life · writing

Negative Critiques

Back when Summer Rush was originally on Inkpop, I got a ton of feedback on it. So much of it was positive and constructive, and it really helped me to see what I should fix, what I should strengthen, and what I should leave as-is in my novel.

I was feeling kind of bummed today as I was wrestling with a chapter, so I read over some of those old comments to remind myself why the heck I was busting my butt on this novel that was clearly so awful that it would be better suited as fire kindling the next time my family roasted marshmallows (yeah, I was feeling pretty low. But I’m over it now.)

As fate would have it, the first comment my eyes fell on? The negative one.

I still remember the day I got this comment. It wasn’t a shrimpy, nasty one-liner, either. It was a decent-sized chunk of words, and the writer calmly informed me that my novel was cliche, my characters were all two-dimensional, the plot was ridiculous, and they thought, overall, its only redeeming quality was that it was “made them laugh.”

I’m just going to say: thank goodness the two of us weren’t standing face to face.

In all seriousness, that comment stung. And it still does. It was sandwiched on my computer screen by other critiques that were encouraging, written by people who had truly enjoyed my writing. And there wasn’t another negative thing to be seen on that entire page.

But none of that mattered. All that mattered was that somebody hated my writing. I closed my computer and didn’t touch it for the rest of the day.

I knew the drill: not everybody is going to like your writing, you can’t please everybody, some people are just mean, etc., etc. Other writers had warned me. Writing books had warned me. Heck, I’d read entire blog posts about dealing with this. But that didn’t make it any easier. I was shattered.

It’s been months since I first read those words. They still hurt. I still can’t look at them for long periods of time. But it was an experience that I needed.

Yeah, I wanted to cry, and if I think about it long enough right now, I probably still will. But it’s going to happen, and I get that now.

There’s a sunny side to this. That person’s project still isn’t close to touching Summer Rush. Ha! Call me petty. I am, as far as this is concerned.

I’m still mad at them, honestly, mostly because they didn’t even use specific examples to illustrate their point and just made general assumptions.

Honestly, you can’t just say something like that to somebody without a whole lot of evidence to back your opinion up – and I’m saying that about all writers and critiquers, not just me. This person was a Bad Critic. Ollin Morales’ excellent blog post agrees with me.

Ahem. Still, I can accept the lesson I learned. I can also hold a grudge for a very long time, but we are so not going there.

Anybody else had a similar experience? And if so, how’d you deal with it?

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3 thoughts on “Negative Critiques

  1. Negative comments always sting. It doesn’t matter how much work you’ve had published, we all will be subject to this at some point, believe me. This of course shouldn’t be confused with constructive criticism, because if someone truly wanted to be helpful they would have no need to be nasty about it. One thing a writer friend of mine recently said about having someone critique our work was this, the person doing the critiquing should be someone who’s opinion we trust, and hopefully someone with much more experience otherwise we really won’t learn all that much.

    In time, you’ll put this behind you. Once you are published this experience will one day help you to be kind toward some new writer starting out. You’ll be more mindful of what actually goes into a proper critique.

  2. What I always tell myself is this:

    “In the end your the one who has to love your writing. If you think something is fine then go with your gut. YOU have to live with it.”

    Having negative comments does sting, but the ones that are constructive only hurt for a minute and in the long run are good for you… kind of like shots.

    Then there are the vipers out there that bite you just to be mean.

    I just try not to let them get me down and go to my crit groups and partners for some good ol’ anti-venom 😀

    Sorry… metaphors. It’s a problem I know. LOL
    Nice post

    1. Haha. I like your metaphors. And that’s definitely true about constructive criticisms. You can always tell when someone really has the well-being of you and your writing in mind.

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