How to Deal with Harsh Criticism

As you may have guessed from the title, I recently received some fairly harsh criticism about my debut novel, Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It. I’m not going to lie — it really bummed me out. But that happened last Wednesday, and I’ve since rallied. Well, enough so that I’m able to write a post about it, anyway!

Here’s what happened: I recently started attending a local writer’s group, and one of the gentlemen in the group bought a copy of my book and read it through. When he finished, he invited me to have coffee so he could share his thoughts with me. What followed was … kind of brutal.

Basically, he didn’t like the book at all — he thought it was unoriginal, boring, and lacking in “fangs”. He  classified Imminent Danger as “juvenilia” — quoth Wikipedia, “a term applied to literary, musical or artistic works produced by an author during his or her youth”. As in … it’s a decent attempt for a first novel, but actually it’s pretty bad and you should probably forget it ever happened and move on. He also told me that if I want to seriously be a writer, I need to abandon self-publishing and aim for traditional publishing, with self-publishing as only a last resort.

In his defense, the criticism wasn’t all bad and soul-slicing. He did say he found parts very funny, that he quite liked a few of the characters, and that he thought I had great potential as a writer. And he was very kind about it — he ended a lot of statements with “I don’t know — just a thought” to lessen the blow. And obviously I appreciate the feedback, especially from someone who has studied literature as extensively as he has. Still … brutal.

Not a fun experience. And he wasn’t entirely wrong — Imminent Danger isn’t a hard-hitting, super-intense, hard-core science fiction story where everything goes to hell in a handbasket and people get their limbs blown off and have their minds blown by crazy metaphysical questions about life and the universe and whatnot. That’s because it’s not meant to be. It’s fun, flirty, and silly. It’s the kind of book you bring to the beach and read whilst sipping a pina colada and basking in the tropical breeze.

I forgot that for a while after the coffee chat — I was really down on myself, thinking, “He’s right, this story is awful, why on Earth did you ever bother self-publishing it?”

And then I remembered that different people are different, and everyone has their own opinion, and that not everyone is going to like my book, regardless of how much I wish it were otherwise. My book may not be a ground-breaking, Earth-shattering book that will radically alter how we humans perceive of ourselves for decades to come … but hey, I like it! I like the characters, I like the world I created, and according to the reviews, I’m not alone in that.

So … I guess the moral of the story is this: different people are different, and you will never write a book that everyone likes. So if someone gives you a harsh review:

  1. Extract the good advice from the bad, and apply it to your future writing as necessary.
  2. Remind yourself of all the reasons why you wrote your book, and why you love your book.
  3. Get right back on that writing horse and keep going! You’re an author, dammit! Giving up is for lesser beings!

 

Totally related media of the day:

From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success!

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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 87 Comments

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87 thoughts on “How to Deal with Harsh Criticism

  1. Something every writer/artist needs to hear. Thanks 😉

    • No problem 🙂 And that’s the problem with criticism — it hurts especially when it rings true to you. So the best thing to do is make notes, take away the pieces of advice you feel are most relevant to you … and above all, don’t take it personally!!!

  2. As a writing professor, I would be quick to listen to this man’s advice on grammar, structure, etc. The technicalities of writing. But as someone to judge the book in the way he did, I have to say he may be a bit behind of the times. Self publishing breaks the boundaries of genre – this is something traditional publishing hasn’t caught up with yet. Does this mean we’re going to see a lot of mess out there? Absolutely. Does this also mean there’s no place for fun, flirty, silly sci-fi books? Absolutely not. Criticism always hurts, there’s no doubt about it – kudos to you for rallying and getting back to work! 🙂

    • That was exactly my thinking — a lot of his structural advice was definitely sound. But like you said … I think self-publishing is the way of the future, and he doesn’t seem to be on board with that idea at all. I will definitely be pursuing self-publishing — I love the freedom it gives you, and that you don’t have to compromise your vision for anyone.

    • kingmidget

      I agree with Sarah … without knowing how your writing group works, it seems he went a bit overboard. Being a writing professor doesn’t give him any better perspective on what people like or don’t like.

