What Advice Would You Offer Authors On Handling Critical Feedback?


    What Advice Would You Offer Authors On Handling Critical Feedback?

    Navigating the choppy waters of critical feedback is an art every author must master. We've gathered insights from nineteen authors, editors, and coaches, including an attorney/author, to share their wisdom. From embracing self-satisfaction to approaching criticism with a growth mindset, discover the invaluable advice these professionals have on handling critical feedback.

    • Embrace Self-Satisfaction Over Pleasing All
    • Weigh Feedback for Truth and Helpfulness
    • Grow from Critical Feedback
    • Prepare a Clinical Mindset for Feedback
    • Balance Personal Voice with Client Needs
    • Embrace Enhancements from Your Audience
    • Receive Feedback with Grace and Vision
    • Consider Feedback as a Growth Spice
    • Objectively Assess Feedback for Constructive Value
    • Discern Valuable Critiques for Writing Refinement
    • Be Grateful for Feedback Engagement
    • Open Mind Yields Gold from Criticism
    • Uncover the Core Message in Feedback
    • Trust Instincts to Filter Feedback
    • Critical Feedback Isn't Personal
    • Distinguish Critical Feedback from Criticism
    • Use Valid Feedback for Improvement
    • Transform Criticism into Writing Strengths
    • Approach Criticism with a Growth Mindset

    Embrace Self-Satisfaction Over Pleasing All

    There's a line from an old Rick Nelson song that goes, "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself." I recommend you apply that reasoning to critical feedback. Are you happy with the book you wrote? Accept the fact that some people won't like the book, and you won't get 100% great reviews. You don't like every book you read, do you? My advice is to roll with the punches and not lose any sleep over a bad review. Besides, if every review is glowing, people will question whether they're authentic.

    Mark M. Bello
    Mark M. BelloAttorney/Author, Mark M. Bello Attorney/Author

    Weigh Feedback for Truth and Helpfulness

    Receiving feedback and critique can be challenging. No one wants to hear that their baby is ugly. But sometimes, truth be told, our babies are ugly. The number-one thing I would recommend when receiving critical feedback is to weigh whether or not the feedback is truthful and helpful. When you look at the critical feedback through this lens, you're able to understand that the person giving the feedback isn't being malicious. They're trying to help you become a better writer. Look for the actions you can take when you receive the stinging critique. It may be what takes you to the next level as an author.

    Joseph Lalonde
    Joseph LalondeLeadership Coach and Author, Reel Leadership

    Grow from Critical Feedback

    There is an old saying: there is no such thing as bad publicity. And the real truth is, a bad review or critical feedback could be the very thing that propels you, fuels you even, into becoming more of the writer you were meant to be. So often, critical feedback comes from misunderstanding or even someone's own story projections in their heads. It is critical to separate your own personal identity from what people think of your work.

    You are not writing for everyone, and not everyone should get rent in your head. There will be challenges—and many from people you don't expect. Yet, you always have a choice to grow from adversity—or not! If you want to be a better writer, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

    Amy Vogel
    Amy VogelAuthor, Speaker, Story Coach

    Prepare a Clinical Mindset for Feedback

    Accepting feedback is a challenge, especially if it's "critical" feedback. We know we need it, but it's hard not to take it personally. Take time before the feedback to work on your mindset—get in the right headspace. Prepare by distancing yourself. The more you can think of this as a less personal, less emotional, more "clinical" exercise—seeking feedback to improve your work—the more likely you will benefit from the feedback. Bonus points if whoever is providing feedback can use any color but red to share thoughts!

    Lezlee Alexander
    Lezlee AlexanderFreelance newsletter & website designer, editor, proofreader

    Balance Personal Voice with Client Needs

    For personal pieces, take what works and leave what doesn't. Creative writing is subjective and relative, and what irks one person may delight another. As long as you know your voice and feel confident in what you've written, trust your gut when it comes to which edits or suggestions to apply. But don't let your ego get in the way of critiques that genuinely improve the work.

    For professional pieces, remember that the work doesn't really belong to you—it belongs to your client or the company you work for. Unless the changes introduce inaccuracies or errors, sometimes it's easier just to accept them than to waste time going back and forth.

    In either case, look at the edits once, then take a break before applying any changes to the piece. This will help to keep you from making reactive edits when you're feeling emotional or vulnerable and give you time to process the feedback.

