How to Use Criticism and Rejection in Your Writing Career (To Write & Have Written)

This episode is on evaluating and handling negative feedback in a positive, productive way. Hint: It’s way more than, “Grow a thicker skin.” Negative feedback can hurt, but let’s talk about how to make it useful — or at least not harmful.

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How to Use Criticism and Rejection in your Writing Career – powered by Happy Scribe

Good evening.

It is Tuesday,this is To Write And Have Written,

and I am Laura VanArendonk Baugh,and we have a cool topic tonight.

So there we go.

Fresh start, like we talkedabout last week, fresh starts.

OK,this week’s topic

is one that I’m pretty excited aboutbecause this is something that I think

a lot of people actually probably needto hear and need to implement.


we’re going to talk about how to use

criticism and rejectionin a positive and productive way.

And that is way more than,

you know, “just get over it,”which is what we hear a lot.

So but since we’re jumping in, thisis the week that we talk about craft.

It is.

You know, we have weekly themes.

So this is craft week.

Yes, Pup Cam.

And look, guys,

my husband brought me dinnerlike 15 minutes before my

life, so I’ve got French fries.

So the pup cam comes loadedwith fries this week.


OK, video is lagging.I apologize.

I’m sorry.Just not even

not even unusual tonight,like with everything piling up.

So anyway, so if you came in, if you’rejust joining us for the first time.

Fantastic.Thank you.

Welcome.This is Craft Week.

We’re going to talk about a craft theme.

By the way, if you’ve got ads on the wayin, subscribers do not get ads and you can

get a free subscription throughyour Amazon Prime account.

So there you go.Now you know that.

So let’s start talking about criticismand rejection and what to do about it.

So I see all the time people say, “Oh,

if you want to be a writer,you need to grow a thick skin.

That is a thing you need to do.”

And that’s, it’s just not great advice.

I mean, for a number of reasons.

First of all, “just get over it”

is not a helpful plan of attack, OK?

Oh, no, more lag than talk.

Oh, guys, I’m so sorry.I don’t know.

There’s nothing I can do about it.

Oh, let’s see here.

Let’s see if there’s anything I canshut down to make this better.

I’m so sorry,

please hold.

Oh, yeah, there’s like a big oldbackground update that’s trying to take

place, so hold the phone,let me see if I can get get that off.

OK, and I’m going to dosome pausing over here.

I’m so sorry, we’re goingto we’re going to try this again.

All right.

Fresh start, it is Tuesday,

this is To Write And Have Writtenand I’m Laura VanArendonk Baugh and this

is Craft Week and we are going to talkabout criticism and rejection and how

to handle them in positiveand productive ways.

How is that, good restart?Good restart.

OK.All right.

Oh, man.

I am so sorry about the bufferingand the lag.

And guys, I’m sorry.I really am.

I will do my very best to.

You know what, if this just completelybombs out, I should be recording it

locally and I’ll be able to just uploadedto YouTube and you guys should be able

to watch it with less stutterand frame drop there.

So we’ll see.

Well we’ll see how it goes.

Please let me know if it’s improving.

Throw something into the chat.

Free French fries for dogs waiting

patiently, OK,for humans waiting patiently.

Let’s jump back in.

Grow a thick skin or just get over it

is not terribly helpfuladvice because for one thing,

how do I just get over it?

If I knew how to do that,I would already be doing that.

So not as useful.

So thank you, ShyRedFox.

It’s not a stream without a glitch.All right.

So equally bad,

“ignore everything that’snot positive feedback.

Well, then it doesn’t hurt you.And it’s OK.”

No, sometimessometimes criticism is good.

Sometimes criticism helps you get better.

It identifies weak spots that youcan shore up or become better at.

So instead,

we should learn how to evaluate,how to filter

and then how to use negative feedbackin a much more productive manner.


what we’re going to dotonight, I’m going to move through

a series of categories of criticism

and we’re going to evaluatehow to filter those,

how to identify them and then whatto do with them based on what they are.

So excuse me,there’s what criticism

to even accept and then what to dowith it if we choose to accept it.

So and the reason I’m talking about this

is I know people who havegone into writing slumps.

I know people who have quit writing.

I know people who have unpublished books

that have been alreadypublished and been out

because they got a bad review.

You know, maybe they got a bunch of goodreviews and then they got a bad review.

So they took the book off the market.

I mean, guys, this isthis is too much reaction.

You are putting too muchweight onto this thing.

And this is ridiculous.

And if you were here for the fear ofsuccess episode, jump back a few months.