      • Well, he was definitely just trying to help, so I can’t get too mad 🙂 And he had some excellent points that will definitely help in my future writing. Although I do think Sarah’s point stands — he’s totally the wrong target audience, and I therefore shouldn’t take his assessment of how enjoyable my book is TOO seriously 🙂

        • kingmidget

          I understand the “trying to help” and you definitely have the right attitude about the whole thing. I have always believe that feedback is better than no feedback, but at the same time, the bigger picture in which each commenter gives you feedback should be part of the writer’s consideration. The thing that drives me crazy is the rating system on Goodreads. I have these one and two star ratings there, but they don’t have to do a review. So, I have absolutely no idea why they rated it so low.

          • I definitely get that — having a low star rating without a reason why must be really frustrating. Then again, if the person is just a negative Nelly who likes to 1-star everything, I think I’d rather just see the star rating then get the insight into their mind that a review would provide. 🙂

            • kingmidget

              The trials and tribulations of being a published author, eh?

  3. Been there. I think some people are obsessed with the dark, hard-hitting novel and fail to enjoy a light, fun adventure. I had a ‘friend’ offer advice under the pretense of a few ‘minor’ issues. Everything was how I missed opportunities to follow various fantasy novel traditions. Not even going to bother going into details.

    Everyone has different tastes. Like you said, extract the positive where you can find it.

    • One of his suggestions I actually really liked was that he said to try writing a short story with all the dark, hard-hitting elements he was suggesting, and see how I liked it. And that’s the thing — I have no problem writing dark, hard-hitting stuff — I just chose not to for this book.

      And your friend was way off about following fantasy novel traditions. If you follow fantasy novel traditions, you’re just producing yet another generic “swords and sorcery” book, and the world has quite a few of those already!

  4. Yeah, I don’t think he gets it… No, your book isn’t (all of that stuff you said). It’s FUN, it’s INTERESTING, it’s a great read and the only space-based Science Fiction I’ve ever enjoyed. It’s a good book. It’s an enjoyable book. I’m glad this guy wanted to help, and that he was nice about it, but I can’t help thinking he’s one of those people (maybe?) who judges every book against some lofty standard instead of on its own merits, and doesn’t take into account the fact that he’s not the target audience. I like your attitude toward taking criticism. I would have cried… this is why I don’t like taking critiques in person.

    But seriously, he can shove his opinions about self-publishing somewhere we don’t speak of in casual company. Times have changed. Some of us don’t consider self-publishing a last resort. It’s the direction I’m headed, and *gasp* without trying for traditional. Sometimes traditional publishing isn’t the right thing for an author. , for many reasons. Sometimes it is. No one has any right to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

    /end rant/

    • Hahaha thanks for this!!! You said exactly what I was thinking 🙂 And that’s the thing — I do respect his opinion, because he’s got a PhD in writing and does know what he’s talking about. However, he’s also TOTALLY not the target audience, and doesn’t even have the correct mindset (or gender, lol) to be in the target audience. So … taking everything with a grain of salt, lol.

      And agree about self-publishing, too. The fact that traditionally published authors are going the self-publishing route should be indication enough that it’s a legitimate publishing route!!!

  5. Aditi Kodipady

    Haha I would have been in tears if someone said that to me about something I wrote – It’s great you bounced back! As for fun, flirty and silly, that’s practically what I’m living on right now. There’s already enough “ground-breaking, earth-shattering” stuff in the market, thank you very much 🙂 And great advice, thanks!

    • Experiences like that really make me glad that I don’t cry. I mean, I’ve cried maybe a handful of times in my life, but on the whole, me and crying = not so much. Great in situations like that — bad in situations where everyone else is crying, and I’m not, and they’re clearly thinking, “What’s wrong with her? Why isn’t she crying?” Etc. 😀

      Hey, in my books, fun, flirty, and silly is the way to go! If I want intense, I can just read Game of Thrones and watch as all my favorite characters die off one by one!

  6. Rule number one: never listen to a writing professor. No offense to anyone but its something I learned early on.

    • Lol really? I’d love to hear the story behind that!

      • Well, consider the source. I have a friend who has a literal masters degree in popular fiction and he cannot finish a book. Why? He is so worried about ALL THE RULES of writing that his creative energy is stymied.