    Brittany Foster
    Brittany FosterFreelance Writer, Editor, & SEO Expert, bfostercreative

    Embrace Enhancements from Your Audience

    Your writing is a piece of art that you've crafted for a specific audience. 'Embrace to Enhance' when it comes from your target audience; acknowledge with gratitude and improve yourself.

    Chit Karan Singh
    Chit Karan SinghWriting Coach, Trinity Western University

    Receive Feedback with Grace and Vision

    To grow as writers, we must learn to receive feedback and criticism with both grace and vision. Whether it is from an editor, an honest review on Amazon, or someone impacted by your words, if we're not careful, we give our power away by allowing other people's opinions to define how we perceive ourselves. Yet, having a learning goal in mind when we approach others for feedback helps to balance their views with our target objectives. In other words, strategically reframing the feedback by taking in only the precious pieces that will serve you and then letting go of fragments that do not.

    When we seek another's critique, we demonstrate a willingness to lean into our imperfections, thus welcoming learning, adaptation, and modifications we may have never considered. We open our hearts to collaboration and benefit from the skills of others as they, in turn, gain new perspectives from our point of view. Plus, the exploration of the rough edges, counterintuitive routes, and boldly broken rules makes our work provocative, unique, and unforgettable.

    Andrea DeWitt
    Andrea DeWittAuthor, Speaker and Leadership Coach, Andrea DeWitt Advisors Coaching

    Consider Feedback as a Growth Spice

    Feedback is like the array of spices or sauces that one puts in front of you at a nice restaurant... Just because someone likes to add one thing to the main dish does not mean it is going to be the same for you. But you owe it to that person, and to yourself, to try it, test it, and put it in your so-called 'bag of tricks.' Growth as a writer happens when you see and hear things that are not familiar and are not necessarily the way that you would 'do it.' Also, just because you get certain feedback now does not mean that you will (or should) use that feedback now, but always, always, always put it in that bag of tricks.

    Robert HobanSpecial Advisor, Clark Hill

    Objectively Assess Feedback for Constructive Value

    Separate your emotions from the feedback to objectively assess its value, recognizing that feedback is about your work and not a reflection of your worth as a writer or your life experience. By maintaining objectivity, you can better understand the constructive aspects of the criticism. Look for patterns in the feedback to identify key areas for improvement, focusing on recurring themes or suggestions that can have the most significant impact on enhancing your writing. These patterns often highlight specific aspects of your work that can be refined or developed further. Engaging with feedback in this way empowers you to make targeted revisions that align with your creative goals and ultimately elevate the quality of your writing.

    Nageen Riffat
    Nageen RiffatLeadership Development & Training Specialist, Nyn's Dreams

    Discern Valuable Critiques for Writing Refinement

    The real magic in writing happens when you learn to receive critical feedback, discern what's valuable, and use it to refine your writing—again and again. Writing is an iterative process that requires a growth mindset that you can cultivate through practices that empower you to take your writing to the next level.

    To begin with, you want to make sure you give yourself some time to process the input before reacting or diving right into making changes. You learn to balance receiving criticism with grace and humility—knowing that diverse perspectives will enrich your writing—while also discerning between what's a helpful critique and what's personal bias.

    Honing your writing skills also takes dedication and resilience as you wade through the criticism that refines the creative process. And as essential as feedback is for growth, it's equally important to trust your instincts, stay true to your unique style, and maintain confidence in your own voice and vision as a writer.

    Maryanne O'BrienAuthor and Coach, The Elevated Communicator

    Be Grateful for Feedback Engagement

    As someone who has earned many degrees in creative writing and taught writing for two decades, I've had to deal with critical feedback myself and help hundreds of other writers through the experience. I had a cruel professor in college who regularly made students cry with his feedback. That is not a useful outcome for anyone. But it did help me learn two key things about dealing with critical feedback:

    1. No matter how bad it is, feedback means they read it. No feedback means they didn't. You always want feedback because that means you had a reader.
    2. Your reaction to the feedback is far more valuable than the feedback itself. What I mean is that the other person is sharing their opinion with you. You can agree with their opinion, or you can disagree with it. The value is in how you respond. Someone might share feedback, and you might think, "Oh, I hadn't thought of it that way!" In which case, you now have an opportunity to revise, edit, and make different choices. Or they might share feedback, and you think, "No! You don't get it! That's not what I intended at all!" And that reaction confirms your commitment to the choices you did make.

    No matter how uncomfortable or difficult the feedback, I try to be grateful that they took the time to read and respond. Then I look for the value in my response to what they shared—does it lead me to make different choices? Or does it confirm for me that I had already made the right choices?

