I am in a state of immense gratitude as I write this post. Why? Today I read an excellent review of one of my novels by Marian L. Thorpe (excellently reviewed, not reviewed as excellent). It led to an Alice In Wonderland rabbit-hole of surprises for me.
Surprise #1: the novel tried to hold its own, but came away with injuries.
Surprise #2: I did not break anything after reading it.
The latter was unexpected and, if you are a writer, you surely understand why. When you read the first uncomplimentary reviews of your writing, like me prior to the review in question, you probably turned crimson with rage.
A freshly-penned piece of writing feels precious (if not quite like the writer’s own child). The initial attitude of its creator is of the protective mother or father lion defending her/his cub.
This is why you need to seek out as much criticism or feedback as possible, from any available source. Better to have the critique of a hundred amateurs than one expert’s opinion. Accustom yourself to the negative in order to remove its sting and enable you to accept it as valid.
I’m not saying a poor review will one day breeze past like the scent of fresh roses on the morning breeze. It still packs a punch, but you are less likely to react with a few shots of your own.
For me, it was an unintentional progression. I found myself looking at a negative review and not seeing red. Instead I saw an opportunity. Here was feedback which could be used to my advantage!
‘Negative’ is an interesting word. It means the opposite of something, an inversion like the colours on a film negative. If you turn your criticism around it becomes a roadmap of how to improve your writing.
Here is something you do not expect to hear from a writer. The critic is always right.
Your reviewer tells you your scenery is bland. You might have created a detailed, vibrant and unique backdrop for your story, but is it perfect? In this sense, your reviewer is absolutely right to point out that you have not yet achieved perfection. If something can be improved, why not do so?
I had long suspected my writing was falling flat somewhere. Now I have a few ideas about where to make improvements.
I could tell you to approach criticism in a calm and detached manner, but how likely is that? Better still, go hunting for reviews in the hope that negative feedback will appear. Without it a writer is groping blindly for ways to improve, without knowing where things went wrong.
Thanks again to Marian L. Thorpe! Honesty is a most appreciated gift.