No one is born a great fiction writer. It takes time, practice and a lot of hard work to hone your skills and create stories that resonate with readers. Along the way, you will receive feedback – both positive and negative. How you handle that criticism can make or break you as a writer. Ready to learn how to listen to critiques, learn from them and grow as a storyteller? Let’s get started.
Learn To Accept Constructive Criticism – And Listen. Really Listen.
No one likes being told that their work is flawed. It’s hard to hear that someone doesn’t like something you’ve poured your heart and soul into. But if you’re going to be a successful fiction writer, you need to learn how to take criticism – constructive criticism – and use it to improve your writing. There are a few things you can do to make sure you’re getting the most out of reader feedback:
– First, listen. Really listen. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Hear what the person critiquing your work is saying. They may have some valid points, even if you don’t agree with them.
– Second, learn. Take what you’ve heard and use it to improve your writing. If someone points out a flaw in your story, see if you can fix it. Maybe they’re right and you didn’t even realize it.
– Third, grow. Confidence is important for any writer, but especially for fiction writers. When people point out flaws in your work, it means they’re reading it. And that’s a good thing. It means you’re getting better. Keep going and don’t give up.
Not all Constructive Criticism is of Equal Value
Of course, not all feedback is created equal. You need to be able to tell the difference between meaningful critiques and derivative comments. If someone tells you that your story is boring, that’s not helpful. But if they point out specific areas where they think the story could be improved, that’s useful feedback. Learning to tell the difference is crucial if you want to use criticism to improve your writing. Here’s an example:
Meaningful feedback: “I didn’t like the way the protagonist was developed, I felt like I didn’t know enough about them.”
Derivative comment: “The protagonist was flat and one-dimensional.”
The first comment is constructive because it’s specific. It tells you what the reader didn’t like and why. The second comment is derivative because it doesn’t offer any insight. Anyone could say that about any protagonist.
So how do you tell the difference? It’s all about the details. If the person critiquing your work is offering specific, helpful suggestions, then their feedback shows that they read your work and valued it enough to point out real issues. If they’re just giving vague, negative statements, chances are their feedback isn’t worth much.
When in doubt, ask questions. If you’re not sure about the feedback you’re getting, ask the person for clarification. They may be able to offer more insight that will help you see their critique in a new light.
Turn your defensiveness into storytelling confidence
When you’re first starting out, it’s natural to be defensive when people point out flaws in your work. But remember, every writer has flaws in their work – even the greats. A great example is a platform like RoyalRoad, where writers can post their stories for feedback. You can see from the comments that even well-known, successful writers get constructive criticism on their work. It’s just part of the process. The important thing is to not let your defensiveness get in the way of your writing. If you’re too worried about what other people will think, you’ll never get anything done.
So how do you build confidence when people point out flaws in your work? First, remember that it means they’re reading it. If it didn’t have some good qualities, they wouldn’t have stuck around long enough to notice the issues. Second, take it as a sign that you’re getting better. The more people read your work, the more chances you have to get constructive feedback and improve.
Also remember that a suggestion to improve the technical aspects of your writing – such as grammar or transitions – doesn’t mean someone found your story less interesting. In fact, it usually means the opposite. They were so invested in your story that they wanted to see it be the best it could be. Improving those errors can prevent readers from getting tripped up and let them enjoy the story!
Improving your storytelling matters more than ego
The bottom line is that if you want to be a successful fiction writer, you need to learn how to take criticism – constructive criticism – and use it to improve your writing. Your ego is less important than your story, so don’t let it get in the way of your growth. No storyteller is born ready to publish a best-seller, and if you care about your story and characters, you’ll turn critique into a tool.
The next time someone points out a flaw in your work, listen carefully, learn from it and then get back to writing the best story you can. Because that’s what great writers do.
And always remember that you’re the author. You have the final say in what goes into your story. If someone suggests something that you don’t agree with, don’t be afraid to say so. It’s your story, and you should tell it the way you want to.
Spencer Reaves grew up in a small town and her best friends were horror novels and an old typewriter. She knew in elementary school that she enjoyed writing – it took her until almost 30 to realize that she NEEDS to write too, and not just marketing content like she’s used to.
She is a story teller, coffee-drinker, and weirdo who still believes that her best friends are books. Her keyboard is a close second. Her heroic fantasy isn’t for the faint of heart. Neither is her horror. You can visit her website at spencermccoy.com.