The harsh Amazon review. The stinging comments from a writing peer. The editor’s terse remarks. Finding out that a close friend never finished your book, or even took the time to read it. Criticism comes in many forms. And it comes. There is no holding it back. Even years after you’ve published your book, a freshly written critique can jettison you back to questioning your very worth as a writer.
It would be naive for us to recommend that you simply ignore reviews and move on. But taking one of these 3 approaches will turn criticism from a tool of discouragement to a constructive element in your writing journey:
Someone has left you a nasty Amazon review. Ouch. The last thing you want to do is say thank you! But that is just what the Bible instructs us to do.
… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
So what does that look like practically? It means saying, “Thank you Lord that I have this opportunity to forgive, to reaffirm my worth in you and to even pray for this person that spoke so harshly.”
You can even just be grateful that they took the time to read your work and offer their thoughts, no matter how difficult they are to read.
In her article, How to Handle Criticism of Your Writing, Daphne Gray-Grant writes,
I know this may be hard, particularly if the criticisms are harsh but editing is challenging and your critics are doing you a favour – particularly if they don’t cover their comments with roses. Effective criticism, even if it’s hard to take, will make you a better writer.
Beth Moore recently tweeted this gem about choosing to have a right spirit when critical words are spoken:
Be separate from your writing
You are not your writing. You are a person, made in the image of God. Loved, accepted and redeemed. Your writing is by you and from you, but it is not you. When you take this approach, accepting criticism is much easier. Your critics and editors are not commenting on your personal worth or value as a human being.
Speaking specifically about the editing process, a post on The Surly Muse offered this advice:
Unless you have very poor taste in friends, chances are your critic isn’t out to destroy you psychologically. They’re not pointing out flaws in your work because they hate your guts and wish you would fall under a dump truck. They’re trying to make your work better. You don’t have to agree with them, but it pays to respect their time and their intent.
Is your work God-breathed? Have you been journaling, meditating on and developing its ideas for years and years? Then be confident in your work. Is it perfect? No. Is it the greatest book written this century? Probably not. But it is yours, poured forth from the well that God has put within you and only you.
… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
One last note. All books, even the greats, receive negative reviews. Check out these examples curated by Beth Bacon in her post 5 Ways For Authors to Handle Bad Reviews:
“It was one of the most boring and shallow books that I have ever read.” —review of the American classic The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Not nearly enough consistency and far to [sic] little plot.”—review of Harry Potter And the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
“If I were you, I’d peruse it briefly at your neighborhood library before putting hard-earned money out.” —review of children’s classic A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
“I find myself saying to myself as I read it ‘bla bla bla’ as that is what the author seems to be saying.” —review of National Book Award Winner Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
At Certa Publishing, we walk with our authors through the entire writing, editing and publishing process. When the journey becomes difficult, we are here to offer encouragement and perspective. Contact us today to see how we can partner with you!