Welcome everyone to The Book of Apex Blog Tour! Today, I have Sarah Dalton here, author of the Blemished series, giving us a guest post. She’s here to talk about a time for cruelty – how an author handles criticism.
Cruelty Is Needed
Every time I receive a bit of criticism for my work, a natural defensive ripple passes through my body. It has to be the worst part of creating something, knowing that other people will judge it. So why do I put myself through it every time I write a book?
Because I need to.
The moment writing became more of a career then a hobby, was the moment I began to receive criticism from other writers. I still remember my first time, it was on a critiquing forum, and a member politely pointed out that my short piece of prose was little more than a great big info dump. At this point I’d never heard of info dumping. I had no idea that in the first five paragraphs of my book, I’d been world building in my head, and dumping those thoughts on the page. Heck, I didn’t even know what world building was. I was an instinctive writer, making it up as I went along. I needed a prod in the right direction, otherwise I might still be writing two thousand word descriptive introductions for each character.
Every word I write is in some way influenced by the books I have read. When it comes to my work, I owe a lot of it to other writers. It has been said before, but it bears saying again, writing is a collaborative process, and the only way you can get better, is by opening yourself to the views of other people.
Part of that process is listening. There’s a lot of advice out there. Part of your job as writer, and CEO of your book, is choosing which advice to heed, and which to ignore. And believe me, receiving criticism isn’t always about changing everything your critique partner tells you to change, because you cannot tailor a book to every single reader’s wants and needs. It’s impossible, you’re never going to please everyone.
So, for what it’s worth, here are my top tips for surviving criticism, and utilizing it to your full advantage.
1. Find authors you trust – most writers establish a number of trusted critique partners either at a local meeting, or via email, or via forums. But you don’t want an echo chamber—it’s good to have differing opinions. I like to find beta readers who have never read any of my work, even if my WIP happens to be the second or third book in a series. I want to know how the reader will experience my book completely blind. The results can be interesting.
2. Keep an open mind – working in collaboration with your critique partners is a two way street. There’s no point asking for feedback if you are going to completely ignore it. No matter how crazy or different the comments may be, no matter how much work it requires you to do, you’ve asked for honest feedback and you must at least consider it.
3. …but having said that, after giving your criticism due consideration, you might still think that it doesn’t work for your novel. Trust your instincts. This is where you have to decide what’s best for your novel. Easier said than done. I like Neil Gaiman’s quote on this: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
4. Read your reviews – sitting and reading every single review you’ve ever received is pretty crazy, and unhealthy. But, I still think that it’s worthwhile to read some of them. There are a lot of reviews that cancel each other out. Sometimes readers love the characters, sometimes they hate them, sometimes they think the book is too fast, others believe it to be too slow… it’s a real reminder that you can’t please everyone. But then you get the very thoughtful and insightful reviews that create light bulb moments. Readers are perceptive. I’ve learned a lot about my writing by reading reviews.
5. Put on your public face – last but not least, the hardest part of criticism – taking it. Like I said at the beginning of this, most of us will get a knee-jerk reaction to being criticized. Sometimes I think people forget how difficult it is to see a bad review or be ripped to shreds on a critique forum. People also forget that authors ‘behaving badly’ is not new or confined to the internet, there is a wealth of history where authors have attacked their critics in the most embarrassing, or even violent ways. No, we’re not ‘speshul snowflakes’ or ‘butt-hurt authors’, we’re human. So my advice is not to toughen up, it’s to put on your public face. Follow this advice and you’re well on your way to becoming a professional author. The internet is public. Editors and beta readers are there to help, not be shouted at. Do your crying, bemoaning, angry rants in private, and then when it comes to emailing your betas or editors, keep that public persona on. Keep it professional at all times. If you think your editor has not provided a professional service, that doesn’t mean you can be unprofessional. Most of all never reply to a bad review. Reviewers don’t want to know you’re there, just keep out of it. You are both writer and author, person and business, private and public. Never the twain shall meet.
Places to Stalk Sarah
Also, catch the giveaway of The Book of Apex over HERE.
Want to see more of blog tour? There’s reviews, interviews, guest posts, even more giveaways. Well, don’t hesitate to jump over to Little Red Reviewer (the maniac who organized this delightful blog tour) to see what all is going down this month.
Of course, you can always check out Apex Magazine for more SFF goodness.