“Everyone’s a critic” is something you often hear, and it’s true in that everyone has an opinion, and rightly so. We’re all entitled to think what we like about books, art, films and music or whatever, and with social media these days it’s a lot easier to express those opinions freely.
What IS difficult, however, is to accept criticism. It’s something an author has to learn the hard way.
It starts when you first send your manuscript to friends or critique buddies. Although they will, in general, want to be nice to you because they’re your friends, their job is to tell you what isn’t working and what they think can be improved in the story. Most authors feel their manuscripts are like their ‘babies’, so if someone points out that it’s less than perfect they may take it personally. But you have to learn not to because this is just the first step and a friend will hardly ever be very harsh so there’s worse to come.
Once a manuscript is finished, it gets sent to an agent and/or editor. They’ll have an opinion and at that stage the story might need to be revised and rewritten again. Then, if the editor accepts the manuscript, it goes off to a copy-editor, and that’s when the home truths really emerge. Because it’s a copy-editor’s job to make the book the best it can possibly be so although they’ll phrase it nicely, they’ll definitely point out all the flaws. Ouch – this bit hurts!
But authors want their book to be great so they learn to listen – let’s face it, if enough people tell you the same thing then the odds are that you’re wrong and they are right. Even if it hurts to tinker with your ‘baby’, you do it and afterwards it feels good because you know you’ve sent out something polished into the world. Something which hopefully readers will enjoy.
But of course not everyone does.
With so many readers, reviewers and bloggers out there, it’s impossible to please everyone. So when the reviews that come in are a mixed bag, that just reflects the diversity of people’s tastes. Sure, it still hurts when someone says they didn’t like your book, but then again, I don’t like all the books I read either! So you concentrate on the good reviews because they make you feel great and keep you going when you think that what you’re currently writing is a pile of poo. And yes, an author’s worst critic is always going to be her/himself! You learn to live with that too 🙂
So, back to gritting of teeth and rewrites …
Pia Fenton writes contemporary romantic YA stories and her Northbrooke High series features UK heroines clashing with US heroes in an American high school setting. The latest one is New England TLC.