Like I tell everyone regardless of industry, “you’re not going to please 100% of the people 100% of the time.” As a result, you’re undoubtedly going to come across those who criticize your work. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. By developing a thick skin, your more receptive to true critiques while letting troll comments roll off your back. Otherwise, it can be easy to dwell on the comments of someone who has no idea what they’re saying.
Benefits of Criticism
I recently had a neighbor bring over his short story and wanted me to critique the piece. After reading it, I gave him my honest opinion. Although it had a good deal of potential, the story was a bit haphazard and his use of words throughout needed some tuning. The development of the plot was extremely slow, and he didn’t really give his characters personality.
By the look on his face, you would have thought that I pulled his heart out and stomped on it. To my knowledge, he hasn’t worked on it since.
I wasn’t rude in the delivery. In fact, I went out of my way to give him some ideas on how to improve grammar and story development. The problem is, he didn’t have a skin thick enough to absorb any kind of criticism. It seemed more like he was looking for an ego rub than anything. Sorry, I don’t placate to others who ask for my opinion.
I know that I am not an expert in my field…unless you want to discuss ghostwriting for clients. I was honest and gave him my impression of his work. In this case, I gave constructive criticism in order to help him advance.
Catching Problems You Miss
While proofreading your own work can be greatly beneficial, having another set of eyes may pick up stuff you miss. Even I miss some of the simplest things when writing for a client. One person in particular points out how I will sometimes use, “it’s” instead of “its.” Yes, this is an easy one to remember. But, it’s also an easy one to miss proofreading your own work.
Grammar, spelling errors and even confusing lines can be glanced over because of your perspective. In your mind, the flow of the piece is logical. It may make sense to you, until someone points out how confusing it truly is. This is very beneficial if you can learn from mistakes such as these.
Getting to Know Your Audience
This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why I use Wattpad to publish my stories at the moment. I want to see what kind of an impact I have on my target audience. If people don’t like certain parts or want to express concerns about a piece of the story, they have a voice. For me, this is quite invaluable. It’s almost like having thousands of editors pointing out problems in the book without paying a dime.
Now, I am currently not a very popular author. But when that changes, I am going to welcome any insight others have. This will help me understand the type of readers I am attracting and what kinds of ways I can improve my abilities.
The hardest part is going to be dealing with the trolls. You can’t take what everyone says too seriously. You’ll have to sift through the junk replies and comments in order to find the kernels of truth. If your skin is too thin and you’re incapable of ignoring the idiots who will undoubtedly plague your life, then you shouldn’t be a writer. Even the most popular authors get trolled now and again.
How to Discern Critiques from Trolling
The first step to developing a thick skin is being able to tell true critiques from trolling. While some of these may be quite obvious, there are a few comments that may come in as on-the-fence. If someone comments, “fake” or “gay,” they’re only trying to ruffle your feathers and should be ignored.
Identify the True Critics
When someone says they don’t like a story or perhaps a chapter, a true critic will give you an explanation. Perhaps they don’t like the character development. Or maybe they found the content too confusing to follow. The point is, these people will actually give you a reason to why the piece bothers them. A troll will just say they hate it for no reason other than they have no life and want to upset you.
It’s the ones that offer insight to your story’s structure who you should pay attention to. Most of these people are avid readers and experience a great deal of text all the time. Although not all of them are professional editors, many will know what makes a good plot and character development.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t listen to those who troll your accounts. These pathetic little people simply have to write something because they want to get a laugh out of others or make themselves feel superior.
Not All Critiques Will Be Flowers and Rainbows
Don’t assume that all critiques are going to have a friendly tone. In fact, many critics regardless of the industry are quite viscous to the point of almost being trolls. However, there will be some information to help you grow as long as you can sift through the bile of their comments.
The key is to not take everything personally. Some of these people may be brutal in their critique of your work, but there may be good reasons within those rantings that may help you develop as a writer.
Developing a Thick Skin Over Time
Not everyone has an impenetrable skin from the very beginning. Some of us have to develop these callouses over time. The trick is to not take everything people say to heart. If you do, it can be easy to get sucked into a downward spiral of failure. In reality, a lot of people will suffer depression because of it.
Even if it feels like no one likes your work, a true failure is not learning anything from the experience. Only you can determine how fragile you want to be when putting yourself out there in the world for criticism. Don’t let the trolls of the world bring down what could potentially be your true calling. Turn your skin to granite and let those nasty comments bounce of you like a rubber ball. It’s the ones with intelligence behind the words you want to pay more attention to, anyway. With skin like a rhino, nothing will get you down.