Monday, June 27, 2011

Full Exposure

Just to manage your expectations -- I'm not going to flash you from underneath my mac. So sorry. Maybe next time!

No, today I want to talk about the feeling of being exposed. Whether you're sending your first draft to beta readers or you're a published author putting a finished product into the world, you're still offering up a piece of work for judgement. And you can't help feeling that, by default, people are judging you.

It's hard to keep your distance when you've poured yourself into a novel. But I think it's important to remember that readers aren't commenting on you. You might be a great writer -- the next Dickens, even -- and still have readers who don't warm to your creations. Not everything you write will appeal to everyone. And it probably shouldn't!

So wrap yourself up in a hard, deflective metal (um... is there a name for that?), or gird your loins with Teflon, and remember: it's not all about you. It's about your novel. It still might not be fun to take, but I promise you: it will be easier!

How good are you at dealing with less than complimentary feedback?

78 comments:

  1. I shrug it off (or cry). Deny it's even there, and then when I calm down I try to look at it through someone else's eyes! Not easy ...

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  2. I reach for the chocolate. Then I start writing my next novel.

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  3. I cry, whine to friends, cry, lean on hubby's shoulder, then move on. It's hard not to take things personally, but you are so right, Talli. We are not our books. We just created them.
    Karen

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  4. I cry very easily but I get over it quickly. I'm hoping it will be the same when the time comes for me to face criticism.

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  5. I haven't enjoyed it, but I've tried to learn from it and make my work better.

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  6. It stings, but I get over it. Anyone who wants to be a writer should learn to not let it get to them or they're doomed.

    A glass of wine with delicious dinner helps too. ;-)

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  7. Criticism can be tough, but I do consider what I'm hearing. Sometimes those outside views see something that I might not and have validity. And other times, not. Criticism is a fine line to walk.

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  8. For crits I go through a nice slew of emotions, walk away and calm down. Eventually, I can return and look at it without the emotions. I really hope when I finally get published, I will be able to do the same for reviews.

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  9. I reach for a glass of wine and leave the comments aside for the night. The next day, I see if there's anything I can learn from them and improve my work.

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  10. Hide in a corner for a while, then face it & accept there might be some truth in it. Cake helps :)

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  11. I am thinking of getting my second poetry book published when I can find time to sort out which ones are worth publishing if any, With all the talk of being exposed I supposed that is all part and parcel of having work being published.But do one ever get used to it?

    Yvonne.

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  12. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to send your baby out in the world. It's hard enough sending it to trusted crit partners!

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  13. Gird your loins with teflon - what a visual!

    I've gotten better at receiving negative feedback, but it always a bit of a bubble burster. I whine to friends and have a glass of wine. Or two.

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  14. What's that saying? "Everybody's a critic," right?

    There will always be people who "don't get it" or who plain out do not like a work. If they can explain--intelligently--why they do not like it, fine. It's the people who bash books because they can do so anonymously that make me want to scream.

    It's agonizing when someone doesn't like your work, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves it isn't personal. But, at the end of the day, focusing on the positive will help us wade through the negative.

    Great post!

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  15. This was a great post! I'm about to undergo the second round of revisions in the next couple of days and I'm already feeling exposed knowing I'm sending my work off to two very special people. I know they'll be kind but you're right... it's hard to let go.

    I'll be outlining for the next story and then cry when terrified of what they think. Oh... and stalk my email waitnig for their thoughts.

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  16. I don't have a problem with negative feedback. I hope to get most of it with the ARCs I send out and fix problems before they become problems. Hope that made sense. But negative feedback doesn't bother me.

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  17. Critiques from my group don't really get to me because I know we're all there to help each other get better and I know all their comments are made in that spirit. I'm not sure how I'll deal with bad reviews if I get published. However, if I have to deal with bad reviews, that means I got published, so I guess that will be the silver lining I'll try to hang onto.

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  18. Better than I used to be. I read it, then let it sit for at least a day. When I can go back to it without being angry or defensive, then I can see it objectively and work forward, if it's a critique or editorial comments. If it's a comment on a published story, I shrug it off after stomping around for a bit. But I had to learn this about myself.

