitable. But you can use it to benefit your work or let it stop you, and trust me, the former is way more rewarding.

And there you have it, 10 tips on how to handle criticism in writing.

Were any of these tips helpful to you? What are some of your thoughts on how to handle criticism? Leave a comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Regards, BK Scotther

6 thoughts on “How To Handle Criticism In Writing – 10 Tips For New Writers

  1. Joe Petruzzi

    Receiving constructive criticism is certainly a skill that must be learned. To help me get past it, I just normally think of how good my product is going to end up after all of the feedback I receive. That motivation normally makes me think deeper about the criticism and even become exited about implementing a change I believe is worth introducing. Awesome post!

    1. BK

      Yes, I absolutely agree. Anyone looking to receive constructive criticism should definitely bare in the mind the fact that their work will become better after the feedback. A good way to ensure they will receive constructive feedback, is to know common writing mistakes. Researching what people normally get criticized for not only helps them to avoid it, it also lets the critic focus on other aspects of the writing that needs to be looked at. 🙂

  2. Marques Pizarro

    I can tell you put a lot of effort into this article because there is a lot of content and details about how to handle criticism when writing. I realize that as a blogger, I must be open to criticism and be ready for anything, I need armor! Criticism to me is like feedback, or fuel to keep doing what I do, and if they are right, I will adjust. I will not be quick to defend and I must work on not taking it personally. Thank you so much for this article, I will come back for more knowledge!

    1. BK

      Thanks Marques. I’m glad you found some of these tips useful. I completely agree with you about taking criticism as feedback and fuel to keep doing what you do. Whether we’re writers or bloggers, if we’re creators of any kind, we’ll always be subject to criticism. It’s just a matter of knowing which ones help us and which ones don’t. 🙂

  3. Danny

    Hi! Great post, and you’ve made some really interesting points. I agree that when you have created something- it doesn’t limit to writing, you form a personal attachment to it. You literally put a part of yourself inside it, so when people criticize it it feels like a personal attack, but I think it’s better just to assume they’re trying to help you develop and grow!

    1. BK

      Thanks Danny. I agree that one should assume all feedback is the critic’s way of helping the writer improve.

      The thing some new authors have trouble with is distinguishing feedback that actually helps point out a flaw and a solution to solve it, while some try to make the author rewrite something to fit their own view of the story.

      The latter is the type that isn’t out to help the writer but to help the critic get the writer to write something for them. Still, learning the difference between constructive and nonconstructive feedback is a learning curve that can help a writer grow in their writing process. 🙂

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