Negative comments are never easy to take, but since it’s almost impossible to please everyone, at some point in our lives we all need to deal with it. As writers, we face possible criticism every time something we pen is published. Today, author Marcia Gruver is here to share encouraging words on that subject and what she’s learned on her journey to publication. Thanks, Marcia!
by Marcia Gruver
A dear friend and fellow writer enters a chapter of her current project in a contest. After anxiously awaiting the results, they trickle in one at a time. Two judges give her a perfect score. That’s right … perfect scores with rave reviews. The final judge pens a very low mark followed by terribly unkind comments scratched in the margin with red ink. Ouch.
This got me to thinking. Three random people read the same 3,000 words. Two praise them profusely. One despises them. How can this be? Is it really a matter of divergent taste?
In our zeal to do a good critique or brilliant review, do we forget to enjoy the story? Are we caught up in ferreting out mistakes in order to show off our amazing eye for good writing? Maybe we’ve forgotten there’s a flesh and blood person connected to the work—an author who will read the harsh words knowing her peers may see them, too.
The first review of my debut novel was so brutal, I cringe today at the thought. At the time, it crushed my fragile new-author spirit. After a lot of soul-searching prayer, I decided to respect the woman’s right to her opinion, but I knew in my heart the book was better than she claimed. Since that dark day, the same novel has garnered wonderful feedback and a four star review from Romantic Times Magazine, whose reviewer called it a “charming tale.” Go figure.
My friend’s red-lined chapter grew into a wonderful story that also earned four stars from Romantic Times. She went on to become an award-winning author, producing numerous works of brilliant fiction. She refused to focus on the negative comments and pressed on to great success—with many more starry reviews from Romantic Times, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other notable outlets.
I read an article reporting that Kathryn Stockett’s wonderful book, The Help, met with 60 rejections before becoming a best seller. Kathryn asked, “What if I had given up at 15? Or 40? Or even 60?” I can answer her question: The literary world would be short a gifted writer and one amazing novel.
What if my friend had tucked tail and scurried away to lick her wounds? What if I had? At some point in our careers, it’s possible, even probable, to run into rejection or a painful review of our work, but we can’t let it define us. More importantly, we can’t let careless words or red-lined manuscripts dampen our enthusiasm or break our spirits.
Take care to heed constructive criticism, but the next time you’re faced with an overly harsh commentary on your work, don’t take it to heart. Hold your head high instead, and set your sites on the stars.
Marcia Gruver’s southern-comfortable roots lend touches of humor and threads of faith to her writing. Look for both in her Texas Fortunes and Backwoods Brides series. When she’s not perched behind a keyboard, you’ll find her clutching a game system controller or riding shotgun on long drives in the Texas Hill Country. Lifelong Texans, Marcia and her husband Lee have five children. Collectively, this motley crew has graced them with a dozen grandchildren and one great-granddaughter—so far.
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