Friday, May 28, 2010

How much Criticism to Take?

As writers we encounter criticism at every stage of our writing. Criticism is like cactus: full of thorns and prickly. In the beginning its the critique group members who read our initial pages and gently guide us to correction, then its the Beta readers (the lucky ones) who read our final drafts and help us in polishing our work. Once we are ready to query, agents board the reading ship. Their criticism can be both a source of joy as well as pain depending on which side of the fence they are sitting on. Do they like our work, or, don’t they? After several rejections ( I am sure every writer has faced them) we are lucky enough to snag an agent interested in representing our work. But its not the end of the road for criticism, its just gaining momentum.

When the manuscript is bid Bon Voyage and is shopped around, another set of criticism is ladled out, by the editors of the various publishing houses it has visited. Finally when the manuscript reaches its ultimate destination, a.k.a as the publisher, we writers have to face criticism in the form of rewrites and edits.

After several to and fro, track changes that make us gasp, choke and sniff by turns, the polished manuscript is well on the Highway of the Publishing world.

Reviewers and Critics now jump on board. Every aspect of the book is scrutinized and inspected. They sniff the book from all angles searching for loopholes and cracks. Many readers blindly follow these cynical appraisers of words. When the book hits the shelves, readers are ready with their words of wisdom. We hear these words even several years after our books have been published.

Have you noticed that as wordsmiths we are susceptible to truckloads of criticism. Criticism that can plunge us into a pool of despair or lift us to heights of ecstasy. The harsh words can sometimes reduce us to tears.

How do we know whose comments to heed and which words to ignore? Practically everyone will have an opinion on our work. I think it’s better to listen to people with more writing experience than us. People whose sole interest lies in sharpening our manuscripts. Agents who represent us and editors who work with us are people whose criticism we should take seriously. As they are the people who have only our best writing interests at heart, and are as familiar with our work as us. If we were to listen to every bit of comment that knocks on our door we would go mad. As writers we should develop a thick skin when it comes to accepting criticism. There is nothing personal in it. These sharp arrows are directed at our work, not us.

How do you all handle criticism at every stage of your writing? Do you rush to change your manuscript after every word of advice? Whose opinion do you ultimately value? Please share with us.


  1. I will make changes if I have a deep trust of the reader. And there aren't many! Basically if the criticism rings true I can usually tell. If it's off from what I expected, I sit on it and wait to see if others feel the same way, and then I'll change if it's a pattern others are seeing too.
    Great post, and have a great weekend!

  2. Lydia....If several people give me the same feedback then I take a second look at my Manuscript and see whether I can incorporate their changes. But I almost always listen to my Editors. Their feedback is spot on.

  3. I'm usually pretty stung over any criticism. I let myself wallow in misery for a good day or two before I realize they're probably right. I've been known to consider the source a few times as well. ;) Have a great long weekend!

  4. Hi Anne...I feel bad when the criticism borders on the harsh side. I go through several emotions: misery, depression, insecurity... but finally decide that its nothing personal.
    Everone is entitled to their opinion.