We talked about, you know,that kind of thing and letting

that completely disrupt youryour productivity, your writing,

the way you view your writing,all of that sort of thing.

So tonight, let’s talk specifically about

negative feedback,getting that criticism and.

Oh, good, it’s working.

Yeah, things are better.

Thanks, guys, for that feedback.

See positive feedback.

OK, so

so again, we’re going to move through somecategories of types of criticism,

negative feedback, bad reviews,that sort of thing.

And then we’ll talkabout rejection as well.

So the firstI’m going to call it an invalid type

of hurtful, of negativecriticism is the hurtful attack.

And when I talk about this,

I’m going to do something that’s a littleunusual for what I usually do

on the stream, which is I’mgoing to tell a story that

in a very roundabout way,

you might be able to put in thecategory of the people who said this.

I don’t think anybody is goingto know them personally and honestly.

I think the odds are better that you willwatch me be struck by a meteor here live

on the stream than that theywill ever see this.

So it’s not that they’re goingto feel called out and hurt.

And what I would like to do is just take

this stuff that happened,use it as a case study to

at least it’s educational and other peoplecan then benefit from it and not be hurt.

And I’m pulling these out becausethey are,

I think, really good examples of stuffthat I hear from other people as well.

So I’m just going to hold theseversions out and talk about them.

So, um, so let’s start witha lot of disclaimer.

Let’s just get to the fun fact.

Everybody has an opinion.

Not all opinions are equally valid

and that is way more controversialstatement than it necessarily should be.

This should be obvious that not

everybody’s opinion is worthequal weight in all situations.

But if you look at how we do things,

look at how people handle stuff around us,you’ll see this is not the case.


my day job and I’m guys, I’m sorry if thestream is being bad again, I’m recording.

We’ll get it sorted.We’ll make it work.

So so my day job, I work in animalbehavior, as some of you know,

I’m good at it.I’m known in this field.

So people will hire me because I have

credentials and I have goodrecommendations and I have referrals.

But then once they hire me,

it’s amazing how many people will push

back against the advice I bringbecause they’re hearing something

different from a completelyuncredentialed source.

Not even kidding, guys,like actual examples.

I am internationally known.

I have bestselling books.

My last international seminar,

which was in 2019 becauseof the world,

sold out twice in a singleday, because it sold out.

They increased the, they got a newfacility to have more seats and

then that facility sold out in a single

day, so I come with some credentials.And then I’ll be talking with a client

and no kidding, they will say,”OK, I hear you.

But I ended up in line next to this guyat the gas station checkout and he told me…”

I’m just like, well, why why didn’tyou hire the guy at the gas station

check out?

And you see that, oh my gosh,we totally saw that in 2020.

But, you know,

things like “Yes,I know that your doctor told you you have

appendicitis and youneed emergency surgery.

But, you know, your cousin totally watched

a YouTube video that says appendicitis isa made up disease

promoted by the lizard people asa means of controlling whatever.”

And, you know, it’s not elitist to saypeople need credibility for their opinions

to carry more weight thansomebody else else’s.

OK, I think that’s a reasonable,reasonable way to put it.

So if I say don’t take advicefrom bad sources, that’s.

You know, there’s not a lot of pushback I

should get on that, that’s a pretty,pretty fair assessment.

So don’t give bad advice orcriticism power it shouldn’t have.

But frequently when that criticism comesfrom certain places,

we’re going to give it more power than itshould have simply because not because

the source is credible, but becausethe source is somebody in particular.

And a lot of times that’s going to be,you know, family or,

you know,let’s just get into it.


I mean, if if I were to say here that,

you know, OK, we’re in a show,we’re talking about creativity,

we’re talking about writingcareers, and that’s nice.

But dance dance isthe only true form of art.

I would probably lose a lotof the following here.

And that’s completely fair because,you know, why would you take writing

advice from somebody who is goingto not even address writing?

OK, so, yeah, ShyRedFox is saying peoplejust don’t always want to listen.


here’s here’s the personalstory aspect of this.

2019, I am invitedto a book signing in another state.

I fly to another state.

I do an all day book signing,and then I fly directly from that book

signing to someplace elseto attend a holiday party.

And everybody knows that I’m coming late

to the holiday party because I’vehad an all day book signing.

So when I arrive,

two people in particular makean effort to say things.

One says that all real authors have huge

book tourswith signings all around the country.

So why didn’t I have a national tour

instead of the signing that Ihad just done that day?

And someone else helpfully piped up

that journaling isfar more important than novel writing

because it’s good for the family and itactually contributes and is useful.

