Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Two Author Essentials: Thick Skin & Blinders

That's a thick skin, in case you're wondering. Unless you're only writing in a notebook you store under your bed, you're likely to encounter criticism. 

If you can't handle it, that's ok. Your under-bed notebook is safe. If you still desire others to read your writing, be prepared for the wild ride ahead.

Deep breaths, ok? Here are a few tips I've learned along the way (and am still learning the hard way).

Before Publication

The critique process is essential to producing readable material. Other sets of eyes on your work is immensely valuable. Not only will critique partners help you write a better story, their differing viewpoints and critique styles will prepare you for what happens after you publish. 

Whether you're in a local writing group or an online one, it will take some time to find the critique partners you mesh with best. After all, you need to be a good fit for their work as well. Once you find your partners, learn to leave the ego at the door and accept their feedback for what it is. Some critiques may prove harsher than others. Resist arguing. Even if you find their critique style to be nails-on-the-chalkboard brutal, they've spent time and effort to read what you wrote and offer feedback, so be respectful enough to accept it gracefully. Learn to take all feedback with an open mind. Look for consistencies. If 2 or 3 people point out the same issues, chances are those are the areas you really need to work on. 

When you've finally polished up that story and survived the submitting process to find it a home...

After Publication

<--You better get a pair of these. Once your writing is made public, it's subject to public scrutiny. And so are you. Basically, the feedback you'll receive will fit into three categories:

1. If you're lucky, most of your reviews will be positive or at least civil and constructive. Thank these readers if you wish. Invite them to future book events, notify them when you release a new title, and be happy to have acquired some true fans of your work.

2. Eventually, chances are you'll get a really critical review, maybe even a downright vicious one. Do not respond at all. At least these readers took the time to read and review your work. They just didn't dig it, and that's cool. Really. Have some chocolate or a beer or cry into your pillow. They're not the readers you're writing for anyway. Remember that even the best-selling books of all time have haters.

3. And then there are the ultra-haters / cyber bullies. These are people who most likely have read nothing you've written, but still target your books with ugly ratings, reviews, and comments. Your only crime may be that you're connected to other authors they already hate or they might hate your book cover or maybe they missed the garbage truck. Who knows? If you dare confront them or their behavior, however, they'll jump on you with claws bared.


The best thing you can do is to distance yourself from them as much as possible. Be very wary of large book-related sites like Goodreads that you can't moderate yourself. List your books and go quietly into the night. Don't interact in groups, don't comment on reviews, and don't link your blog. If you come under fire, block the offending members. Notify the admins if you need to. Otherwise, it's best to just put on your blinders and pretend they don't exist. Stick primarily to sites that give you better control, like personal blogs, Facebook pages, etc.

And most of all...do NOT let criticism keep you from writing. We only fail if we let criticism keep us from doing what we love. Be strong, work hard, and write for those who like what you write! They're the ones that really matter. ~Mysti


  1. Great advice Mysti, and a subject that unfortunately has gotten a lot of airtime recently. I am a huge fan of an online writers group for critique and feel uniquely lucky to have been invited to join one years ago. It made all the difference- and I think they are the best because they are MUTUAL. Most of the trouble with reviews, I think, comes from one-on-one requests, where you are asking for a favor: the gloves come off and who knows what closet-skeletons may emerge, maybe not remotely related to your work. But on a writers' board, all posts from a small group are seen by everyone and the respect level is properly set from the start- we're here to improve each others' writing, and it's been invaluable. You might not be as lucky as I was to find one on your first try (my second try, to add another, blew up in my face), but keep searching.
    Also, I think your readers interested in this might want to see the thoughts of our colleague Anne R. Allen, who wrote this week specifically about the dangers of asking friends and family to review your work. Ouch!

    1. You're exactly right about the opposite end of the spectrum. We have to be careful in requesting reviews from those we know personally. Being a baby author, I did that early on and now refrain from it. I don't tell people NOT to review my work, but I am quick to say I expect honest reviews.

      I recently turned down a writer friend's idea of reading the first three chapters of fellow authors' books and leaving them good reviews for it. If someone's not going to read it in its entirety and leave an honest review, I'd rather them not review it at all.

  2. Great advice! I find it's best not to engage on the internet if you don't want mean comments.

    1. Amen! The internet gives people a false sense of bravado, and I doubt that most of the meanies would dare talk to someone in person the way they do to people online. They'd get poked in the eye if they did! Definitely a Jekyll/Hyde mentality going on.

  3. Your advice is right on target. I've only been published less than a month, so I haven't had any personal attacks...yet.


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