Everyone's a Critic - Dealing with Criticism as a Writer

How some people act when criticizing others...
How some people act when criticizing others... | Source

Everyone's A Critic

One of the things any writer, regardless of what they write or where, has to face is people criticizing their work.

Many of these people will happily criticize other people's work in public, and some will resort to incredibly negative and hurtful statements. Bad criticism comes from all sources...friends, strangers, even a professional caught on a bad day.

How do you handle it when somebody posts a comment on your work online that is negative, hurtful and worthless?

Is It Constructive?

The very first thing to ask yourself is if the person's criticism is constructive. Some criticism is useful. This could range from somebody pointing out the typo in paragraph four to meaningful, worthwhile comments about your content.

Constructive criticism should be considered (although not followed blindly). If it's an obvious mistake, thank them and fix it. If it's something more subjective, thank them...then fix it if you feel like it.

In a similar vein, some 'criticism' is honest disagreement with your points. I do recommend approving comments that show reasoned disagreement as it can open up a dialog that might be useful to both you and your readers.

Who Is This Person, Anyway?

Some people who criticize you may actually know less about the subject than you do. (On a related note, it's funny how many typos will find their way into a comment pointing out somebody else's typo...I swear there are internet gremlins that insert them.)

If they are wrong, and you know they are wrong, ignore them. If they are your ex, ignore them. In some cases, constructive criticism from strangers is more useful than from friends. But hurtful comments from some anonymous person in the internet? Ignore it and move on. If the comment is nothing but negativity, then deny it or remove it. You don't need to give them air time. I also recommend denying comments that contain direct attacks on other readers.

The only thing worse than a bad review...

...is no review at all.

Remind yourself that if people are saying bad things about your writing, then they are at least saying things about your writing. Bad reviews sell almost as many books as good ones. If somebody says your article sucks to all of their friends, then many of those friends will come and check it out to see if it is as terrible as they say. I've personally checked out things I heard nothing but bad about only to discover they were wonderful.

So, remind yourself that these people are actually giving you publicity, smile and carry on.

If you're mad...

If criticism or a bad review has made you actually angry - then it's time to walk away from your computer. Go for a walk, eat a candy bar, whatever it takes to calm you down.

Then come back and read the comments again. Make sure they don't have a point. There's no sense getting mad about either useful criticism or unjustified remarks. I once had a story that won a contest slammed when it was posted because the 'writer screwed up the formatting'. By the time I saw it, whatever formatting issues had been introduced by the editor's software had been fixed. These things happen. Unjustified criticism is best ignored. That pointing out real problems can be used to improve.

Don't retaliate

Never retaliate when criticized or slammed. It only makes you look unprofessional and overly emotional. Writers have tanked their careers by 'defending' themselves from bad reviews.

If the person is honestly disagreeing with you, then its fine to engage them in constructive dialog. However, you should not attack people, flame people or use words not appropriate on public radio. Any response should be well thought out and constructive. If you can't manage that, then don't respond at all. It's fine to simply not approve comments that are nothing more than 'You suck', but I recommend that you do approve ones that have something to say that you happen to disagree with. It looks more professional that way, and you will gain extra respect.

Don't be one of them

Resist the temptation to engage in pointless, unconstructive criticism yourself. If you feel the desire to point out mistakes and typos, consider doing so privately rather than in public comments.

Always have something good to say if you're going to criticize, even if its the equivalent of telling the kid with the scruffy, ugly pony that their horse is a nice color. Always criticize the work, not the person. Never call anyone an idiot. And don't swear. Be helpful and constructive, rather than just dragging people down, and you might even find yourself with a new friend...or a beta reader for your next book.

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Comments 4 comments

Damian Trasler 4 years ago

That "Don't retaliate" is good advice, even if it's the hardest to follow. I'll never forget the "Howlettgate" thread that lit up the internet a while ago. She made the mistake of dropping the F-bomb on folks who began by offering some constructive criticism, and that's when the trolls really came out to play.


jenniferrpovey profile image

jenniferrpovey 4 years ago Author

There have been quite a few similar incidents over the years. I seem to remember that one, but it's not unique.


pandula77 profile image

pandula77 4 years ago from Norway

Great advice for many of the aspiring writers or hubers I should say. Thanks for sharing! awesome !


d.william profile image

d.william 4 years ago from Somewhere in the south

Nice article with some good advice. I always leave all comments on my articles. (with only one exception that was so long and distasteful that it actually detracted from the real concept of the article itself). It is hard to have an argument with someone who does not argue back, so i always comment with kindness and/or advice for the nasty commenter to seek some professional help. L.O.L.

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