Apr 07 2009
1. Don’t get defensive. The worst case scenario is that someone thinks your writing is awful. So what? Several reviewers have accused me of being the worst writer in the world. No matter how bad it gets, there’s no reason to get huffy. If you think you can learn something from what they’re saying, then read it carefully and make any necessary improvements. If it’s just a generic “you suck” kind of review, then you should move on. Either way, there’s no need for you to defend yourself.
2. If you feel the need to compare your work to what the reviewer has written, you’re probably too defensive. “You don’t like my characters, but it’s not like your characters are any better!” This is irrelevant and whiny. You don’t have to be a professional chef to know that McDonald’s is bad. So please be open to the possibility that your reviewer has discovered a flaw with your work even though he couldn’t do better himself. Keep your eye on the prize: has the reviewer actually discovered a flaw with your writing? If he has, then it doesn’t matter how bad his writing is. Also, your editors probably won’t be master writers themselves. If you’ve convinced yourself that the only people that are qualified to critique you are other writers, it will be very hard for you to get along with your bosses.
3. Don’t take it personally. If you’re the sort of person that goes to pieces because a few reviewers dislike your work, what will happen when you have an editor? The sooner you develop a thick skin, the better.
4. Please don’t say something like “that’s just your opinion” or “your opinion is just as good as mine.” It may trap you into a mindset that might scare away publishers. For example, let’s say that John has written a book where his POV character describes his appearance by gazing in a mirror. I’d tell him that publishers really hate it when POV characters do that, because it’s awkward and screams “amateur.” John responds, “but my friends all like it! Their opinions are just as valid as the opinions of the publishers.” Except that the publishers have a lot of economic clout. Unless you’re planning on self-publishing, you have to get some publisher on-board. That might not be fair (I’ll leave that to philosophers), but it’s reality. Deal with it.
5. Keep an open mind.
6. When a reader misunderstands something, the writer is usually more to blame than the reader. Don’t get annoyed if someone isn’t reading it “right.” If someone isn’t reading it the way you want to, why do you think that a publisher will? Why will your readers get it? (For example, it might be best to disregard advice if the reader isn’t representative of your target audience).
What else would you recommend?