And I’m just like, OK, great, thanks.

So here’s the thing.

Let’s first thing I need to do is,

you know, I’ve got somebody I’ve got two

people here saying that,one, I’m not a legitimate author.

And two, my writing issilly and worthless.

Let’s evaluate where those comments

are coming from and how muchI should let them affect me.



OK, sorry.I think my my chat is way

behind my video,just the way this is working out.

But yeah.

Bridger’s spot on about the “my buddyhad a dog 15 years ago.”


All right.

So the first person, the first person saysthat he knows how

book signing tours workbecause he reads books.

You know, dude, I ride in cars.

This does not qualify me to run

an automotive factory. Like that isyou know, that’s not how that works.

Is this person is this personan expert in the publishing industry?

No, this person is not.

OK, so I just need to keep that in mind.

You know, the thing about journaling ismore important than than writing novels.

OK, let’s just completely ignore any

historical or socialcultural aspect to that.

For the record, novels are hugelyimportant to contributing to society.

You know, if you look at impacts like

Uncle Tom’s Cabin,Ben Hur, Ben Hur basically

remade how we consume media,invented merchandising,

tie in marketing and all that kindof stuff that is mainstream today.

But yeah, let’s just ignore all that.

Had this person

carefully evaluated my work and foundit wanting? She had not.

Okay, this was a statement purely thereto devalue and to be hurtful.

You know, would you just walk upto somebody who is opening a dental clinic

and be like, “I think oncology is so muchmore important than dentistry?”

Why would you do that?

You know, you just,that’s normally the kind of thing that you

would dismiss if you sawsomebody do it to somebody else.

But when somebody does it to you,

especially coming from particular sources,we want to internalize that a lot more

and we want to give it moreweight than it actually deserves.

So here’s what I’m telling you.

The purpose of those statements,those are intended to be hurtful, right?

They are intendedto be personally hurtful.

Whether or not I let thempersonally hurt me is one thing.

That’s a whole another thing that we’renot going to address right here.

But from a professional level,do those have any bearing?

Do they have any ground at all to affecthow I look at my writing and my career?

No, because they’re not about my writing.

They’re not about my career.


it’s not a criticism of my work,

so I shouldn’t allow it to beto affect my work.

I hope that makes sense.

So just think like, you know,

Has this person, the first thing to ask about

criticism, has this person earned the rightto have their opinion matter?

If this person is saying, well,this is true about the public publishing

industry, but this person has no expertisein the publishing industry,

that that person actually can’t commenton how the publishing industry works.

Now, if if a reader says in a review,

“I read this book and I didn’t like it,”totally factual review.

They read the book.

They didn’t like it.

Great, their opinion is valid

because their opinion is,they can back it up.

They actually didn’tlike the book they read.

So then we can take that kind of thing

and we can address that, we’lldo that a little bit later.

But the first thing to do is just say, OK,

is this opinion, does thisopinion even get to have weight?

Is this person qualified to offer critique in this area?

So and I bring that up just because I hearso from so many authors who,

you know, my family, my friends,whatever, said this about my work.

They don’t like the genre that I’m doing.

They don’t believe that fiction isimportant, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And I see that a lot in my online groups.

And so start with do these opinions.


I’m not saying they of course,they don’t affect you at all.

Yeah, it would be greatif you believed in me.

It would be great if you thought Iwas a contributing member of society.

It would be great.OK, all of those are valid things to wish

were true, and it’s fine to behurt that your family or friends don’t buy

into that something that isthat important to you.

But is that a criticism of your work?No.

OK, so just let keep that over

in the personal container,which is sadly there and necessary,

but it doesn’t get to come overand affect what I’m doing professionally.

All right.

So, yeah, I guess the short versionof that is, it’s really sad when somebody

says something hurtful, but don’tgive it more credit than it’s worth.

OK, all right.

So then the next category is

the well-intentioned criticismthat’s not applicable.

OK, so at least we’re moving

from intentionally hurtful to I’m tryingreally hard, but I just don’t have

the ground to be applicableto your particular situation.

And one second while I grab a drink here,

this is what happens when you bolt food,like right before you go live.

All the salt and everything.

So an example of this and I’ve said before,I’ll say it again, I love my critique group.

And so this is in no way throwing shadewhen I talk about critique group dynamics.

But not long ago I submitted pages

to my critique group for a monthlyexchange.

I got my pages back.

I got a bunch of great feedback.

I mean, the kind of feedbackthat gets you excited to do the revisions,

to do the edits and to keepgoing after the rewrites.

So you’re like, oh,this is this is great drama.

