How to Handle Negative Feedback (31DBBB Challenge Day 7)

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This post was inspired by “The Everyday Writer: Prepare to Be Criticized.” Check out the blog post that prompted us to discuss something we really haven’t talked much about yet here at Novelty Revisions: what to do when your potential audience has feedback—and not always the kind of feedback you’re hoping for.

As a writer, it’s important to learn early on that not all comments you get on your posts, stories, anything you make public, are going to be good ones. But that doesn’t mean the negative comments you do get are any easier to write off as “no big deal.”

Even the experts make mistakes; there’s always something new to learn. Here are a few strategies you can adopt to make it a little easier to deal with the negative feedback you’ll more than likely get on your writing, whether you’re at the very peak of your success or you’ve just published your very first post.

Evaluate its context

Sometimes negative feedback will come after a few positive notes. Maybe, “I loved this, but …” isn’t so bad—but it’s easy to focus on everything that comes after the “but.” Whether it’s someone disagreeing with your argument or, sometimes, just bashing your work for the sake of lashing out at someone else’s effort, it’s not always what you want, or need, to hear. Or is it?

If someone adds a few less-positive comments to their response to your writing, that probably means they’re criticizing you for a good reason. If they’re taking the time to give both positive and negative feedback, it does mean they’re paying attention and might even want to help you improve.

Those less-balanced, “stop writing you’re terrible” fragments—you can filter those out. If there’s no context, just a string of harsh words, not only doesn’t it have to mean anything to you—in all honesty, it probably doesn’t mean anything to the “author,” either. There are people out there who hunt for content to trash, and honestly, if it doesn’t stretch on in multiple sentences to back itself up, it’s not worth your energy.

Turn a negative into a positive

Someone’s negative commentary about your blog, an excerpt you posted or your writing ability in general might actually be able to inspire you to improve, if you’re willing to let it. If it doesn’t motivate you to write a post or series of posts about negative feedback, maybe it can motivate you to take negative comments seriously—within reason.

If someone complains about your posts being too long, for example, well, maybe you might consider dropping your maximum word count by a few hundred to see what that does to your traffic. A bit more serious, if someone criticizes you for writing stories that are too predictable or creating characters they’re already too familiar with (not in a good way), you have options. You can defend your choice of plot and characterization or consider working on those story elements in future projects.

Most importantly here, though, you always have the option to start a conversation. Not to fire back at someone who’s trolling you, but to pull their comments into a deeper realm. Maybe they’re interested in hearing your opinion or response. After all, some negative comments might only be perceived as such. Some people pick out flaws to highlight because they’re not as good at noting positives, but still want to start a conversation with you. 

Be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far

There’s one point we really want to make sure we hit here: if you’re getting negative feedback on your writing—rejoice! Feedback is feedback, and as long as it’s not total spam, any kind of feedback usually means you have an audience, even just a small one. Think about it: would you rather have no feedback, or some positive, some negative feedback?

You’re writing. You’re daring to put your work out there, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do. So even if it seems like negativity is coming at you left and right, you never know—some of those negative feedback “providers” might just be jealous that you’re putting your work out there, and they aren’t.

There will come those moments all the negative feedback you’ve ever gotten slams into your confidence, hard. Sometimes it helps to somehow archive all the positive feedback you get, so in those moments of self-doubt, you can return to those comments and remind yourself you’re still making an impact with your words.

Remember, you can’t please everyone. Sadly, your audience will always turn out to be a mix of people who love your work, people who can’t stand your work (yet still feel the need to read it and voice their negative opinions) and people you’ll never hear from at all. That’s normal. What matters is that you don’t let yourself get too discouraged.

Writing is tough. Having people respond to it might even be tougher, especially when they don’t have nice things to say. But you do what you do, and you love what you do. Writing is who you are. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth the effott.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

10 Survival Tips for Writing Your First Novel (31DBBB Challenge Day 2)

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So you’re about to start writing a book.

