How Do You Deal With Criticism?

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I took a look at all the things I’ve rambled on about this year and discovered I’ve talked about just about every aspect of indie writing and publishing … except one.

Criticism
If you really want to be a writer, you’d better get used to it. I don’t care who you are in the literary world, someone, somewhere is going to criticize your work.

When Stephen King’s book The Shining was published in 1977, a reviewer at The New York Times called him “a writer of fairly engaging and preposterous claptrap.”

I know a lot of readers who still feel that’s true.

Ouch.

However, a lot of people felt the same way about Charles Dickens.

The novelist George Meredith, a contemporary of Dickens, went so far as to say: “Dickens was a caricaturist who aped the moralist. If his novels are read at all in the future, people will wonder what we saw in them.”

Another Dickens contemporary, Oscar Wilde, once commented: “I can’t read Dickens. I start getting the urge to commit suicide.”

Even the revered American storyteller, Mark Twain, had detractors. One critic wrote: “Mark Twain’s humor is deadpan at best.”

When Huckleberry Finn, today considered a children’s classic, was first published in 1885 it was banned by the Library Committee of Concord, Massachusetts for its coarse language.

How do you deal with it?
If you’re smart, you learn from the experience.

I’m guilty of severe criticism, too. I’ve dissed “best sellers” like Glenn Beck, the Kardashians, Snooki and Ayn Rand as untalented hacks and I’m entitled to my opinion.

Do they care?

No. They all made tons of money (as successful adherents to what I’ve called earned media) and they don’t even know (or care) who the hell I am.

Does it matter?
It’s a good question. Does criticism matter? There’s only one real answer: Only if you let it … and only if you don’t learn from it.

I’ve been fortunate in the reviews I’ve received for my own work … but they haven’t all been phenomenally good.

Take this review for instance, left for my novel REICHOLD STREET:

C. Kevin only rated it 3 of 5 stars:

“Reichold Street” delves into several issues: dysfunctional families; alcoholism; strained friendships; unsympathetic educational professionals; the ravages of war including death; and suicide.

As you read, you get a sense the author is pulling from real-life experiences either from his own life or people he knew over the years. The circumstances described are sometimes too detailed not to believe they are, at least, rooted in someone’s real life.

This book is not a “feel good” read in the “puppies running in meadows filled with flowers” sense, but if you are into this genre and like gritty, character-driven stories, with some rough language from time to time, then it might be up your alley.

You might even see it as a “feel good” story because the main characters do develop strong ties. I only rated this 3-stars because I’m not into this genre very much. However, if you are, you might like it.

Wow!
Some friends have seen this and think I must not like to hear it. But they’re wrong. The reviewer didn’t praise it to the skies, but he left some very good feedback.

The line I particularly like: “…you get a sense the author is pulling from real life experiences. The circumstances described are sometimes too detailed not to believe they are rooted in someone’s real life.”

As a writer of fiction, hearing that is tantamount to a pot of gold! I don’t care he only gave it 3 stars.

He actually praised it far better than most, because he’s telling you the characters didn’t seem like characters … they seemed like real people. What more could any fiction writer hope for?

He made my year.

Happy New Year!

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My books have actually garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.
 

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4 Responses to “How Do You Deal With Criticism?”

  1. Mary Hackstock Says:

    Wow, so much there to comment on. You take on two authors of “novel” literature I have read. Yep, Huckelberry Finn might have been banned for it’s course language, but it is “now” banned again for it’s use of some words that describe the black race back then in history. Jim, one of the major characters, was actually the hero in the novel. (I do admit it has been several years since we read the book aloud to Toby). Nowadays it is considered racist I am sure and (banned in most school libraries in it’s original version). The word “nigger” was at that time of our history, part of our culture. It was as acceptable as was other ethnic descriptions of people living in a supposedly free society, like the Irish, the Jews, the Polish etc.

    As far as Glenn Beck, I have actually read two of his novels, “The Christmas Sweater and The Snow Angel.” They are very full of emotional sentiment. Kind of like reading a Mitch Albom novel, a little syrupy, but if you like that kind of novel, great. The only difference is that Glenn is writing from actual lived experience…a lot of angst in his novels. His life was rift with hardheartedness and sadness. So, in my experience it seems real! Unlike someone, like Albom trying very hard to add the emotion to his life. If one takes the time to read people you otherwise would find not to your specific political or social sphere, one might be surprised to find the depth of the experiences shared through the novel.

    On to Ayn Rand…let me just say…she was an atheist, not to my private list of reading material, but, she spoke to people of the defense of personal and political freedom, unsurpassed by any other author I have read. Toby once said “Anthem” and “Atlas Shrugged” was two of the greatest books he had ever read…he being a devout Catholic. She had a way a drawing a person into the political realm, even if they didn’t want to go there.

    As far as Mark Twain and Dickens…we read them at night in bed. Dave would read aloud and it was the most memorable time of my life. All the tales of Twain and Dickens painted the picture of the conditions which existed in the South and in England during times in which they lived…it only cemented the history of the times in which they existed. Of all the novels we read, hundreds, aloud in bed every night, I learned to appreciate somewhat of the times, of the authors.

