How not to take criticism of your writing personally

Lorene Albers

by Lorene Albers

When I finally—with much hallelujah and a flourish—finished the manuscript of my first book, I handed it to a friend, who is a professional editor, and felt a wave of shock and nausea when she returned it to me drenched, so it seemed, in red ink.

My emotions ran the gamut, from anger and disbelief to outright resentment. I was certain that I had picked the wrong editor since it was obvious to me that she just didn’t “get it.” She had deleted things I thought important, moved paragraphs to where they shouldn’t be, added more question marks than there are elephants on a game reserve, and altogether had a field day with the ink pot.

I was crushed.


The editor had deleted things I thought important, added more question marks than there are elephants on a game reserve, and altogether had a field day with the ink pot.


The next time we met, I questioned her about the slaughter of my masterpiece. I concluded that she simply didn’t understand what I was trying to say.

Her reply?

“If I didn’t understand it, as you say, what makes you think any other reader would?”

Bingo. She was right.

The bottom line: don’t view questions or comments as personal criticism. Without them, you’d never see the weaknesses, errors, or omissions in your story. Make sure your reader understands. Explain why the part about Aunt Trish’s yellow polka dot dress is important to your story. Tell your readers that she went two entire months without Big Macs just to fit into it. Only then is the dress important!

All I’m saying to you, my fellow writers, is please, please let your readers know what you think, what you like or don’t like, what you understand, and what makes you say “WTF?!”


Explain why the part about Aunt Trish’s yellow polka dot dress is important. Tell your readers that she went two entire months without Big Macs just to fit into it.


Most importantly, don’t look at critiques as a personal affront. Instead, welcome them as stepping stones that elevate your writing to the next level.

And if it’s your opinion someone is seeking, keep in mind that always praising another’s writing does a disservice to the writer—and to yourself—and does nothing to improve anyone’s prose.

An honest (but respectful) opinion is what helps all of us, especially when it comes from a source that we trust.

Lorene Albers is a Tier III Newcomer Author at ChapterBuzz, and the author of an autobiographical fiction work-in-progress tentatively called No Malice Intended.

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