This is some of the best dialoguewe’ve seen in the entire series.

You know, when do we get ourthis character fan club t shirts?

You know, it’s just the best feedbackfloating on air.

And one set of pages that came backthat said, none of this works at all.

OK, you know what?

Like, I just need to take that.

And I’m not even upset by that becauseI know where this is coming from.

This is a critique partnerwho does not write in my genre.

He does not read in my genre.

He has completely different sets of reader

expectations for his own work becausewe do fairly different things.

I know in the past stuff he’s told me,you need to change this.

This will really turn readers off.

But then when that book was published,

readers said, this is oh,this is my favorite chapter,

i cried during this,you know, that kind of thing.

And so this is just information that Ineed to use while I’m filtering this.

Some of his critiques and feedback arespot on. What his stuff is good for,

it’s very, very good for.

But when it comes tobig differences in genre and reader

expectations, I need to be awarethat he’s not always my audience.


to be perfectly honest,I am 100 percent certain that sometimes he

goes home, looks at my notes on his pagesand says, the freakin heck?

What is this? Because Iwrite in a very different genre.

I have very different setsof reader expectations.

And by the way, I do endorse

having critique groupswith a variety of genres in them.

You know, you don’t want to justhave everybody doing one thing

because I think it’s actually helpfulto have that kind of cross pollination.

So that’s real.

But what I need to do is, I need to be awarethat, you know, the person who

is reading my kind of stuffand the person who is not reading my kind

of stuff will have different opinionswhen we’re doing the critique.

And one of them is more in tunewith my audience than another.

And that’s not again,I’m not blowing them off.

I’m not saying, oh, he’s never right.

And I’m definitely not sayinghe’s a terrible person.

OK, what I’m saying is some of hiscritique is more directly relevant

to my project, to this particular project,and some of it is not.

And some of mine is more relevant

to this particular project, to hisparticular project, and some is not.

Hello.Has it been too long since a French fry?


All right, look.

There you go.All right.


All right, I get it back here,

so I try when I’m working with somebodyelse to give caveats,

especially if it’s something like this isout of my genre, this is out of my field.

This is where I’m notfeeling as comfortable.

I was helping someone a few weeks ago,and I’m like, yo, here’s what I think.

But you’re talking about women’s fiction,and that is not what I do.

OK, I do angsty.

I do angsty epic fantasy.

So I’m not I’m going to give you my — I’mgoing to give you my opinions,

but I try to specifically say takewhat’s worthwhile and ignore the rest.

OK, but I might forget to say that.

Or maybe I just overreach and assumeI know more than I do.

And it’s definitely true that noteverybody remembers to say that even if

they think it, and some peopledon’t think about even saying it.

So having that filter of knowinghow to how to select out…

“There needs to be a specificsubgenre for angsty epic fantasy.”

Yeah, yeah.That’s where I need to be.

That’s where I live.

So the short version is, just know howto filter, you know,

be able to look at the criticism that’scoming in and say, yes,

this is valid criticism and it appliesto my particular project or this is great

criticism for a different genreor for a different project.

But it’s not going to work for this one.

And again, that’s it, you know,

advice that’s coming in that’s verywell intentioned.

It’s just not applicableto that particular project.

All right.So, OK,

and I’ll throw in with that.

This is just, I guess, my littlewriter beware moment.

Not all editors who will take your moneyfor editing are actually great editors.

You know, this is a place where it’sreally helpful to do your homework.

And if you hire an editor,

you know, make sure that you getsomebody who’s going to be,

you know, good at editing what you need.

Again, angsty epic fantasy and women’sfiction probably shouldn’t share the same


Not to say that somebody couldn’t do both,but make sure you have somebody

with experience in both and understandsthe readers’ expectations for both.


All right,

very close to that category is

the well intentioned but notapplicable review or criticism.

I’m going to put in herethe review that is just crack.

And we’ve all seen these.

If you’re published,you’ve probably had these.

If you haven’t had one yet, it’s coming.

OK, I don’t think anybody actually getsaway with not getting one of these.

But these are the reviews that justthat just make no sense.

Like, you read the review and you’re like,did we read the same book kind of thing?


So I have something just going to sharea couple of my favorites with you because

they’re just great and honestly,I take pleasure in these.

It’s a sick, twisted pleasure,but I do take pleasure in this.

One of them said my work was a badHarry Potter knockoff because it featured

an English boarding school,not as like a prominent thing,

but one of the settings in there wasan English boarding school.

And I think, like you do know that Etonpredated Hogwarts, right?