    Stephen King never was our repertoire. Toby was to young and I didn’t feel a longing for that genre of writing. I know he has sold thousands of books, but, still not of our interest.

    If we were to read truly science fiction or very unusual authors, we would have gravitated to Nikola Tesla or other famous scientists or great inventors. I think we have every book ever written on Nikola Tesla. For this Christmas, I actually got Toby a silver edition of all of Nikola Tesla’s experiments (I know he already has the books, but it is purely out of sentiment).

    I enjoy your post Ron, and hope this is not confrontational, just my feelings on the subject. We come from differing points of interest and that is ok. I enjoy listening and reading all interests. But, my time right now focuses on some pre-eminent issues…so novels take a back seat. Let me just tell you our favorite novels really have been the classics, “Anna Sewell (Black Beauty), Mark Twain, Jack London, C.S. Lewis, Howard Pyle, J.R. Tolkien, and of course Shakespeare and other classic writers of fiction and history.

    Thanks for your posts…enjoy them. Love Mary

    Sent from my iSlate

    Like

    • Ron Herron Says:

      Mary, I always love to read your comments. I read Sewell’s “Black Beauty” and every “Black Stallion” book that Walter Farley ever wrote by the time I was in the fourth grade.

      I read “Tale of Two Cities” when I was ten and, although a lot of it was beyond me until I read it again several years later, I enjoyed it.

      You bring up an interesting point about the “banning” of Huck Finn. To call Mark Twain a racist is a fallacy and does a disservice to the contributions he made in the area of colloquial speech, folklore, and narration.

      Yes, Jim is actually portrayed as one of the story’s heros, despite him being called (as was common at the time, unfortunately) a “nigger.” I find the term offernsive, too, but I would not ban “Huckleberry Finn” because of it. To do so denies that such things happened (and sometimes still do), and that is trying to re-write history.

      As you point out so well, the tales of Twain (and Dickens) painted a picture of the conditions which existed during times in which they lived. People should reread “Huckleberry Finn” and especially Twain’s preface:

      “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”

      As to Glenn Beck and Ayn Rand … I agree with your statement: “If one takes the time to read people you otherwise would find not to your specific political or social sphere, one might be surprised to find the depth of the experiences shared …”

      I read voraciously … often things I disagree with. My comments about those two specific cases had nothing to do with their political belief, but were based on my opinion of their writing talent … or particularly in Ayn Rand’s case, the lack of it.

      Again, my OPINION.

      I read Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” too, but didn’t find it something I wanted to read again.

      You obviously don’t care for the writing of Stephen King … but he is an excellent storyteller and a lot of what he wrote (“The Body” … “Shawshank Redemption” … “The Green Mile” … “The Long Walk” … “The Shining” … “Rage” … to name a few) are not books of alien monsters, but stories of the human condition.

      The dark side of it, often, and not bedtime reading for young children, but certainly stories that deserve and, in some cases, need to be told, every bit as much as “Huckleberry Finn” … just because they make us think.

      As always, thanks for writing Mary. I respect your opinion, too, even when we disagree … because your comments are always interesting and thoughtful.

      Love you right back.

      Like

  2. bookshelfbattle Says:

    Bad reviews aren’t something that will make the big boys like Steven King or James Patterson lose any sleep over. They do affect indie authors more – they’re basically small entrepreneurs, starting a little online business, selling their works on Amazon or other services, and I’d imagine when an author pours his/her heart and soul into a work and someone writes, “THIS SUCKS” so that now everyone who took the time to look at your book as a potential buy will read, “THIS SUCKS” – I’m sure that can be very frustrating.

    Another problem is that opinions about entertainment will always be subjective. What one person finds brilliant will be despised by another reader.

    It would be great if readers who don’t like an indie work would maybe give an indie author a break, but on the other hand, such is the world we live in.

    I’m not an indie author yet, I do hope to be one someday if traditional publishing doesn’t open its doors to me. Personally, I feel like when an author writes a book, there are many directions the characters might take, many different possibilities that could happen. The author makes the best choices and puts characters on the path he/or she feels is most viable. As long as the book isn’t riddled with spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, doesn’t look like it was written by a 2 year old, then it would be great if readers could give the indies a little credit just for putting themselves out there and making a go of it.

    But alas, criticism will always happen, and I feel the worst thing an author can do is get into an argument with the criticizer. “Fake it till you make it,” as they say. Steven King probably flicks off bad reviews the way a big dog flicks off a flea. Indies should do the same, even if they are just tiny purse dogs at the moment.

    Like

    • Ron Herron Says:

      Interesting, true points. An author has to take negativity well, and not let it upset you. Just as in life, no one is ever going to agree with your choices 100% of the time … nor should you always agree with theirs. You are both entitled to opinions.

      You’re right. The worst thing you can do is take criticism as a point for argument. If done well (as in the example above) you can learn a lot from critical comments. If done poorly, or crassly, the best they deserve is to be ignored.

      If you hope to be an author, the best advice I can give you is read everything you can … and write. Wake up tomorrow and do it again. Never stop.

      Good luck.

      Like

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