The fact that you’ve already come this far—decided you’re going to start writing a book regardless of how terrified you might be—is impressive enough. But you’ve also found your way here, the ideal place to learn how to nurture your ideas through their various stages of growth and development.

That book isn’t going to write itself. It needs your help.

Here are our 10 novel-writing survival tips, whether you’re in your second day of Camp NaNo or just taking the leap on your own accord.

1. Draft a plan. Any kind of plan.

Novel planning doesn’t mean you have to construct an A-B-C-formatted outline. Even writing down a few key plot points is better than starting aimlessly. This is meant to give you a better picture of where you want your story to end up versus where it stands now (possibly as a blank page).

 2. Don’t worry about formatting.

Other than chapter headings and section breaks to keep yourself relatively organized, you don’t have to do anything special before or during the novel-writing process. If you want to spend extra cash on a specific word processing platform, that’s up to you. But opening up a Word document, naming it something you won’t forget and starting to write in default formatting and style works just as well (and most likely for you, it’s free).

 3. You don’t need SpellCheck.

Drafting a novel, misspelled words is the absolute least of your worries. No matter how long you’ve been a member of the grammar police force, all those underlined words can be distracting and can throw you off if you’re in the middle of a good sprint. You’ll have plenty of time to go back and edit later. For minimal distraction, you might want to consider turning off the feature.

 4. There will be days you don’t feel like writing.

It’s certainly not a bad idea to try to write a little bit of something every day, even if it’s just a few lines of a journal entry or, why not, an email you’ve been needing to send anyway. Skipping a day of “noveling” doesn’t mean you’re giving up. Sometimes your brain just needs time to recoup. Engaging in an alternative “creative” activity can act as a worthwhile replacement.

 5. Sources of motivation differ for every writer.

For some, word or page count is what keeps the creative energy flowing. For others, it’s finishing the structural elements of a story, then going back to fill in the rest. Or it might be a little bit of both. Quality is always the end goal, but because finishing a first draft is the first and often most difficult step, it’s completely reasonable to run with whatever factor motivates you to keep pressing down those keys.

 6. Work backwards from “what” to “how.”

Sometimes what stops us in the middle of a good story is knowing point B, but having no idea what point A is. Knowing two characters end up trapped in a castle (okay?), but not knowing how they get there. Use this dilemma to your advantage. Work backwards. Focus on where your story needs to get to as you piece together how it all unfolds.

 7. It’s okay to write terribly.

Someday you might have an agent, an editor, a beta reader or an honest friend who will read your book and give you constructive feedback. So for now, don’t worry if it isn’t good. Don’t worry if some things don’t exactly add up. Just keep writing. It’s much easier to work with and revise a finished project than sit at your desk, staring at an unfinished document, stumped.

 8. Your characters might try to hijack your brain. Let them.

Characters may be all in your head, but it’s your job to bring them to life on paper. Strangely, as your story develops, you’ll find your characters actually tend to know more about themselves and their story than you do. If you spontaneously think up a plot twist you can’t resist, thank your characters—then go with it.

 9. Write those scenes that make you feel uncomfortable.

This is a tougher one. We want to feel comfortable and satisfied when we’re writing, right? Well… yes. But it’s likely the biggest cause of novel abandonment is boredom (not yet proven). The same goes for the reading side of books. Sometimes we have to write scenes we’re not necessarily comfortable writing. Cringe-worthy content isn’t always bad. Sometimes it’s just what your story needs to appeal to the masses (as much as it can).

 10. Remember that writing a book doesn’t happen in a month.

WriMos are great, but a story you start at the beginning of July, for example, isn’t going to be publisher-ready, or even necessarily close to being finished, when July ends. The entire process can take years, but even just writing the first draft might take longer than you anticipated. This is okay. This is normal. It’s better to take your time and complete a promising draft than rush and end up deleting the majority of it anyway.

You can do this. You might even finish this.

Good luck. Write on!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.