        Early on I found this out: when people told me what was right about my writing, I improved. When they slashed it up, like this girl who was writing about lesbian orcs and said my character was crap because he reminded her of Dr. Who, I floundered.

        You learn how to write fiction by 50% reading popular fiction, 50% writing popular fiction and about 15% on reading books on writing. I know that’s 115%, but then you need all that to be a writer anyway.

        Proper English grammar and Popular Fiction Style are not the same thing. And everyone has tastes. I personally find the big block buster books like Hunger Games kind of boring.

        It is no secret that college creative writing classes flatten creativity. Maybe you get lucky and find a great mentor-teacher, but it’s the exception.

        My friend went to film school here in LA and said all he learned was how impossible it was to make a movie. My other friend graduated college as an art major and will not/cannot do his own creative projects. I mean he just self invalidates and rips up the page.

        Here’s a handy definition of art: technical quality sufficient enough to create emotional response.

        Unless your college prof has FICTION books out that he sells to people other than his students (like Stephen King when he was a college teacher), I wouldn’t grant it an ounce of attention.

        Easy rule way to evaluate: Does it help me write more? If yes, its a good thing. If no, run.

        As for mentors I recommend Dean Wesley Smith and Joanna Penn. They’re pretty sane on the subject and very helpful. And have made it.

        See, now you’ve gotten me all worked up!

        • Well said. You can definitely know too many rules to be truly creative. Isn’t art all about breaking boundaries?

          • Here’s one for you:

            “My main character is a writer.”

            “Oh, you should never make your main character a writer, it shows that you’re needy.”

            “Well, Stephen King does it all the time.”

            “Yeah, but he’s Stephen King!”

            Ah…enough said.

  7. inkspeare

    The worst you can do is to quit your dream because of someone’s opinion. Go read all the negative reviews that best-selling authors have received – you will feel so much better. On super famous singers – Jon Bon Jovi was told by a teacher that he should forget singing because he did not know how to sing – Thank God he did not listen to her. Check this link of many great authors that were rejected, harshly criticized, and told to forget about writing – again, thank God they did not listen 🙂 Opinions are just that. Here’s the link – http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/05/17/50-iconic-writers-who-were-repeatedly-rejected/

  8. inkspeare

    And let me add something else, traditional publishing does not suit everybody – I know I would be very unhappy in it. For him to suggest that, only reflects his narrow-minded view and lack of knowledge of the indie publishing industry.

    • I cringe at the thought of handing my book over to “professionals” and having it torn apart and re-structured and whatnot. Yeek.

  9. Yep, those reviews sting. I’ve gotten (and continue to get) many that hurt and many that are stellar and a wise author (Liz Curtis Higgs) once told me the truth is in the middle. Absolutely right on to take the meaningful bits from the review and use them. Discard the rest. Writing requires a super thick skin, that’s for sure! ☺

  10. This must have been difficult for you to put out there, so thank you for sharing this personal story. Criticism, bad reviews and publicity we don’t want are all part of the job. Don your vest and helmet and get back in the trenches with the rest of us!!!

    • Hey, you know my motto — failing, that others might succeed 🙂 Yeah, it really sucked to get that criticism face-to-face (way harder than via email!), but … like you said, time to don the vest and helmet and move on!

  11. This is why one should always keep a liberal supply of aqua regia tucked away on one’s person.

    • Seriously, though, I don’t think that your novel would have fared well with a traditional publisher because it is quirky and outside of the standard genre guidelines. I think that’s a good thing, myself. A big publishing house would have tried to rewrite it to make it a second rate imitation of whatever was hot last week. Also, they may not even have considered it because “everybody knows that girls don’t write sci-fi.”

      • Yeah, definitely. I mean, I knew going in that my story structure isn’t exactly a typical YA book. There’s no angsty love triangle, for one, and that’s a big no-no in YA literature. Still … I think it turned out all right 🙂 That’s actually one aspect of self-publishing I really love — the writer can do whatever they want, and if a traditional publisher happens to read their story and like it and sign the author, by that point the story is firmly cemented in the hearts of its fans, and the traditional publisher therefore can’t screw around with it too much during re-publication!

