Everyone who likes to be criticized, shout it out! (crickets chirp) Everyone wants to feel that they are doing something right. Even the most self-deprecating individuals (and I count myself among them) hope that they can receive a little praise for their efforts. So, as a writer, writer-hopeful, student, etc., how should we deal with criticisms from people whose opinions we value? First, I want to paraphrase from a blog that I read recently at bbnest.wordpress.com: the most important thing in writing is your voice. You need to retain your individual approach to what you do. If you fail to do that, then you are no longer the writer. You are, in fact, the ventriloquist dummy. No one in their right mind signs up for that job. That having been said, I do believe that it is important to put your ego aside when dealing with appropriate criticism and critiques from people who have knowledge and experience on their side. While you want to always retain your voice, you still want to try to grow. There is no perfect author out there, so growth is always an option.
It was not long after I found out that Pup was going to get published when I received a message from the publisher that I would receive a copy of the manuscript with editors notes on it. I was incredibly nervous. I knew that there were places that the book could use improvements, but now I was going to find out what those improvements would need to be from a professional! I pictured ink factories going into overdrive to produce enough red ink for what I was going to see. I will also admit that even though I was anxious to improve my writing, a tiny voice in my head cried out in a shrill little voice that I shouldn't change anything. It's your book! Don't let someone tell you how to write it! It was kind of funny, really. The voice sounded like a whiny little child. In the end, I treated it as such. The editorial notes that I received were very useful and honest. They mentioned things that I had never noticed from my point of view while writing and revising. Once I read these notes, I could see things from a different perspective and realized that most of those things did indeed need to be changed. I was very thankful in the end for the insights provided and feel that my story improved because of it.
That brings me to the next necessity: getting opinions that you can trust. If you receive a critique from someone who is entirely negative, look for things mentioned that are actionable, then ignore the rest. Chances are that whoever wrote the critique or provided the notes was looking for problems. I am not saying that they are mean or cruel people. I am saying that they do not know how to write notes or a critique. Some people think that if someone asks them to critique their work, then they are supposed to find all of the problems. Not so. A good critique should not only point out things that are in need of work, but also point out the positive and strong aspects of the writing so that the author can exploit those strengths to correct the weaknesses. Of course, nothing but glowing praise teaches you nothing about your writing either. Remember this if ever you are called on to critique someone's work.
So, in summary, choose those that criticize your work wisely, keep your voice, but put your ego aside. Oh, and forgive the featured image. It was a dare.