Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dealing With Criticism, Rejection, and Bad Reviews by Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate
So … remember that feeling of walking into the high school cafeteria, passing by a table of people you thought were nice and suddenly realizing they’ve been making fun of you – laughing at the satin disco pants (okay am I dating myself there?) you thought were just too cute, or making fun of your hair, your makeup, the poem you wrote in English… the one you thought was a major work of art?

Am I talking to the right crowd here?

Remember how quickly that world-by-the-tail feeling can suddenly morph into the I-want-to-hide-in-the-bathroom-stall-and-cry-for-the-rest-of-the-day feeling?

Dealing with rejection, criticism, and bad reviews as a writer is a little like that. Okay, at least it is for me. I hate it. I hate everything about it. When someone fires a cannonball my way, it invariably blows a hole in my sails, drops a rain cloud in my sunny sky, totally messes up my mojo, and occasionally challenges my faith in the world and in the basic goodness of other people.

It is, however, a part of the business and ultimately a part of life. The person everyone likes hasn’t been born yet, the clothes everyone admires haven’t been worn yet, the book everyone loves hasn’t been written yet. Maybe this is why God starts training us to deal with rejection and criticism waaaay back on the elementary school playground. It’s part of surviving in life and a big part of surviving in the writing business. Building a toolkit of survival skills is critical. Here are a few tips from mine:

The Writer’s Toolkit: Surviving Rejection, Criticism, and Bad Reviews
  1. Rant, wallow, or rail as the case calls for. It’s okay to be angry, hurt, resentful, offended, or just perplexed as to why someone would want to be that ugly, heartless, mean…. Open your laptop or notepad and write a scathing response if you want to. Use your word processor to avoid accidentally hitting the send button. DESTROY IMMEDIATELY. Do not share this rant with the world.
  2. Pray, pamper yourself, eat chocolate. Ask God to remind you of this moment the next time you’re tempted to shoot the holy lightning of criticism someone else’s way.
  3. Search for validity. Recognize that all criticism comes from somewhere. Sometimes, it has everything to do with the other person’s hang-ups, preferences, bad day, bad year, bad experience in the high-school cafeteria. Sometimes the criticism is valid. Try to look at it objectively, especially if you’re seeing the same criticism from multiple individuals (or in the case of trying to sell your writing, from several editors or agents). One person’s opinion is just one person’s opinion… multiple critiques of a similar issue may indicate that it’s time to edit, reassess, reconsider, tweak your work … get rid of the satin disco pants, etc.
  4. Talk to a trusted friend or critique partner. Ask for an honest answer, but be willing to accept it without getting offended.
  5. DON’T reply to negative reviews on online bookseller sites or blogs. DON'T rant about the experience on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It’s just a bad, bad, bad thing to do. You really don’t want one unpleasant moment to haunt you forever no matter how offended or hurt you are at the time.
  6. Do answer letters or email complaints. Keep the tone positive. Don’t argue your point. Be as kind as you can. If there’s an explanation, give it. If not, thank the person for caring enough to send input. Express regret that they were not happy with ABC (whatever), move on without being drawn into the argument. Remember that every person out there is looking at life through the glass of his or her own experiences. Life from that viewpoint may look much different than it does from yours. If you’re dealing with editor/agent rejection, remember that this holds true for editors and agents, too. They are people, just like the rest of us. They have their own likes and dislikes based on who they are, where they’re finding success in the market right now, whether their lists are fairly full at the moment, and maybe even just what kind of week they’re having.
  7. Put on your Super Suit. How do super heroes survive when speeding bullets come their way? Why, the Super Suit, of course. Keep yours right there under your writer clothes (or your satin disco pants, as the case may be). Those speeding bullets may knock you down, but don’t let them penetrate too deep. Have faith in your calling and in yourself. For a little extra satisfaction, put that nasty person in your next book and add a case of botulism ... or something worse.(Disclaimer: All of my works are purely fictional, and any resemblance to anyone living or dead is completely *ahem* accidental. Honest.)
Above all, don’t go hide in the bathroom stall. You’ll starve to death in there, and there’s really not enough room for all your imaginary friends. If God has filled your head with stories and populated your mind with people who don’t exist, then you’re a writer. Trust it. Believe in it. Keep getting up and moving toward your goal.

Turn your face to the bright side and let the shadows fall behind you.

And… stop by the rest of the week and see what the Belles have to share.

In the meantime, I wish you and your imaginary friends a fantastic week!


Lisa Wingate is a magazine columnist, inspirational speaker, and the author of eighteen mainstream fiction novels, including the national bestseller, Tending Roses, now in its nineteenth printing. She is a seven-time ACFW Carol award nominee, a Christy Award nominee, and a two-time Carol Award winner. She has found success in both the Christian and general fiction markets, writing mainstream fiction for Penguin Putnam and Bethany House. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others, as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life. More information about Lisa’s novels can be found at www.lisawingate.com.

Firefly Island
Firefly Island
At thirty-four, congressional staffer Mallory Hale is about to embark on an adventure completely off the map. After a whirlwind romance, she is hopelessly in love with two men--fortunately, they're related. Daniel Everson and his little boy, Nick, are a package deal, and Mallory suddenly can't imagine her future without them.

Mallory couldn't be more shocked when Daniel asks her to marry him, move to Texas, and form a family with him and motherless Nick. The idea is both thrilling and terrifying.

Mallory takes a leap of faith and begins a sweet, mishap-filled journey into ranch living, Moses Lake society, and a marriage that at times reminds her of the mail-order-bride stories. But despite the wild adventure of her new life, she discovers secrets and questions beneath her rosy new life. Can she find answers on Firefly Island, a little chunk of property just off the lakeshore, where mysterious lights glisten at night?
Fiction That's Good for the Soul
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