Writing is a hard business. We work for months and years creating something that we love and, in order for it to be seen by more than family members, we have to submit it for critiques and possible rejection. It is a refiner’s fire for sure.
Rejection is difficult to take. I mean, every time I submit a manuscript, the thought runs through my head—what if they don’t like it? And sometimes they don’t. It’s a huge letdown. I wanted them to see the beauty of my characters and story and it’s so easy to feel defensive when they don’t. But I’ve learned over the years, that defensiveness doesn’t help me. In fact, it hinders me from becoming the writer I’m hoping to be.
You see, I’ve come to realize that each criticism is a stepping stone to making me a stronger writer. I know, it sounds sort of cheesy, but it’s true. Yet, even with that realization, it all comes down to whether I can be a good student of constructive criticism and rejection, or if I will refuse to hear what is being taught and hide in my defensiveness.
For example, on the other side of the coin, when I was an editor I had several clients who were resistant to change anything in their manuscripts. They would argue with me until the cows came home about why it didn’t need to be changed and how so and so had done it that way and been published, and it was their favorite part of the whole book and they couldn’t possibly delete that.
At first, I would gently try to tell them my reasons. I would explain things over and over. I talked about how different things were weakening the story and that the changes were needed. And still I met resistance. They weren’t ready to be students of constructive criticism and rejection and, as a result, their writing stayed the same.
So, to every aspiring writer out there I would say---feedback is valuable. Don’t limit yourself by being defensive and resistant to change your manuscript. Make yourself ready to be a good student of constructive criticism and rejection. Your writing will improve as experts, critique groups, beta readers, whoever you have critiquing your work comes back with things like, “this didn’t work for me,” or “you have a plot hole here,” and “I didn’t feel like I was in the story, just that I was reading one.” Take all of that constructive feedback and really look at it. Make changes where necessary. Be brutal to your writing, because in the end, you will love the result. Your writing will be stronger and you, as a writer, will have passed the test.
Constructive criticism and rejection are hard teachers, but once you’ve gone through their refining process, I think you can truly say, “I’m a writer.” And you can definitely say, “I’m a better writer than I was.”