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  19. I usually try to use most criticism to improve my work, especially if it's from someone I respect like a trusted and/or experienced editor. It's nice to have another set of eyes to catch faults I may have missed. If this happens pre-publication it feels really good to fix it before readers get the chance to see it!

    Of course, everyone will occasionally receive criticism that's a load of shit. When that happens I usually think something uncomplimentary about the person who gave it and then ignore it.

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  20. My reactions tend to range from inwardly crying to accepting feedback for what it usually is - constructive criticism. I posted the blurb for book one of my Cosmic Seed Trilogy on Sunday and it's been met with mixed reactions. Once I've picked myself up, I'll listen to all the comments and try to make my blurb better. At least that's the plan!

    Ellie Garratt

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  21. I usually go out and try to find some small child to cook! It's hard to hear when you've worked long and hard over your 'baby' and it gets negative feedback. BUT, a lesson learned many, many, years ago: I was on television in the early years and received hundreds of cards and letters (even some proposals). The majority were all lovely, complimentary, and supportive. I can't remember any of them. But, there were some that were negative and they're burned in my memory. I think we do it to ourselves because, deep inside, we think they're right.

    But, I do brush myself off, consider the source, adjust, and move forward.

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  22. I like your suggestion to "gird your loins with Teflon!" I wish I had done that as a child! Julie

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  23. typically, as long as it's someone i even remotely "know" i'm ok. If it's a stranger, then i work myself into a rage lather...

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  24. I am not a published author but now I am thinking about starting a cottage industry in Teflon girdings.

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  25. Great reminder, Talli. It is hard not to take it personally, but it's a critical step to maintain sanity. :)

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  26. ugh, it sucks! but yaknow, it makes the writing better, so it's all worth it!

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  27. I've had the good fortune of critiquers who wrap their criticism up with nice things to say, too. But I know that book reviewers don't follow those rules (at least some of them!) It terrifies me and gives me one more good reason to be patient about the whole writing/publication process!

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  28. Oh! yes, it is hard to take, but in the end, I think it makes us better writers.

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  29. Yes it's hard to take, Talli. But I also think that without negative feedback, I will not grow as a writer.

    I think I will use the Teflon...LOL.

    Thanks for this post! It's a good reminder!

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  30. Initially I want to tell the critic that they've eaten too many baked beans. Then I realize what they're saying happens to be their opinion & usually they're correct!

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  31. If I get a lot of negative feedback, I change it but I will always go with my heart if the reactions are mixed.

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  32. I'm the pits with negative feedback but feel like I've gotten more realistic about it as time goes on. If I ruled the world, it'd be huge lovefest. :)

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  33. Ummmm...I guess I'm not so good actually becuase my feelings even get hurt when a follower has taken their name off my follower list. I'm feeling especially vulnerable now that my book is going into publishing becuase what if some people don't like it?
    I get it; 'Different strokes for Different folks...' but still it isn't easy, is it?

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  34. I'm extremely thin skinned, usually, except when it comes to my stories. I really, genuinely want them to be good, and every insult/critique/praise that I get helps to improve it. But I haven't sent it out into the world yet, so let's see!
    By the way, why don't we use adamantium for that shield of metal. That could come in handy. :)

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  35. To be honest I cried over the first standard rejection and then moved forward with a large bar of choc and a glass of wine. My wonderful reader gives me only honest critique and is a supportive bully, (thank you) but never anything negative. I dread the day I read a negative review of my book (to be published first).

    I will remember your wise words.

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  36. Sound advice Talli, and we should all remember that our books don't appeal to all reader, because we have not written them for all readers. I admit to taking it personally, but only behind my own closed doors, I let the rest of the world think I smile all the time....well most of it I do....thanks for a fabby Blog. Hugs xx

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  37. Oh Talli!! You are such a tease!! I was looking forward to much flashing of flesh and naughty nudity!! cos it's hot, innit!!

    Anyway - as for taking criticisms.. I know to put on a brave face but inside, I am a melting goo of jelly and sludge.
    LOL!!! But I say, bring em on!!!! Take care
    x

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  38. Thank you for these wise words. I'm going to need them very soon. You're right, our novels aren't meant to appeal to everyone. I know there will be people who don't like my novel and that's okay.

