The good, the bad and the rest. Everyone’s a critic.

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Don’t forget to click the purple button to see what everyone else has to say on this week’s subject. It’s at the end of my post.

How do you deal with negative feedback? Do you have tips for critiquing other writers’ work?

Personally, I’ve always thought that if you don’t have something positive to say, you should remain silent.

But here’s the thing, I want people to tell me what they think of my writing. As a small-time, little-known author, I’m always asking for reviews. Of course, as soon as you actively seek people’s opinions, that advice kind of goes out the window and you have to accept what you’re given.

How I deal with negative feedback depends, the term encompasses such a wide range of things. First, I decide whether it’s a bad review that’s politely and professionally written and contains valid points about faults in the content, such as plot holes, typos or formatting issues.

Or is it more of a rant, or a generalised complaint based on some sort of personal agenda?

As soon as you put anything put in the public domain, you have to be ready for any sort of reaction. It can feel like you’re baring your soul but you need to develop a thick skin. Not everyone will like everything you do, that’s a fact.

You are probably the same yourself, your preferences and opinions will not be the same as anyone else’s. You may express them differently but that’s about it.

I’m quite happy to accept negative criticism. In fact, when it’s well-structured and logical it can be helpful. If I get a lot of comments about a certain thing, it’s pretty obvious that I need to work on whatever it is. Because, at the end of the day, I’m learning all the time and anything that helps me become a better writer will always be welcome.

What is slightly less useful to me is the negativity that borders on abuse or denigration, based on someone’s personal agenda, whether it’s political or sociological.

I’m not using my writing to promote a viewpoint or highlight whatever might be the trend of the day.

Sure, those things might creep in where they’re part of the narrative; but readers need to remember that it’s a novel, not a soapbox.

Hint: I don’t necessarily believe that what my characters say or do is acceptable in today’s world. Only that it’s a part of the one I’ve created.

I ignore all the personal attacks and take notice of reasoned criticism, it’s the only way to stay positive about writing.

If I’m critiquing someone else’s work, I always try to find a positive. Because I know how much effort it takes to produce a novel, I’d hate to dismiss it for the sake of something that I didn’t personally take to. It might just be someone else’s favourite part.

Until next time.

Let me know what you think about this week’s subject.

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17 Responses

  1. Steven Smith

    This is kind of how I work when reviewing. Even if I don’t like a book just because it’s not my cup of tea, I will still give it a negative review as they are my own opinion. But, and I think this is where I differ from trolls, I will not attack the writer or the work, I will state my reasons and that it ultimately is not for me. If the problem is poor editing, formatting, etc, I might say the lack of attention and care make it unpalatable, but will always note if I feel there is a possibility of something good with some polishing.

  2. Lela Markham

    Yeah, I’m working on a review swap right now. The book isn’t my cup of tea, but it’s a very sweet, well-written book. So I’m mulling it over. I wouldn’t have finished the book if a friend gave it to me as a gift, but there are a lot of positives, so I’m trying to be gracious and not admit the book bored me to tears. It’s not the author’s fault and I think it probably isn’t the book’s fault. It’s me. I just don’t like romance unless there’s a dead body somewhere on the scene.

    • Richard Dee

      If someone tells me they don’t like my genre, that’s fine. I’d rather they said that than try to read something they’re never going to like.

    • Richard Dee

      Agreed, it costs nothing and it’s so much better than being deliberately nasty (which sometimes seems to be the fashion).

  3. Daryl Devore

    Yes, isn’t it interesting how are characters are supposed to represent us? A character can be bad (racist, cruel etc) and they can say horrible things – but that’s not us. Funny how people can’t see the divided.

  4. Cie from Naughty Netherworld Press

    “If I’m critiquing someone else’s work, I always try to find a positive.”
    Me too. As a reviewer, I always try to be fair. I don’t want to be THAT person who discourages someone from creating. Although there have been a couple of times when it was very, very hard to find anything positive to say about a piece.

    • Richard Dee

      Everyone can get better, given encouragement. Who knows what wonderful stories never appeared, because of one bad critique?

  5. Kate JR

    I don’t think negative criticism is the way to critique. I think criticism should always be constructive. If you ask for a review then the best way for someone to review is provide balance and that means outlining the strengths as well as the weaknesses. If you’ve provided a free review copy it’s assumed that the reviewers are self-selective and have an interest in your genre anyway. Let’s face it, even with strengths and weaknesses outlined, we authors will probably focus on the weaknesses for a while before seeing the positives.

    Asking for reviews is one thing but some people think by sharing a piece of work – art, photography, writing you’re inviting a critique. For instance I’m an admin in a creative arts support group for people with disabilities/chronic conditions. Unless someone specifically asks for a critique you shouldn’t offer it. That’s what the scroll right past button is for!

    • Richard Dee

      Good points, I always look for a positive and I hope that those who critique my work would do the same.

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