Sunday, 7 December 2008

On Criticism

1) Criticism of work is not criticism of self. So try to never take it personally.

2) When you’re offered criticism, consider how well-qualified the person making the offer is to criticise your work, and adjust your response accordingly.

3) While you’re not obliged to make any changes to your unpublished work as a result of any criticism it might receive, you’d be wise to consider doing so—especially if several readers have made the same suggestions.

4) Remember that your levels of reading comprehension drop dramatically when reading a criticism of your own work: you filter out the good stuff and magnify the bad, so that you translate “this is good but you need to work a little on your characterisation” into “I hate all your characters!”

5) Once your book is published, remember that people are entitled to their opinions and the only professional response to a review is to say thank you.

Right. Does anyone have any other points they would like to add to the list?


Sandra Patterson said...

I once witnessed a published author getting into an argument with someone who had read and hated their book and bitched about it on an open forum. It struck me as a bit stupid and pointless. After all they had taken the punter's money, so it's really none of their business what they then thought of the book. Making a scene only made them look like a jackass, but I suppose it got them some free publicity, which everyone is after these days!

Anonymous said...

All very true. It's frustrating when readers' criticisms are based on just not getting the book - a careless reading, a missing the point - but there's nothing you can do. You put the book out in public, after all. Sometimes you have to shrug and say, 'Well, they just didn't get it.' Sometimes, if you're honest, you have to say, 'Damn, I hoped they wouldn't notice...' though with any luck your editor will have caught the latter before it went public.

But even criticism from professionals isn't written in tablets of stone. Editorial Anonymous did an immortal post a while ago, about how to receive criticism from your editor, and what to do about it...

Fundamentally, learning what to do with criticism (whether editorial critiquing, or bad reviews) is part of your growth and development as a writer.

Jane Smith said...

I seem to remember that Anne Rice once responded somewhat stirringly to a review of one of her books on Amazon, but I could be wrong.

Emma, I love that EA post. It's so true. I'd like to see one written from the POV of an editor, though, just to balance the equation: but one firm rule that I always followed when I was editing is that it was the writer's book, not mine, and so they had final say on everything. Admittedly none of my authors ever really disagreed with me about my edits, so I never had to deal wtih this sort of difficult situation: but there was one in particular who I still remember with an odd form of affection (!).

Anonymous said...

I've heard that Mark Twain / Sam Clemens published criticisms of his own fiction. That's an interesting approach, don't you think? By complaining about your work--if the criticism and original work were any good--you could capitalize on both sides of the opinion fence.

Personally, criticism from others is easier to take than self-criticism. I'm more likely to overreact when reviewing my work unless external criticism provides boundaries.