Universal Truths: Critics

Did you think you were immune? Sorry to say it, but if you don’t meet criticism, it means you are probably only read by close friends and family (sometimes even they can be pretty harsh critics). Especially bad is that our minds tend to focus in on the one harsh voice even in a sea of praise. Take a little heart though. Even the best author you can think of is suffering from harsh criticisms.


Think of the best book you ever read. The one book that you couldn’t put down and just had to know how it was going to end. Pick a book that was as close to perfect as you have ever read. Got one? Good, now go read the reviews of that book. Scroll down the comment section on Amazon. There is going to be some bile spewed in the form of comments so harsh it will singe your screen.

Every reader is looking for something different and every author has something unique to offer. I had a friend recommend a book he absolutely loved that was the only book I didn’t finish. Was it bad? Yes, but also no. It was a book that I hated, but one he loved. He was the audience of that book. I was not. If the author changed their style just because I hated the book, I am probably still not going to pick up any of his other works, but my friend who loved him might find the new style off-putting.

Each of us has a different point of perspective we are reading from. Maybe the points being made miss us for some reason. Maybe the style just pulls us out of the book. Maybe the author had to make a trade-off between pacing and descriptions. Heck, even just forgetting information from one book to the next in a series can lead to a bad reading experience. For that matter, authors sometimes make grammatical choices that aren’t “by the book” for story reasons and that alone can be a source of criticism.

I’m not telling you to ignore critics. Sometimes they are right. What I am telling you is to break down each criticism. Take an hour or two to rant and scream if you need to first, then come back calmer and really dig into what was said. Is the reader missing some critical detail that was vital to the story but they clearly misread or skimmed over? Do they seem to just have a different sort of story that they like and yours is of the wrong variety? On the first, reread the scene from a fresh perspective to see if maybe there was something unclear. On the second, there is nothing you can do about it. If they point out a lack of detail, a pacing issue, or something else of that nature, you probably just made a trade-off while writing. If they point out a genuine problem (which often stems from poor research on your part as seen here and here), then they’ve helped you improve your writing and you have benefited from it.

Take all criticism with a grain of salt and don’t let it weigh on you. We are all criticized and those of us who can move past it are the ones who continue on to do great works. Don’t let it drag you down or keep you from writing what you are passionate about.

What are your thoughts?

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