  12. The other problem with high ‘literary’ standards is that most of the world don’t share them.
    I’m not suggesting you’re in it (just) for the money (ha!) but compare how many copies J K Rowling/Stephen King/Patricia Cornwell/Dan Brown sell versus the likes of Tolstoy/Dickens etc.
    ‘Watership Down’ was rejected 50 times before a publisher picked it up… and turned it into an international bestseller, children’s film etc.

    • I hesitate to say he was comparing my book with literary classics, but still … yeah, there’s definitely a huge gap between popular fiction and literary fiction. Books don’t have to be brilliant works of art to sell well — they just have to be entertaining!

  13. Good for you Michelle for picking yourself up and getting back on the blogging horse. Rejection is something every author has to face. You’ll always have support amongst your fellow writers.

    • I was definitely putting off writing about this, lol. I had to let my embarrassment, humiliation, despair, and rage settle down first! And the last thing I wanted to do was come across like I was blaming the guy who gave me the critique — after all, he was trying to help, and he had some excellent points. Still … rejection sucks. I’m so glad I found all you wonderful writers on WordPress — I love my friends, but they just don’t get it the way you guys do 🙂

  14. First, I adore Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Second, it sounds like he was criticizing your book for not being the book HE would write. I say take the criticism that you feel was true but try to forget the criticism that felt like it was just mean.

    • One of my friends hates Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with a fiery passion. I suspect she is an alien.

      Yeah, there definitely was an element of that also — but don’t we all do that? I mean, I read books all the time and think “Man, I could have done this so much better!”. But then I remember that the author came up with the concept and wrote the book — I’m just dipping my toes into the world and imagining how I would have wanted the story to turn out. Not sure I’m going with this, lol, but yes, I agree that he probably had his own vision of how Imminent Danger should have been written in his mind when he was delivering his critique.

      • To be fair, there are big chunks of Chitty Bang Bang which could have probably been cut out, but I still love singing “Your my little choochie face” and “Truly scrumptious”. When my son was an infant and teething, I called him “Drooly Scrumptious”. 😉

  15. Michelle, Thank you so much for this post. I wrote something too that isn’t meant to be Hemingway. It’s a simple love triangle story, and I feel like I should be embarrassed that it’s not literary genius. I keep telling myself that people will enjoy it for what it is meant to be. Your post today, with honesty and humility and wisdom helps me recognize that it’s the writing we need, not the stellar reviews. People like Mr. Juvenilia aren’t the audience you are trying to target.

    For what it’s worth, I am reading ID and I am enjoying it immensely 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Oooh yay! And hey, what’s wrong with simply writing a book that’s fun and enjoyable, without all that need for literary allusions and allegories and satire and whatnot? You definitely shouldn’t feel embarrassed about a love triangle story — everyone loves a good love triangle 🙂 Heck, the vast majority of YA books center around love triangles. As long as it’s interesting and engaging, it doesn’t need to be literary genius. Although it’s always a nice bonus if it is 😀

  16. Michelle: One question. How many books has he had published? Also, what an egotistical thing for him to do. Let’s rip it to shreds for her own good. tee hee. Seen it. Been there, done that. Copy editing stuff is all I would accept from such a person, if that. It sounds like someone who apparently doesn’t care for the genre and missed the whole point of your story. There is never a reason to be brutal, that’s how writers get discouraged. I’m not saying flaws or problems should not be pointed out, but brutal? Most empathatically No.

  17. itsthelitchick

    Where can I buy your book?

  18. Again, I commend you for blogging about a touchy subject. In your shoes, I would have been inclined to hide the bad experience from the world, brood about it in private, then write a blog post that obliquely hit back. (I’ve done this before). I agree with the wise comments here and say good for you for moving past the harshness.

    • That’s why I had to give myself a few days too cool off — otherwise I probably would have ended up saying some mean things and then having to retract them in a second post. And I definitely was pretty discouraged for a few days … but then I remembered that his definitely wasn’t the first criticism I’ve received in my life, so buck up and keep going! And whatnot 🙂

  19. I finally got a copy of your book last week, read it in three days and LOVED it. I can’t wait for the sequel! (I love finding a new series to get hooked on; it seems like it’s been forever since I got excited about a series.) I’ve already re-read the ending once, and I’ll probably re-read it again in the next couple of weeks, just to savor it.

