Last night, I received some pretty harsh criticism from a close family member that made me question everything I've written. I'm in the final edits of my book. I've spent the last week polishing every last little detail before I hand it off to my editor. I've gotten fabulous feedback from several of my beta readers, and I have a few more I'm waiting to hear from, but so far, everything has been positive or constructive.
It was bound to happen. Negativity. This was the angry, debilitating brand of criticism that makes you wonder if maybe you should just abandon the entire project. This person hadn't even read the book. They'd just heard the basis of it, and decided before reading a single word that they wanted nothing to do with it.
My initial reaction was to brush it off like it didn't matter. Then it began haunting me for the rest of the evening. It tortured my thoughts to the point that I couldn't focus on making dinner or holding a chatty conversation with my husband. I began doubting the entire plot structure of my story. My mind raced with the ways I could fix my story to make this person happy. I mentioned my worries to my husband as we made pizzas together for our kids, and he knew exactly what to say to make me feel better. He told me that the best written books receive the most criticism. He used Harry Potter and Twilight as examples. How many conservative Christians still won't read Harry Potter because it contains witchcraft? How many people still read Twilight even though it's widely criticized?<a href="http://cindyhaleauthor.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/famous-books-graph.jpg"><img id="i-176" src="http://cindyhaleauthor.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/famous-books-graph.jpg?w=650" alt="Image" width="520" height="520" /></a>
There will always be that one person sitting in the back of the metaphorical room with a sour expression on their face and something negative to say. It's inescapable.
So how to deal with that?
Remember, just because the feedback is negative it doesn't mean the person is a sourpuss. Not all negative feedback is a bad thing. Some feedback is completely valid and could help you write a better book. Some is just a matter of preference. Maybe this person doesn't read your genre. Learn to recognize whether the feedback is coming from someone's personal preference, actual flaws in your manuscript, or if the person is simply a grouch looking to ruin someone's day.
Above all, keep writing. Never stop looking for ways to improve your work. And when the harsh criticism inevitably comes, give it some serious thought, but in the end, trust your gut.
About Cindy Ray Hale
Cindy Ray Hale lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and four children. In addition to being a writer, she's an avid reader and a social media junkie. At the age of 17, she wrote a short story, "Instant Harmony," which later appeared in the April 2000 issue of New Era, the official magazine for the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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