Often, dreamers find themselves on the precipice of a grand achievement without realizing the pinnacle they’ve reached. As they near the last few steps of the climb, they turn to a friend, a loved one, or a non-biased reader and offer up their artwork as the last possible source of energy to finish the climb. There are a few different forms of critics out there that everyone should pay attention to and those you should ignore.
These individuals usually are or at least see themselves as the learned class. They studied Shakespeare, Hemingway, or any of the literary greats that people use to value their knowledge. Each of these individuals will offer up cruel comparisons and make some reading recommendations for the Author to use to broaden their talents. Though their insights may be valid, the approach will deter the Author instead of giving the intended constructive criticism. When facing feedback from these individuals, try your best to take it for what it is. If they are genuinely insulting, you will most likely know. At least those with weight behind their words often end up tired from overconsumption of literature. The high doses of “superior prose” can lead to higher than thou speech and misconstrue the message. Listen with an author’s ear, with an openness to ideas and a buffer to the bullshit.
The Sympathetic Reviewer:
This branch of feedback stems most often from your friends, loved ones, close acquaintance, etc. I’m sorry to say that the closer they are to you, the more likely (though it’s not guaranteed) they are to laud your achievements of even finishing your piece. Before we get too deep into this section, I love to share the early forms of my stories with those closest to me. It adds a level of excitement, and a lot of times, they end up being my hype crew for me to finish the challenging process of editing. However, a lot of people may guard their feedback in fear of ruining their relationship with you. Some may have seen how much work you put into projects and fear that any criticism will make you stop. I recommend listening to their praises because even if they’re straining to find them, you can take note of those strengths and emphasize them as you re-write or edit.
The Amazon Reviewer:
Now, these vary from all walks of life. If you took an average review from most readers from the books you’re looking up on Amazon, you would probably get a chaotic image. Let’s knock a few things out of the way. First off, if they only leave a starred review and nothing else, I would ignore it. Often, competition will give other books (businesses, products, living spaces) negative, unquantified reviews to make their books (examples stated above) look better. Another one to ignore is the general “this book sucked” with no other context. Now, if they say they couldn’t finish the book, they will usually tell you why. The best range for reviews on books is the 2-4 star range. These will usually give you the people who took the time to write out what they did and didn’t like about the books. Take notes from those comments. There will be gems, and there will be gravel in that sea of feedback. Find the jewels, and ignore the stone.
Criticism is hard to receive. Don’t hide from it, because it will make you a better writer. Listen to what the feedback says and doesn’t say, then figure out what you’re going to do with that information. I wish we could all get the immediate positive feedback that we desire, but our first, second, or third draft won’t always be our best work. So, keep writing, keep reading, and as always, stay fresh, my nugs.