    I only have one criticism of the book, and that’s pretty minor (I’ll tell you via email if you’re up for hearing it: nebkeriura “at” juno “dot” com.) I loved your aliens and I wasn’t very far into your book before I thought to myself, “Wow, she’s excellent at describing these aliens; they seem real.” I especially liked Miguri’s mood-hair; I thought that was a great idea.

    Also, I thought it was very clean. I’m very impressed your editing/your editing team. I found only one continuity error and no obvious typos. I didn’t even sit around and question comma usage; it all flowed well.

    I took a bunch of creative writing classes in college, grew disgusted with this sort of criticism, and stopped one class shy of having a minor in creative writing. Also, I quit writing fiction for 10 years (it took that long for the burn to cool off!). It’s only been recently that I’ve found myself appreciating some of the good writing advice that I got (of the mechanics variety) during those classes and more-or-less forgetting the upturned noses of the English grad students who were too good to read vampire and sci-fi fiction (because they had published “serious literature.”)

    Here’s the one thing you need to hear about your encounter with the English professor: he’s not your target audience, therefore his opinion counts for next to nothing.

    Got that? His opinion is almost completely worthless. If he offers you advice on mechanics, by all means, listen (he’s in a position to give you much better, more accurate advice regarding grammar and craft than your average lay-reader). However, when it comes to the story, his opinion doesn’t mean anything because you didn’t write it to entertain old, intellectual guys.

    Let’s face it: you wrote a romance novel set in outer space featuring a teenager with her first love. Your audience is going to be tweens to young adults, of the female sex, who have an interest in sci-fi/fantasy. In short, fan-girls. Market the hell out of your book at sci-fi conventions, anime conventions, and anywhere else you can find a gaggle of nerdy-looking girls. I assure you, they’ll enjoy it (I ought to know; I’m a nerdy girl with a strong romantic streak).

    • Firstly, yay! Seeing how much I love your book, I’m pleased to learn that you reciprocate at least some of those feelings 😀

      A criticism? A continuity error???!!! Ack! Okay, I’ll email you, and you can describe it all in excruciating detail, lol. I’ll also need to have words with my brother — it was his job to make sure there were no continuity errors, darn it! 😀

      Yeah … and that’s what I keep reminding myself — he’s not my target audience. Sometimes I find it hard to understand what that really means, and then I remind myself about how I feel when I read books outside my genre. For example, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is critically acclaimed, has a bunch of movies about it, everyone loves it, etc. etc. I couldn’t stand it — because it’s not my genre, I’m not the target audience. If I were running a writing contest and that was submitted, I would have dumped it in the trash about three pages in. And yet it’s a worldwide bestseller. Quote my mother, “Different people are different”.

      Thanks for the kind words 🙂 I didn’t actually write the post to evoke this awesome outpouring of support from my fellow writers — it was mostly just to help me calmly vent and then move on — but the reaction from everyone has been really great.

      And excellent suggestion about finding a gaggle of nerdy-looking girls 😀 I think I do need to change my marketing strategy — up until now, I’ve been trying to target both genders, but … yeah, it really is a girly book, isn’t it? Lol.

  20. Some people have very rigid ideas of what constitutes a particular genre. That’s particularly true of sci-fi, and some are automatically dismissive of sci-fi romance.

    I agree with others who point out that he’s not your target audience. It’s your target audience who will judge you fairly in the end. I would be much more concerned if the book had been ripped apart by a respected reviewer of the genre.

    As for traditional vs. self-publishing–well, there were those who were sure those talkies would never catch on. Some people have a problem adjusting to that kind of profound change to an industry.

    I also seem to recall that Stephen King had a professor who once told him he would never make it as a writer. So I’m not sure being writing professor qualifies someone to make accurate predictions about, well–anything.

    • Excellent points 🙂 Those are all the things I have to remind myself of every time I start to get down on myself about the critique. Not to say I’m not going to try and learn from what he taught me, but … yeah, not my target audience, definitely! And I definitely disagree with him about the self-publishing thing — I’m a firm fan of self-publishing, and I think it’s going great places!

