Dealing With Criticism & Negative Reviews

Sure, criticism and negative reviews aren't fun to get. But negativity isn't necessarily bad. Negative reviews and comments, even though they might bruise our egos in the short-term, can actually help us become much better creators in the long run. Plus, there are a few things to keep in mind that can help you shake off the bad feelings that come with negative reviews a lot more easily. So let's go!

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First, cultivate a healthy creator mindset.

Dealing with negative reviews and criticism is a lot easier if you've already put yourself into a healthy mindset beforehand. In order to do that, you should remember the following:

It's okay to make mistakes or create something that isn't all that great. Nobody is perfect, and anyone who says otherwise is delusional or lying. Everyone, even world-famous creators, makes mistakes or creates a mediocre product now and then. You will, too - and that's okay. It's just part of the game. What's important is that you keep on trying, and try to do better where you failed before.

You are not your creation. It can be easy to take negative reviews of what we create personally, particularly if we've poured a lot of effort into them. However, those who leave negative reviews of your work typically don't care that much one way or the other about you as a person - it's just the story they're displeased with. You are largely a non-issue in their minds. Consider that when people start talking about the worst fanfictions they can think of, what they usually talk about is how bad the plots and characters are. Rarely do they actually mention the authors - unless the authors have been spectacularly ornery, inappropriate, or haughty.

Negative reviews can be learning opportunities. Some reviews are just mindless vitriol, but some of them contain things that you should really pay attention to because they bring light to problems you really should be trying to fix.

Know how to get the most out of your criticism & negative reviews (and those who leave them).

Criticism and negative reviews come in varying degrees of usefulness. Some people will spell out exactly what they found displeasing about your work and why they found it thus. Some people leave uselessly vague responses like "that was really bad" or "your character is a Mary Sue." And then there are reviews that are downright mean.

When it comes to dealing with vague or mean feedback, it's important to keep things in perspective. First, most people are very bad at critically analyzing their thoughts and feelings to figure out why they didn't like something, and so end up leaving the aforementioned uselessly vague comments. Readers are also imperfect human beings, and as such, they often let their emotions get the better of them when they feel particularly disappointed in a story - thus the mean reviews. While you might be tempted to respond in kind or to go on the defensive (EG, "My character is not a Mary Sue because (reasons)!" or "Ugh, go take your negativity somewhere else!"), this won't do you any good. It's not going to convince the reviewer of anything, nor will it help you improve your skills.

If any readers are truly nasty (EG, leave personal insults and/or threaten you), feel free to ignore them and/or report them to the site administration as appropriate. Otherwise, try to engage your readers: ask them to try to explain what happened (or didn't happen) that made something feel off, and why. (You might give your reader a link to Basic Advice For Giving Useful Feedback To Creators, which has some tips to help people sort out and express why they feel salty over a story in a comprehensive and useful manner.)

If they elaborate and tell you what they didn't like, you can ask yourself whether what they pointed out are actually problems for the type of story you're trying to write. If someone says your character seems like a Mary Sue for ending up in a relationship with a canon character, and the very point of your story was to write a romance between them, then the criticism doesn't apply and you don't need to change anything. However, if the reader says that your character seems like a Mary Sue because the relationship feels too contrived for one reason or another, you may want to make some changes.

Likewise, if you're trying to write a lighthearted comedy about vampires and werewolves, tag it as "comedy" rather than "horror," and someone comes along and complains that they're not ripping everyone limb from limb like "real" vampires and werewolves would do, you can ignore it. But if a reviewer complains that the humor feels too contrived or that the protagonists seem too mean-spirited for the jokes to really be funny, you might want to change something.

Also take a look at:

How To Recognize Bad Creative Mentors
A Few Things You Really Need To Know As An Anxious Writer And/Or Artist
How To Recognize A Moral Abuser
How To Recognize Gaslighting

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