The best writers are those who listen to criticism. It’s not always easy to offer our work up to the scrutiny of others. Some of their comments may be balm to our ears and ego but others will make us want to throw our work out of the window and go on a bender or hide under the duvet.
I choose the second option but when I eventually crawl out from under the duvet, I take a deep breath, examine my work against the points my critics have made and start editing.
I’ve been involved with a number of critique forums in one form or another and have found the weakest writers tend to be those who argue when someone makes a comment they don’t like and defend their work so furiously they don’t hear what is said. Their work tends not to develop.
Having said that, not everyone is an ideal critic for a particular writer. Stephen King talked about the importance of finding one’s ideal readers. We all have our own style, which isn’t going to please everyone. Some will condemn the very thing that others admire.
Being a good critic is an art in itself, but however objective we try to be, we are influenced by our preferences. Writers write differently, and readers read differently. As a reader, I don’t demand loads of back-story or endless detail, so I tend not to write it, but many readers want this and they tend to be my harsher critics. They may not be my ideal readers but they make useful comments for me to think about.
I admit my work has sometimes invited criticism of glitches so conspicuous, I’m embarrassed to think I wrote them and rewrite immediately. But sometimes I stick to my metaphorical guns and don’t alter a thing, although not without considering the points raised. I once received some searing remarks on a rejected flash fiction piece, decided against any changes and sent it off again to have it shortlisted in a competition.
I recently read some work from my early writing days. It has improved thanks to those critics, so I say thank you for the support even if some of your remarks led to my duvet and me becoming too well acquainted.