  21. Ha ha, yeah… I mean, kudos for you for being able to sit there, probably take that quite graciously, and then bounce back from it–it’s what every writer dreads. But I think everyone else has pretty much summed it up–it’s probably just not what this guy is in to, or knows much about. As someone who literally JUST wrapped up their English-Writing degree, I know that not much of the academia world has gotten around to embracing genre YA novels, or… well, anything that wasn’t written 100 years ago and isn’t literary as SHIT–y’know, stuff about subtle character development and soul-searching. I got OK at writing short stories in that niche, but even then I was always pushing the mold–like my Syfy story about a woman running a group for people who claim to have been abducted by aliens, and isn’t sure whether she believes them or not. It was probably a little far-fetched for what my professors wanted, but luckily mine humored me. x) But there was no place for this kind of writing, stuff like “Imminent Danger,” which was a shame since THAT’S what I want to write!
    ANYWAY.
    The point is, I loved your book. Was it 100% perfect? Probably not, but then you’d have no reason to go on writing, and I think that would be the biggest travesty of all.
    I’m rooting for you! 🙂

    • GASP! My book is 100% perfect! How dare you say otherwise???

      Hehehe. Yeah, it took a lot of will power not to start arguing with him — then again, I’m terrible at arguing, so I probably would have come across as a petulant child. Anyhoo … and that’s the thing, right? It’s not like we CAN’T write high-brow literary nonsense, it’s just that we choose not to. I love that your professor humored you! That’s the mark of a good teacher 😀

      • LOL, right? It was really nice of her, and that story actually was a runner-up in a fiction contest, soooooo…. Not bad for stretching, right? 🙂 AND OF COURSE IT IS. *patpat* Hey. I figure Varrin is 100% sexy, and what other statistics do you need, really?

  22. Hey! Well done you for being able to take the positives from this meeting although it must have been really difficult face to face. I don’t think any author is capable of writing the ‘perfect’ book as we are all so different in our tastes. Yes, there are rights and wrongs in terms of grammar but these are less recognised now and there tends to be a lot more freehand. What is brilliant to one is awful to another and that is just the way of life, whether it be a book or toilet paper! I’ve not read your book but from the posts that you write, I can’t imagine that it would be anything other than brilliant and it sounds like the gentleman in question is relatively ‘old school’. It’s easy for people to sit there and pick holes in what we have done but could they have done any better? Have they done any better? And does being a Writing Professor make you any better than the rest of us? I don’t know – but I do know you shouldn’t give up! 🙂

    • Hahaha your comment definitely brightened my day 🙂 Old school indeed! And that’s the thing — just yesterday, my brother and I were discussing all the ways we would have changed a book series we read that would have made the ending so much better. But then we remembered that the only reason we care so much about the series is because the author came up with the concept and transformed it into books that, however flawed, we love enough to discuss and tear apart. So … not sure where I’m going with this, lol. NEVER GIVE UP! NEVER SURRENDER!

  23. Gwen

    Oh, Michelle, that’s rough. It’s one thing to read a bad review online, but quite another to get it face-to-face. Yow! I don’t think I can say anything that’s not already been said in your post or here in the comments, but I agree with the notion that you can’t please everyone. Frankly, I wouldn’t expect a professor to connect with your style. (He probably reads and pontificates on the classics….snooooore). Glad to hear you’re bouncing back.

    • Yeah … the face-to-face thing really sucked. And it wasn’t really a choice — it was more of a “Hey, I read your book — when are you free to have coffee and talk about it?” At least face-to-face you can temper your criticism with smiles and offers of free drink refills, whereas over email it’s just cold, hard, sans-serif facts. I’m slowly but surely bouncing back — it will probably be a few weeks yet before I dive back into working on the sequel, but I’m getting there 🙂

  24. I’d like to quote a few scenes from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”:

    Brian: “You are all individual!”
    Crowd: “We are all individual!”
    One man in crowd: “I’m not!”

    Brian’s Mother (paraphrased): “He is not the Messiah. He is a very naughty man!”

    Crucifees: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!”

    Chin up, girl! 🙂

    • Is there anything that can’t be explained and/or fixed by some Monty Python? Kid you not: I just added a bibliography entry to my book’s historical notes for a DVD on medieval life by former Python Terry Jones.

