It is always difficult not to take any sort of criticism personally, whether it’s from an editor, reader, agent, publisher, or your family. Don’t make me come over there for calling my baby ugly. If you get less-than-ideal feedback on your writing, remember that a negative reaction simply means that your work didn’t resonate with that individual. It’s not a commentary on your skill or potential as a writer, even though it may feel that way. If it actually is a commentary on your writing skill, then it’s okay to kick their ass. I’ll bring the shovel.

But I would first look for any constructive criticism tucked away in the comments to take away with me. That’s always the best. After your tear-soaked tissues all successfully swish into the wire trash basket and the sniffles die down, put this critical feedback into context. If someone doesn’t like your work, learn what you can from the experience and continue to improve your writing. Not everyone will like your work, so it’s easier on the stress level to either apply the criticism or walk away from it.

I remember one particularly critical review that I received where a gentleman from Ireland said he read the first 9 chapters of The Hollow Man and stopped because nothing happened. At first, I was dumbstruck by the audacity of a reader believing my baby was not only ugly, but dead too. After all, a street explosion kills a prime minster, Spanish police pursue me cross-country where I’m implicated in another assassination, and a French assassin splits my hand open during a knife fight, just to mention a few action sequences in the opening chapters. Eventually, I wrote the review off as not being able to please everyone, and I told myself this reader was also really not going to like the second book in the series, London Bridge is Falling Down, because this novel was set in England and Ireland during “The Troubles” when IRA car bombs were prevalent.

Consider the source; who is giving you the feedback? Is it someone whose opinion you respect? Are they qualified to give feedback on your writing? If so, take their words under advisement. What you don’t want to do is take defensive action; avoid being argumentative. Instead, thank the person for their feedback and take some time to consider it without responding. A response would serve the same as a rebuttal in a religious or political debate. Not one mind will ever be changed. Remember, the internet is forever, and it is unforgiving.

Two ideas have worked for me, so far. First, a critical review gives the author some writing chops. If a writer has numerous five star ratings without a single two or three star review, a savvy reader’s reaction might be that this writer has a very large circle of family and friends. But has she ever stepped on a toe? Addressed a controversial subject? Incited any sort of riot in her work? 

Second, use critical feedback as motivation to improve your writing. I’ll show that bastard who can write and who can't! Even the most successful writers have received criticism and negative feedback at some point in their careers. Keep writing and don’t let negativity discourage you. If it all does get you down in the end, remember I have your back. I know where to hide the bodies.

Criticism in One's Writing

​March 7, 2023     |     The Hollow Man Series, International Espionage