Responding to criticism


When words of criticism come, they either have an acid burn or they’re just plain confusing. It hurts. You feel like you’ve done something wrong. It doesn’t help that some people, when giving their feedback, get angry or go into such detail it’s dizzying. 

Before you do anything, take a deep breath and consider this. 

When we read a work, we’re looking to be transported away. When a reviewer isn’t transported away, they look for the reason why.

In going through that process, they are essentially trying to make the work their own. If they find the character Henry not believable, they’ll try to imagine how they would make him believable. If the rhythm of the story is jerky, they’ll try to imagine how they would give it a more natural flow.

But the work isn’t theirs, it’s yours. If you give it away to anyone, you’re letting yourself down. Which is why I strongly suggest you don’t do anything right away. Nothing. Don’t even change the obvious spelling and grammatical errors. Do not touch them. 

I suggest you wait a few days. Try not to even think about the work. Slowly, as you realize you don’t need to be defensive or reactionary, the comments that strike a chord will become obvious. For things you’re unsure of, find a way to explore them rather than apply them.

If a comment regarding plot pings at you, try revising only the story synopsis. This allows you to feel through the plot change before you dig into the meat of your story and begin chopping it. 

For character notes, try writing a dialogue between you and the character about what the critic said. Yes, really; like a little play. Doing so will help you delve into what was said, make some discoveries about your character and  translate them into the larger work.

Your first question for any character that is not believable: What does your character want more than anything in the world? Perhaps you haven’t fine tuned this aspect right. 

And lastly remember, if someone displays anger in their comments, it’s not about you or your script. It’s about them. An angry person may provide useful insights, but you need to separate what’s about them from legitimate comments about your work. 

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