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  39. I'd rather get a rejection and know where I stand than hear nothing, especially when I've included an sae as requested. What do you think they do with all those stamped addressed envelopes? Oh yes, and I think the word your searching for is armour!

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  40. Negative feedback is hurtful. However, I try to put it in perspective, I try to find the silver lining, and I work on "letting it go."

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  41. I just assume that anyone who doesn't like my book feels that way because they're either a frigid prude or a trashy slut, hehe (the story has the potential of offending both camps). Teasing...mostly.

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  42. I'm okay. If someone criticizes something I do, I try to look at it impartially--what's affecting their opinion? Is it something personal against me, or is it just they don't like my work?

    If it's the latter, I'll feel miserable for a while, but come out again. After a bit.

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  43. Too true. The whole it isn't YOU people are criticizing seems harder for some people to understand than anything else. I whine to my friends. And they hate it but I feel better! ;)

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  44. It's not all about me? Thanks for the reminder! It's not personal, right? Thick skin is a must for a writer. I wish mine was thicker. I'm workin' on it. :)

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  45. So far I've dealt with critiques like an adult *sniffle* I've found everyone who read my work so far has given great feedback especially in places that need strengthening. I try to learn from it... otherwise, I'd be on cocktails all day? Oh right. I am anyway. x

    PS: I am writing in my underwear right now!

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  46. I think that we write or paint not for critics, but for our audience. If they love us, that is the most important thing.

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  47. This is so important to realize but much harder to do. I know i have a hard time w/ it. I avoid the negatives.

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  48. I just read through all the comments, nodding and shrugging, and then Olga summed everything up for me. talli, write for your audience and not your critics. Your audience love you and there are lots more of them...

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  49. I don't think it as much a case of developing a thick skin as it is about shifting perspective on targeting precision. A physics book is not going to be reviewed by someone who hates physics because the targeting is pretty much 100%. But with fiction you cannot target like that. If you have a sufficient number of honest 4-5 star reviews the 1-2 star reviews simply mean that those people were misstargeted.

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  50. I think, as long as the criticism is explained, it's not so bad. Someone saying 'I didn't like your book because I thought the characters were shallow/silly/behaved stupidly' is somehow better than someone just saying 'I hated your book.' At least they took the trouble to say *why* they didn't like it. And not everyone will like everything, it's a fact of life. We just have to learn to separate out, the same way as we have to separate ourselves from our children. They are not us, the books are not us. (Oh, and punching a pillow also helps!)

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  51. The first few people have now got their hands on my first book and I am terrified. I tell everyone else the sensible bits about there not being anything that everyone could like etc, but I have to say I'm a bit rubbish with criticism. It hurts. UNLESS I have asked for it. I love a really harsh edit, for example, but that's because I wanted it...

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  52. Up to this point I haven't had high expectations and expect negative criticism. So the kind comments are a welcome surprise. But I can appreciate how hard it can be when you are more exposed. Hopefully just knowing you are have friends experiencing the same is helpful to get through those negative moments.

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  53. The very first time I was rejected (from Harlequin no less), I cried, and then I got mad as hell. Why couldn't they understand where I was coming from? I put the manuscript away for a year and didn't write either. I only read. Then, I told myself to stop being such a baby and pulled it back out. Lo and behold, the editor was right on her points she'd made.

    Now, with having CPs I handle the criticism much better.

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  54. I'm lucky to be in a great critique group. In the time we've been together, we've built a reservoir of trust. I used to get a little bit defensive but not anymore. I just want to make my writing better. The more I know, the more I realize I can learn.

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  55. I think I take criticism well. Either it's fair and you can learn from it or unfair and you can dismiss it. Either way, it's always worth listening to / reading.

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  56. I find this the hardest part of all. I'm a bit of a wimp & a sap so I usually get a bit teary, take a mini-break, then start working again :)

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  57. I haven't 'exposed' myself much yet. OK barely at all. I know it's something I'll have to deal with eventually. I welcome the critiques and comments though. I think it'll be hard at first but I also realize that those comments will only help my writing.

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  58. Yeah, it's not going to be fun. This may be weird, but as a writer I think of my characters and if I did them justice. Real people's opinions don't seem as important, haha.

