Published April 30, 2020 by swankivy

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Authors should definitely be able to take criticism. Even if it’s not delivered in the politest of ways, see what you can do with it. And it’s usually true that someone more experienced than you will have important things to say.

But it’s YOUR work. You know it better than anyone.

If someone tries to use their standing in the publishing world to change your message, to change your work’s essence, because they think you SHOULD be saying and caring about something else, you need to step back and consider that maybe despite the person’s credentials, they are wrong. I’ve met people like this before who don’t understand the difference between disliking something/not being interested in something and that thing being objectively bad or worthless.

Why do you write?

If following someone’s advice would require you to abandon that reason, back away slowly. You don’t want anyone like this to get the idea that they own your path to publication, audience, legitimacy, or confidence. It’s especially suspicious if they get angry at you or shame you when you won’t take their advice. The same as younger or less experienced people do need to take advice from people who know what they’re talking about, older or more experienced people need to make their advice accessible. If a newbie writer won’t take a more established writer’s advice and the established writer’s response is to explode and act insulted, that’s super inappropriate. No one should be that invested in pushing their own agenda. It makes it very clear the established author expects to be obeyed. “Obeying” a mentor isn’t how we’re supposed to learn our craft over here.

I never felt entitled to tell someone else what their work should be. I have at times told them that I had concerns about very central aspects of their book–like what disturbing message people might take away from it if they don’t reconsider an important aspect, or why a character’s motivation doesn’t feel real to me. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a right way to write what they wrote. But my way of handling that is to tell them why I reacted the way I did, not hound them to change it and sneer that they will never be published if they don’t obey me.

And disagreeing with someone, even an elder in your community, is not the same thing as not being able to take criticism. If you really know what you wanted to write about and your work is the result of caring about that thing the way you do, you will know what’s best for it.

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