    • Hahaha thanks 😀 I haven’t seen that movie in ages, but Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is a personal favourite song of mine. My chin is currently up, and my mood seems to be following, so … great success? 😀

  25. Does every book in existence have to be hard-hitting and intense? I loved your book and appreciated it for what it is and how much fun it was.

    • Oh good, because that’s what I was going for 😀 I could write a hard-hitting and intense book if I wanted … but I would never read it or think about it again once it was published, which probably isn’t the affection you’re supposed to feel towards your writing, lol.

  26. Are you me? I published this on Monday: http://smutwriters.com/2013/07/01/my-first-one-star-review/

    At least I didn’t have to sit there and have coffee and pretend that I didn’t want a little Irish in it.

    • It’s entirely possible that we’re the same person. I probably should have brought along a covert alcohol flask to the coffee date, now that I think about it, lol. Sorry about the bad review 😦 But like me, you’re learning and moving on from it — go us!!!

  27. Don’t let it bum you, I’ve seen this guy in every writer’s thing I’ve attended. He probably has a stack of unpublished novels and he just had to vent. He didn’t understand your genre or story so he thought it was bad. I’ve been through it in school, been through it in other places as well. You just have to believe in yourself and not let it get to you. I am glad for self publishing because I thought my novel was a dump fest until I sold a few copies, not thousands, but it did tell me something was there. Without I may not have had the courage to move forward. You seem to be doing well, hang your head on that. Good luck.

    • And that’s what I had to remind myself after I met with him — sure, he didn’t like it, but I’ve got a stack of reviews from people who did like it. And maybe 17 people (and counting!) isn’t the entire world, but still … I write because I want people to read and enjoy my stories, and clearly I’m at least partially succeeding 😀 Thanks for the kind words!

  28. I’ve found that some people enjoy making other people feel bad about their work. Using the word “juvenilia” or whatever you called it, is just patronizing and insulting. If someone felt the book needed work, the proper way to handle that is to give CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM without being rude, insulting, or demeaning.

    I’ve found as an artist that you have to protect yourself and protect your inner artist. Choose to be around people that want to help you learn and grow.

    All of the friends I’ve made and kept in the writing world are ones that give criticism–even criticism that hurts sometimes–but give it with an eye towards helping me to make my work the best it can possibly be.

    Find those people.

    Surround yourself with them.

    And avoid people who want to trash your work and call it a “critique.”

    • I think I should clarify — juvenilia isn’t actually an insult, it’s just a descriptor of a book written early on in an author’s life. Which, yes, does imply it’s not nearly as good as what the author will eventually be capable of, but it isn’t necessarily an insult. That being said … it definitely did hurt to hear.

      Anyyyyyhoo, thanks for the kind words and advice 🙂 I’m working on establishing a writing group — I’ve found a few excellent people over the years, although their one weakness it that they take FOREVER to read ANYTHING — and I’m attempting to acquire more people. Interestingly, it looks like a lot of those people might come from WordPress. I had never thought to look on the internet to find writing buddies, but … hey, if it works, it works 😀

  29. It is one person’s opinion. Best to take the positives and move on. Constructive criticism is fine but it shouldn’t step beyond that and someone in his position should know better. You improve your writing by writing. The more you write the better you will become. Listen to the people who inspire you to write more. 🙂

  30. You are a little bit of an inspiration to self-published authors, you know that? To take all that “advice” about your book, have a good old weep about it and then decide you’re going to take whatever constructive criticism you could squeeze out of it and use it in your future writing?? That’s just so inspiring – not to mention writing about it here – you’ve got balls of steel! (Unlike your professor friend perhaps…) I share everyone else’s comments – he is not your target audience, so frankly his opinion is of limited value. You should be really proud of yourself – we can all be better writers and it takes humility to know that, but you also need a lot of self-belief to say ‘back off’ when somebody is talking utter nonsense.

    • An inspiration? I’m not sure about that, but thanks 🙂 I was actually leery about sharing this story on my blog, but … I mean, what’s the point of chronicling my publishing adventures if I don’t chronicle everything? 🙂 Thanks for the kind words! The words are still stinging, but it gets better with each day — give me a few weeks, and I’ll forget it ever happened!