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  59. It's like having your child criticized by someone else. You can't help but internalize some of the negativity and wonder where you went wrong or why they can't see what you see.

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  60. Omg, I'm so afraid of that!! What if all my reviews are bad reviews? But you are right! For some reason or another, someone just didn't like it and there's nothing we can do. There are people out there that hate Harry Potter. Just how it goes. I'm glad you can put that armor on and plow through it!

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  61. Its not easy but I remind myself that nobody's work is liked by everybody all the time. I do appreciate constructive feedback and try to take from it - that which will help me to improve.

    Oh, and oatmeal choc chip cookies and really good lasagna always help me too.

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  62. It's funny you should post this today Talli... I just finished my final edit on my second novel and sent it out to five CP'S....

    My CP'S are brutal... am I worried, NO! They are willing to spend their time to give me an HONEST crit. So I will take i like a man and hope for the best.

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  63. Hi Talli - must be so difficult .. for writers .. good for you for having your shields at the ready.

    You're great and fun and that's all that matters and thank goodness you write - otherwise we wouldn't have met you.

    Happy hot Tuesday .. Hilary

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  64. SO true! If we want to grow as writers we have to be open to criticism. It's the only way!

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  65. Wine. I reach for the wine. And then I whine, but I don't let things bother me for too long.

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  66. Great advice here which can be applied to many parts of life, not just writing. I agree with Julie - "gird your loins with Teflon!" - brilliant.

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  67. This is so important! I have fairly tough skin, but sometimes there's a small scratch on the surface and stuff gets through which causes hurt or worse doubt.

    In fact I've been dealing with some doubt lately and only recently was helped out of the pit by a good friend.

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  68. I know you can't please everyone. Usually my first reaction is resentful but then I try and give the critic an honest consideration.

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  69. LOL! Great post.
    I'm growing a rhino hide under laboratory conditions, but the tissues haven't taken yet ;O)

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  70. Depends on what the negative feedback involves. If it's constructive criticism that's obviously intended to be helpful, not hurtful, I'll pay attention to it and see if it's something to work on. If it's just a random 'didn't like it, sorry', I shrug it off. Tastes vary. You can't expect to please everyone :-)

    But gosh, it's nerve-wracking, isn't it? I hate that exposed feeling. Painful.

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  71. Very important distinction to make - thanks for the reminder!
    \
    I think it's never easy hearing bad stuff about your writing but it's there to make you a better writer so suck it up, put the advice into practice and move forward - it's all good really!

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  72. Exactly why I carry a gun but why are you under your mac?! :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  73. Cover my ears and scream, "La la la la la!"

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  74. I do get less than complimentary feedback on my work all the time...but I keep it in perspective.

    If all my readers come back with ho-hum responses, then I know I have something seriously wrong going on with my work. Yesterday I had three people love a story, and one person absolutely hate it.

    I queried the reasons for all these reactions, and then set them aside. I'll give it some time, then tackle all the feedback, objectively weighing each.

    I think one of the things most writers don't realize is that in todays' day and age it is very hard to find the time to do a feedback, and the fact that their reader has done that is in itself a good thing.

    We need to be grateful for all feedback, put to use the ones that work, and set aside those that don't.

    Emotions don't (or at least, shouldn't) come into it.

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  75. Its something youhave to learn to deal with don't you? As a journalist you meet with rejection every day. or frequently anyway. It's part of life. You have to learn not to take it personally - but it's not easy.

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  76. Hi Talli!
    I've given you a BLOG AWARD. Feel free to drop by anytime to pick it up. Just a little something to brighten up your day. :)

    warm regards,
    nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  77. My biggest problem is that I'm quick to believe the bad comments and rarely believe the praise. I think though it's necessary to be insecure as a writer. The more insecure we are, the harder we try to write better and the work improves. Confident writers too often settle on their first pass for an idea, which is invariably not as good as their second or third or (in my case) fiftieth!

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  78. Nice. I frequently get sensitive about what people say about my writing unless it is someone I really respect, but you are absolutely right. You can't be everyone's goblet of wine, I guess.

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Coffee and wine for all!