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How to Learn from Criticism

As a writer, the most important advice for improving one’s writing quality is the ability to accept criticism.

Criticism, even if it is negative or acerbic, is useful if the writer genuinely takes it in his or her stride. I have a few tips I follow when listening to or reading criticism of my work.

If the criticism is in written form and I don’t agree with what it has to say, I let it lie for a while before going back and evaluating it for useful suggestions. That way, I’m really detached and objective when looking at the criticism, and it often leads to positive changes in my work.

If I’m sitting within a critique group, I attempt to do the following (This still needs work, because I’m often unable to stick to these tips. Needs practice, practice!):

– I make notes of all the critiques, no matter if they seem totally irrelevant or unfair.

– I do not defend the point of criticism, I try instead to explain what I was trying to do while writing the thing—-this often turns the whole affair into a discussion, not an argument.

– I try to keep in mind that tastes differ, and try never to argue about matters of taste.

– I try and keep a mental record of the parts I myself find a little weak, and watch out for criticisms regarding these parts.

Criticism is an important resource for a writer, and using it effectively can sometimes make all the difference.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Damyanti says:

    Thanks, Sarah, for your comment, and you know I agree a hundred per cent!

  • Sarah Jensen says:

    lol. I had a girl read my MS and LOVED IT! NOTHING WAS WRONG, DON’T CHANGE A THING! Yeah, that didn’t help much. I enjoyed hearing it, but…
    Then I had a reader that hated it, but he offered great reasons. He helped way more than the first.
    I believe that you take from crits what will help your story. What you agree with, and let the others go. You can’t change it to meet every need. And if you do, it’s no longer yours.
    I did that in the beginning, but had to go back to the original and start over. Now the story is mine, and I only take the suggestions that I know will improve my writing. And sometimes, the story.

  • gingatao says:

    That’s very true. You have to remember you are writing to be read, for an audience, so all the feedback from readers is invaluable.

  • Damyanti says:

    I agree that a biased critic is no good for a work/idea. If someone always likes your work tremendously, or hates your work thoroughly, you have to look out for other options.

    Which is why a short story or novel is shown to several readers for criticism before sending out for publication.

    In any case, it is up to the writer to be objective and judicious enough to choose the right kind of feedback:), and then follow it up with revisions.

  • Anonymous says:

    while this may not be a politically correct opinion, I think- it matters who the critic is, for good or for bad, a biased critic is simply the worst thing that can happen to ideas

    ~Mental Mist