Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What to do When a Writing Critique Hurts

by DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

We writers are a passionate, emotional group. While these traits help us create beautifully worded fiction and non-fiction, nothing slashes the heart deeper than a harsh critique of our work.

We might catch ourselves thinking:
  • “Even an idiot would get this.”
  • “What? You’ve got to be kidding?”
  • “Obviously, my style doesn’t suit you. Too bad. You’re missing out.”

Don’t get all self-righteous on me. We’ve all thought and said the above. Hopefully we didn’t contact the reader and blast him/her. We all learn from our mistakes. 

Never hurts to be reminded what we post online, stays online. 

Not every person reads our creations the same way. We are a diverse people with opinions and views, and ideas. Once a writer understands the freedom of perspective, we are also free to write our brand and what is on our heart about the subject. 

The only attitude we can project is the reader is always right—even when the person isn’t. How do we handle those anger-filled, bitter, and hurtful comments?

Below are a few ideas that will help us maintain our professionalism with poise and respect for ourselves and the reader who made a blunt statement.

What do do When a Writing Critique Hurts
1. Know the difference between a critique and a criticism.
  • Critique: an analysis of a literary work.
  • Criticism: the disapproval of a literary work based on the person’s interpretation or regard of the contents’ faults or errors.

2. The criticism isn’t about you personally but what has been written. 

3. Don’t respond to the critique in the heat of the moment. Give yourself time to process. Don’t get involved in an argument.
  • If the review is vicious or has insulted your integrity, ignore. Delete if possible.
  • If the review simply hurt our feelings, be gracious and thank the reader for their feedback.

4. Read the assessment carefully. Are any of the comments valuable? Do we need to make changes if not in this piece but in the next? Is this an opportunity to grow as a writer?

5. Consider seeking guidance from others in the publishing industry who are highly respected.

6. In some situations an offer to refund the person’s money may be in order, but be careful in choosing that alternative.

7. Refuse to quit!  

Honestly, I choose not to read my reviews, and here’s my reason. If they’re good, I’m afraid I’ll get a swelled head. If they’re bad, I’ll cry for six months. I’m confident my editor will let me know if I need to be aware of a pitfall or a triumph.

What is your best method of handling a harsh critique?


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. 

She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Retreat, and Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson. Connect here:


  1. Diane,

    What a valuable skill writers need to learn--how to handle criticism. After years of working in publishing, I'm still learning it. For our work to improve and for us to grow as a writer, we need to learn (and probably re-learn) this skill. Thank you for these insights.

    Straight Talk From the Editor

  2. I have a pretty thick skin, but occasionally a review will cut deep. I don't mind the ones where it's obvious to me (and I hope anyone else who reads it) that the reader doesn't care for inspirational fiction. Those usually come after a free ebook sale.

  3. Wise words. As we know and agree here, words have power. Even though it is a struggle sometimes, I feel like we need to let the words and power us to continue the upward journey of becoming better writers.
    However, words do hurt!

  4. Amen Ms. DiAnn. We should remember the grace we've received before we give or receive a critique. Well said ma'am.

  5. Since my novels aren’t published yet I’ll refer to harsh critiques from contests I’ve entered. The most critical one stayed that they’d never purchase this novel if it was published, along with other crude comments. This was after receiving some great scores from other judges, and later winning first place in a different contest. My prayer is that this judge discovers how to critique without criticizing, and I, as well as other writers recognize a true professional review over an amateur. We can’t take everything everyone says to heart or we’d stop writing.