Guest Blogger Lorraine: On How to Deal With Critiques
June 18, 2014
Thanks Lorraine, for guest blogging with this wonderful commentary about dealing with critiques when you don’t see yourself as a writer. Lorraine is a wonder writer who has done many 200,000 plus word stories online, so please give her a hand. We’re very thankful to have her here on Living a Life of Writing.
First of all, I’m really not a writer. I’m trained as an artist and art conservator. So writing fan fiction is something that I’m doing for fun and love of the characters that I’m borrowing. Real writers who study the subject and spend a lot of time practicing their art have all my respect and admiration. Sometimes I feel very presumptive doing this at all, especially since I have a lot of fannish friends who are so incredible at writing and I know that I’m not worthy and shouldn’t really even attempt to be doing this. Despite that, I’ve gone ahead and posted a couple of stories that have, surprisingly, received a fair number of positive comments.
The thing about fan fiction is that it’s supposed to be fun and not particularly serious. When I first started writing, I did it for myself and not for comments but once I started getting them and folks were saying such very nice things about my stories, it was hard not to feel quite wonderful, grateful and rather humble. The ones that were negative are tough to take, however. You want folks to enjoy what you’re doing, especially since you’re doing it for fun, but they don’t always. And when you’re writing fan fiction for fun, it can be disheartening because comments tend to be the only way you’re ‘paid’ for your efforts since you can’t publish or charge money for it.
I usually look forward to the comments but there are days when I receive the notifications with apprehension, wondering what fault this next person will find with my story. I personally respond to every comment, even the negative ones and thank everyone for taking the time to write to me because a lot of people don’t bother to comment. On a website like Archive of Our Own, you can see how many people have hit on your story and when you look at the number of hits compared to the number of comments, you realize how rare it is to get one. So I’m always grateful when someone goes to the effort.
I know there are fan authors who will ignore their comments, which I think is the sign of someone who thinks too much of themselves. After all, fan fiction is not serious literature by any stretch of the imagination- but you can always learn from books such as Sin and Syntax but that won’t help you deal with comments from others. Others will ignore or delete all negative comments but I’ve only done that once when it was clear that the person was trolling. (He or she accused me of copying someone else’s work, which rather floored me.) So I try to look at the negative comments as a learning experience, though it can be tough and a blow to the ego. I always respond to them but I usually try to take a few days to re-read it and think about what they’re trying to say. Quite a few people who read on the Archive are from other countries and often English is not their first language, so I think it’s important to make sure I don’t misunderstand what the person is saying. If I give myself some time to think about and digest what they have to say, I can be fair to them.
Sometimes the negative comments are actually poorly written attempts at constructive criticism, which is why I try to think about them before responding. I always welcome constructive criticism because again, I am an artist, not a writer. There is so much to learn and if someone is going out of their way to take the time to point out something to me, I’m going to listen and thank them for it.
Overall, the comments and those who make them are, in my opinion, wonderful folks and I’m incredibly grateful to them all for letting me know how my story touched them or made them feel something they’d not felt before. I’m beginning to understand, just a little bit, what a real writer must feel like when they’ve done something good. It gives me the courage to try again and keep learning.
I am not a writer, I am an artist, and dealing with critiques takes effort, because I am not wanting to go professional, but at the same time, I want to improve for my fans and my soon to be readers. It’s all meant for learning, and asking people to not critique you is in my mind the easiest way to not become better at what you are passionate about. Fan fiction will only be better as long as people are willing to make it better.
Deal with critiques, the only way to be better is to react in a positive way, and learn from them.