When the negative feedback comes…and it will

As writers, we love to hear all the awesome things people think about our writing. And while there is a lot of positive feedback (probably most of which we don’t ever hear about), there is also the opposite. We’re not perfect–and we certainly can’t please everyone–and people will have negative opinions and reactions they choose to share with us individually or with the world through a review or online comment.

I’ve had my fair share of negative feedback in my experience of writing articles. In a few instances, people have decided to not only complain about what I wrote, but also took personal jabs at me. The first time this happened, I was literally can’t-breathe-crying-in-my-closet. I’ve seen comments where I’ve been insulted, called names, and had people disagree with my stance. The most shocking times are when people go through my personal blog to email me and spread their negativity in a direct message.

I believe in the mantra “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Why do people go out of their way to be mean? I have no idea. However, as writers, we need to expect it to come so we can be ready for it. Also, there are times when what we perceive as negativity is actually a good thing.

You think it’s negative, but it’s actually constructive.

If you’re a serious writer, you probably have a critique group or partners who read what you’ve written and give you honest feedback. We may not always want to hear what they have to say. However, give it a few days to settle in your mind rather than getting upset. Think about what they said. Will it really make your writing better? If yes, do it! You may not always agree with what they said, and that’s okay too.

Rejection letters.

We’re all bound to get at least a few of these in our writing careers. Rejections hurt. Don’t take it personally. If you received feedback, read it and see if you think it’s valid. Sometimes, the rejection comes not because your writing is bad, but because it’s not a match with that particular agent, editor, or publishing house. Or, they may already have another manuscript they’re publishing that is very similar to yours. Make any necessary changes and submit to the next publisher/agent in your queue.

Comments from editors. 

When you get the “yes” from a publisher, it’ll go through an editing process, which often means revisions for you. These can feel like you’re doing it all wrong, but it’s actually a good thing (uh, hello, they still want to publish you!). Sometimes it’s hard to see parts of your writing that may not be working because you’re too close to it–maybe mentally filling in some of the missing key details. They may want you to take out a favorite scene or make some bigger changes. It can feel negative, but after you let it settle and work through the changes, you’ll see that it’s a great move for your writing.

Reviews from readers. 

The reviews you find online are simply someone else’s opinion. You may agree with it or you may not. Some may have a valid point about something they didn’t liked, while others may really be a negativity troll. Negative reviews hurt. You’ve put your heart and soul into creating a beautiful story, put it out into the world, and now you have readers being critical and harsh. If you can go without reading comments, that’s a great way to go, but it’s so darn tempting! Find a way to laugh it off or see it for what it is–an opinion. Not everyone is going to like what you write or how you wrote it. Some will be vocal about it. But, there will be people who LOVE what you wrote. You’re writing for them! Don’t let bad reviews derail your writing.

Don’t let the negativity get you down, but be ready for it. Some of it is necessary and constructive, but, as for the rest, take Taylor Swift’s advice and “shake it off.”

Above all, keep writing and improving.

Wendy Jessen is the author of more than 300 articles—book reviews as well as family-oriented articles on familyshare.com. She somehow manages to do that with 6 spirited children ranging in age from 4 to 13 under toe. In the throes of writing her first book, she finds ways to procrastinate which usually involves scrolling through social media. Wendy often stays up way past her bedtime reading YA or other fiction. She loves kid-free date night with her husband, family vacations, and kids’ bedtime, aka, the human version of whack-a-mole.

2 thoughts on “When the negative feedback comes…and it will

  1. Thank you for this post!

    I don't quite agree with “if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all”; I'd rather say that if you can't say something in a nice *way*, you shouldn't say it at all. I've always been taught that as long as you do it politely, you can pretty much say anything. I believe it's important to voice critique, but it's essential to do it in a respectful way. To acknowledge that the writer has put time and effort into their writing, and that this shouldn't be dismissed, even if you think the product isn't worth much.

    That said, critique is still going to sting, no matter how constructively you phrase it. I find that when it comes to their creative products, everyone is sensitive. It requires a lot of delicacy to write a critique which is both honest and encouraging.

    People say it's so easy to be a critic. And it is, if you don't stop to think for a moment before you fly into a rage at whatever has offended you. It's a lot harder to be a good critic. An art in itself, I believe.


  2. So true!! But even then, if you're doing it in a nice, constructive way, then you ARE saying something nice, right? 🙂 Being a good critic is the way to go, for sure.


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