Let’s be honest – when you spend hours, days, weeks, even years writing a story, you tend to get personal about it. When someone says, “I don’t like it.” It is hard not to translate that into, “I don’t like you. You’re a horrible writer. You’re a worthless human being. Why are you trying to write? You’re never going to amount to anything. Go jump off a bridge.”
One of the first things that any new writer or aspiring writer needs to do is to be able to separate herself from their story.
A good writer writes from the heart. I do. (Which is probably why I haven’t gone anywhere XD). And I pour myself into any project that I’m working on. My characters are extensions of myself. The story is a part of me – it all comes from my, my heart, my head.
I know how difficult it is to separate yourself from your novel; it’s a difficult step to realize that a critique of your story IS NOT a critique of you.
In one of my graduate-level workshops, I did my critique of this girl’s piece just like I would do any other. I included my thoughts on the “dramatic climax” of the piece, which lacked in depth and made the “bad guys” very bland and one-sided.
Well, turns out this story had been written from a personal experience of hers, and she was very, very, VERY offended at my critique. To her, I was defending the villain of her story – someone that in real life was a villain in her eyes – and calling her story stupid. (No, I didn’t drop that word. I’m not a “nice” person, but I’m no meanie when it comes to someone’s story.)
To be honest, the whole story had a very “trailer park high school drama” thing, and her reaction was very… fitting of that same seating. But, that being said –
First, separate yourself from your story. This is why writers will often recommend giving yourself space from a project, like a few months, so that you can come back with fresh eyes. It’s hard to look at your work with objective eyes.
Second, never get mad when someone gives you feedback you don’t like. I’ve been on both sides of the fence – I’ve given feedback that has made writer upset, and I’ve gotten feedback that has made me upset. Be thoughtful when giving feedback, and mindful when accepting it.