  31. The part about traditional publishing is old school. I’ve been around long enough to remember when print publishers were saying that digital publishing was only for hacks and they’d never ever use digital as a means of selling books. Never say never.

    • Oh, totally agree. It was when he said that line that I had to take a step back and go, “Wait, that’s not right at all. I need to start taking this advice with a grain of salt.” The mere fact that big name authors are now self-publishing is evidence that self-publishing, while currently in its infancy, is definitely a powerhouse, and definitely not going away 🙂

  32. Pingback: My crazy new idea for a book series | Michelle Proulx - The Blog

  33. Is this the same man who advised you on your origin story/ensemble idea? I’m sorry, but this person sounds like an arrogant, self-important douchebag who’s insulting your work to make himself feel big. I apologize again, I just can’t stand people who are uncreative and unproductive who think they are qualified to criticize others so mercilessly. I’d would strongly advise you ditch this person. He’s not the helpful individual he claims to be.

    • It is the same person, yes, although I think I may have misrepresented him slightly. He was very polite and nice about it all (the advice was the harsh part, not him!), and I think he did have my best interests at heart. And indeed, a lot of his advice was very helpful — I’m just not sure he quite got the point of my book, that’s all. I’m not sure if that’s because he was so focused on finding the things wrong with it, or … well, anyway, don’t assemble the pitchfork-wielding villagers just yet 🙂

      But you’re right — I think I need to find critiquers who are a little more positive about my writing, a little bit more in tune with what kind of book it is that they’re reading … and maybe I should coach them not to answer the question, “Did you like my book?” with the response, “No. For all of the reasons I just said.” Not the kind of answer that really boosts a writer’s ego, you know? 🙂

      • Oh indeed I know. And you can rest easy, you didn’t misrepresent him at all. It’s just that I know how you ladies deal with men like this, aka. self-important douchebags, and think that they are being honest and put the onus on yourselves. You were quite forgiving to him, but I still feel from what you very clearly conveyed that he’s the type of idiosyncratic, overly-critical type who will trash your work and honestly believe he’s “helping you” in the process. Do not think you’re siding with your ego or being somehow dismissive by dumping him. Dump his ass and tell him “screw you, with some sexual harassment on top!” and never look back. My advice, such as it is…

  34. Don’t worry about the literati! I’m so tired of hearing that you are not a real writer unless you have traditionally published. I think traditional publishing is going the way of the dinosaur. Embrace ebook publishing and don’t look back. If in the future some publisher comes crawling to you for publishing rights, then you might consider it. Think of the successful ebook authors – Michael Prescott, Darcie Chan and Amanda Hocking. Best of luck with book sales!

  35. Good advice. I put my first attempt at a novel down for years because I was upset about a review a friend, who was an avid reader and aspiring writer himself, criticized it. Finally, after some pep talk from my family, I continued and finished it, and realized, I write the way I want to, not to please anyone in particular. I have had good feedback, as well as constructive negative. You take what has value, work with it, and discard the rest.

    • And I think that’s what a lot of people don’t realize — even though we hand over our manuscript and say, “Tell me honestly what you think”, what we really mean is, “Tell me honestly what you think … in a way that won’t crush my soul and stop me from writing ever again”. Good for you for finishing your story despite the negative criticism! 🙂

  36. Leila

    I just let my harshest critic read my manuscript. Who would that be? My beloved, literary-minded, taught English and Composition to high school students, mother. This is a woman who has always had a tendency to tell me I was unoriginal in my storytelling and how I should leave it to the professionals.

    I was knock caboose over keister when she gave me very positive feedback, coupled with line edits to perfect my masterpiece (I have an editor I’m working with to put the last tweaks to bed).

    You handled your critique group person beautifully. Some people will never get what we write and others will bug us until we’ve finished our next projects. We can’t please ’em all. Keep up the good work and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

    • Ahh, I feel your pain. My mother isn’t a former teacher, but she works as a technical writer / editor, so she does know her stuff. Whenever she actually tells me I’ve written something good, I pretty much collapse in a happy puddle on the floor, lol. Not sure why a puddle, but there you go. 😀

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