Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Rejection and Negative Feedback

In an industry full of rejections, failures, and unsolicited opinions, it is easy to get discouraged. You slave away at a manuscript for years, only to have it rejected by agents, torn apart by editors, and dogged by reviewers. So why do we do it? Why do we subject the fruits of our labor to such scrutiny? Because it is part of the job, and sometimes, criticism will make us better writers.

Most of the time, we are too close to our work to see its flaws. That is where critique groups, friends and family members come in handy. Agents know the industry, know what's selling, and they'll sometimes pass on well written manuscripts because of market trends. The same is true for publishers and editors. If we all let the rejection letters and negative feedback get to us, there wouldn't be any published writers. We'd all be curled up in the fetal position, sniffling like little children. We handle the negativity by recognizing helpful criticism and developing thick skin to ward off opinions that are less than helpful.

Here are a few ways to handle criticism, whether it be from a fellow writer, reviewer, agent or editor:
  1. Ask yourself if there is any merit to their comment? Is it something you can use in the future?
  2. Consider the source. Did some anonymous reviewer trash your book on Amazon? Did your former best friend from high school call you a hack? Or was it your favorite reviewer, or an agent with an excellent track record that deemed your work less than brilliant? If you respect the person's opinion, take their comment to heart. Otherwise, let it go.
  3. Summon your confidence. Know you have talent. You wouldn't be a writer if you didn't.
  4. Recognize that an opinion is simply an opinion. One person will tell you one thing and another person will tell you the exact opposite. Know your work, trust your gut, and form an opinion of your own.

It's impossible to go through this industry without rejection and negative feedback. It's part of any creative field. In order to survive it and not get discouraged, it's necessary to maintain confidence and thick skin. Don't like receiving criticism? I suggest considering a career change.

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