I recently had a friend beta-read a portion of the novel I've been slaving over, and I started to read through their comments. First off, I have to say that this is a person I have a great deal of respect for. I've read their work as well, and I have always been impressed by the quality of their writing. I realized fairly quickly just how much I have to learn about writing well. It's really a daunting feeling, to see just how much there is I should know but don't. It got me to thinking about my own writing process, about how many things I'm not doing that I probably should be doing. I went through all the usual arguments. Maybe this person is just being opinionated. No, thats just writer's ego. This editor has said quite blatantly that its nothing personal. Maybe she doesn't understand me, my muse, my writing. Well, then thats an obvious indicator that I'm not writing well enough, isn't it? In the end, all of the arguments I could come up with against the editor's advice point to the fact that I need to improve my writing level.
Now I could decide to quit, because to be honest, the amount of change I feel like I need to make is really scary. But that's merely my own self confidence taking a hit. Maybe the story I'm trying to tell isn't really as good as I think it is? This is a sign that I need to show this world to the reader, invite them in, and make them believe why my story is worth telling. Because one thing the editor did say enough times is that there is something there, but she couldn't really feel it no matter how much she wanted to. That points to a lack in the writer, not a lack in the story itself. After taking some deep breaths and really understanding what was being said, I realized this is just another step I have to take if I want to become a serious writer.
I bring this up not to vent about my own slight disgrace, but to talk about how we as writers deal with rejection or criticism. I've read an insane number of blogs and posts that talk about queries being rejected, agents being harsh, publishers being rude. This may be true. The problem with that argument is this. If your writing is really that good, how is it possible that so many (arguably) respected people in the industry can't see it? At some point (just as in so many other areas of our life), we need to take responsibility for our own writing. That doesn't necessarily mean that what we're writing is crap, but criticism doesn't have to be the bane of our existence either. We need to evaluate information we receive about our writing with the same critical eye that we expect from everyone else. And we need to be willing to realize just how much we don't know, coupled with a willingness to fill that gap in our own knowledge before sending our work out again.
So how do you deal with criticism, or the realization that you have more work to do?