Sunday, March 5, 2017

How to Handle Criticism

Today I was going to talk about how to write a kissing scene, but to be honest, I've had something else on my mind. I'm currently in the prewriting stages of a novel I hope to eventually publish, and I asked for critiques on my outline, done in the beat sheet method created by Blake Snyder. I received some harsh criticism, but instead of being saddened by it, I was a little annoyed by it. I felt this person was coming from a place where he didn't understand my audience.... And it's not like you can convey things like that in an outline.

So I thought that I would discuss something really important for a writer at any level: how to handle criticism.

There are various types of criticism out there, but I'm just going to go through three types:

1. Helpful Harry

This guy wants to help. (Thus the name.) He gives you great criticism and confirms what you thought about that one passage. He even encourages you to write, which is a great thing. Helpful Harry is the critique we all want to get: evenhanded and inspiring.

2. The Try-Hard

This guy really wants to be a Helpful Harry, but he fails. Why? Because either he doesn't really like your story, or he's just bad at giving constructive criticism. He may say mean things, but he isn't trying to be mean. He just doesn't know how to frame it in a constructive way.

3. The Asshole

Okay this guy hates himself and you, and he's going to tell you that your story is all wrong no matter how good it is.

How do you handle the last two?
You handle it the same way you would with helpful criticism: take what you can and move on. You were probably expecting me to write a long post about how to handle criticism, but this is the only way to do it. You have to realize it's just one person's opinion. I've had my share of bad critiques, people who just didn't like my work, but I was still able to find something that they said where I could improve my writing.

The truth is, as artists we have to learn to take criticism, and a lot of it. Otherwise we won't grow.

With my outline, this person was clearly a Try-Hard. They wanted to help me--they even gave some encouraging words at the end, but unfortunately their delivery was not the best. They told me to work harder on the conflict between my heroine and hero, and make it more determined by her rather than fate. That was definitely helpful. Now, I also looked at what they said and tried to make sense of it, another good thing for you to do. It was fair, but I wasn't going to take most of their criticism seriously.

Although don't think just because you receive a compliment on your story that it's perfect. You must be willing to take off those rose-colored glasses and see your story for what it is. Not even J. K. Rowling got it right first off.

Finally, remember, even an asshole can be helpful. I mean, it may not be obvious but you can look into what they say to put a positive spin on it.
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