    Jenny Morse
    Jenny MorseBusiness Writing & Communication Expert, Appendance, Inc

    Open Mind Yields Gold from Criticism

    Looking at critical feedback with an entirely open mind is the best way for an author to improve themselves. Sit down with a cup of tea, take a look at the feedback, and ask yourself - Is there a grain of truth in what this feedback is trying to tell me? How can I use it to enhance my writing effectiveness, while staying true to the core of my writing style and character? Try to take away one or more tangible action points that you can use. Not all pieces of critical feedback are useful, but on many occasions, they are worth their weight in gold.

    Harish Bhat
    Harish BhatAvid Marketer and Bestselling Author

    Uncover the Core Message in Feedback

    They say feedback is a gift, but what they don't tell you is that feedback can sometimes feel hurtful, make you feel bad, and, depending on the delivery, can make you tune out the person delivering it.

    My advice—check your ego at the door and just listen to the message. There may be a lot of descriptive words, some positive, some negative, but embedded in all the fluff is a core message. If you can uncover it, that message is powerful and can allow you to put into action the things you can do that can take you from good to great.

    Aaron Salko
    Aaron SalkoAuthor, Dad, Sales management professional

    Trust Instincts to Filter Feedback

    Despite the common claim, you don't have to welcome all feedback. A lot of it is written for self-serving reasons, and this won't be in your best interests. If the feedback comes through as cutting, belittling, or sarcastic, it's worth returning to at a later time and ruling it out initially. I'd also suggest following your instinct on the matter, as this can help you separate the feedback that is there to serve you and the project, in contrast with that which is self-interested. Absorbing egotistic analysis will confuse and puzzle, so get used to depending on your instinct to separate the good from the bad and the ugly.

    Luke Shipman
    Luke ShipmanDirector and Founder, The London Ghostwriting Company

    Critical Feedback Isn't Personal

    It's not personal. Even though you wrote it, the critical feedback has nothing to do with your writing skills. It may be that you didn't have a thorough brief—you don't have a good understanding of the product, industry, or persona, or the voice and tone of the brand. Learning to identify this and asking for what you need is crucial, as not everyone you work with will understand what a writer needs to deliver quality content.

    Julie Cadieux
    Julie CadieuxSenior Editor, Content Marketing

    Distinguish Critical Feedback from Criticism

    There is a big difference between critical feedback and criticism! Critical feedback seeks to help you improve your writing in some way or better understand potential areas of ambiguity or confusion for your readers. Criticism, on the other hand, rarely serves a purpose. If someone tells you that they didn't like your writing or something was "bad," that is not critical feedback, and you should absolutely ignore it.

    When you receive critical feedback on your writing, try to assume positive intent and remember that the person giving it is trying to help you. Don't view it as things you did "wrong," but rather as areas that you can do even better.

    Frieda Johnson
    Frieda JohnsonEditor

    Use Valid Feedback for Improvement

    It is important that authors do not take critical feedback personally or feel that they are being attacked. Sure, it can feel discouraging when the feedback is critical in nature; however, I recommend that authors try to be objective and open to constructive criticism. If the feedback is valid, authors should use the feedback as a way to improve their writing. Overall, constructive feedback improves the quality of the work.

    Mary Banks
    Mary BanksPublisher, La Muse Press

    Transform Criticism into Writing Strengths

    Learning to receive critical feedback is an invaluable skill for every author. While praise feels good because it can reinforce what you're doing right, critical feedback often pushes us toward genuine improvement. Rather than shrugging off criticism or taking it personally, I've learned to see it as a tool for growth that allows me to transform potential weaknesses in my writing into strengths. I am grateful for the attention to detail that critical feedback offers, and I use it as a stepping-stone to fine-tune my writing.

    Karen Brown Tyson
    Karen Brown TysonCommunication Consultant and Author, Constant Communicators

    Approach Criticism with a Growth Mindset

    One piece of advice for authors on handling critical feedback is to approach it with an open mind and a growth mindset. Instead of viewing criticism as a personal attack, see it as an opportunity for improvement and learning. Take the time to carefully consider the feedback, focusing on specific areas for improvement rather than dwelling on negative emotions. Seek to understand the underlying reasons behind the criticism and use it as constructive guidance to refine your writing skills and enhance your work. Remember that receiving feedback is an integral part of the writing process and can ultimately lead to stronger, more polished manuscripts.

    Dr Haritha Lekha
    Dr Haritha LekhaAuthor and HR Associate, harithalekha.com