Like, is that sort of thing.

Like it’s not a story about a bunchof kids doing stuff at the school.

That’s not what it is.OK, fine.

Sure, it’s great.I’m a bad Harry Potter knockoff because

you weren’t aware that the Englishboarding schools existed.

Cool.That’s fine.

But one of my favorites was

a review that said, “This was wellwritten and I enjoyed the story.


everything she has in here about vampiresociety and how vampires do things,

it’s wrong because that’snot how real vampires do it.”

And there’s two ways to interpret this.

One is that this reader

is deeply invested in a particular vampirefranchise with a large body of lore.

And she experiences dissonance whenevershe encounters worldbuilding that doesn’t

fit with that previouslyread body of vampire lore.


you know, so that she just doesn’t likethe fact that that doesn’t match.

Or, I’m just really bad at it, you know,watching vampire documentaries

and determining what biologistsknow about vampires.

Either way, I’m just like,hey, great, good story.

It’s wrong about actual vampires.


leave these reviews up.

I see people

sometimes get really upset by that,

by the crack reviewsand they want Amazon to take them down

and they want people to votethem down or whatever, guys, no.

I say leave that because

if nothing else,if that’s your bad review, if you know,

if people are looking — because I’m oneof those people, I always look for,

the bad reviews on stuffthat I’m considering buying.

Right.And if I look for the bad reviews and I’m

like, wow,that’s a crazy person who doesn’t like

this, it actually makesthe product look better.

Okay, so leave the reviews.

So excuse me,

I’m going to jump back and catch upwith the chat for a little bit just

because we do have such a huge gapwith the video in the chat log right now.


ShyRedFox is mentioningthat filtering is super important.

She got advice that conflicted and neithersuggestion worked for the manuscript.

This happens a lot and we’re actuallygoing to talk about that later, too.

But being able to filter and identify,you know, this is applicable.

This is noteven with the best of intentions.

You know, your intentionsdon’t make competency.

So that thank you, Bridger,

for being a little “like howreal vampires do it” with me.

Yeah, that was definitely one of those.I just looked at it.

That was like, thank you.

I needed a laugh today.That’s good.

All right.OK, yeah.

KT Ivanrest.Kate’s pointing out

she saw similar reviews on a bookwith unicorns, many low star ratings

because the unicorns did not behavelike unicorns are supposed to.

Part of this is, you know,if you’re in a genre,

there are genre expectations,

like if you’re going to have a romance,but it’s not going to have a happy ending,

may not want to putthat into romance category.

Readers are not goingto be cool with that.


so there are certain

times when you just need

to be aware that it’s might beeasier to go with the flow.

But on the other hand,I mean, I’ve had crazy stuff show up

in my books like, I’m never going to getover the one that was really angry about

the gay ménage a trois that Isnuck into a book.

And I’m like, I, I wrote that.

I’m pretty sure there’s none in there.

Definitely not happening on the page.

I don’t know, did you readanother book and confuse it with mine?

I have no idea.

OK, sometimes you just let stuff go.Reviews are out of my control.

My job is to write a really good book,then I get out of the way.

And if people are, again, leave the crack

reviewers up, guys, if they’re mad because it didn’t behave

like a real unicorn,let that sell books to people who are

interested in seeingunicorns that are a little bit different.

OK, yeah.

All right.

Yes, yes.

But wolves and wolf stuff are real.

So yeah, this is where Imaybe it’s a double standard.

I don’t know.

But if you’re going to havewolves in your book and

and, you know,

guys don’t go into the real lifeanimals and then get your animal behavior

wrong because the person who worksin animal behavior will judge you.

Let me just say that.All right?

Yeah, I do.

I have answered many emails for peopleasking about animal behavior and how

to make their wolf packs morerealistic or how to, you know,

their creature that they’veinvented, how to make it give it a more

plausible ethology, guys, find an expertwho’s happy to help you seriously.

Nerds love to talk about their stuff.

OK, but.

There we go, OK,

sure, all right, next up.

OK, sorry, I just I was heading

to the next category,but then I got Grace’s chat

she had one reviewer tell her that whenthe food supplies get low in the story

they should just eat brains.Not a zombie story.

Look,brains have been a historical food product

less commonly eaten now, in this North American culture.

But did happen much more frequently.

However, if you’ve got brains,

you probably have something elsethat the brain had been in.

So maybe

start with the whole body.

Yeah, OK, sorry, really fun stuff.

You know, I think, people,you can’t control reviews.

I did another one when I think I literallylaughed out loud when this came out.

They were angry that my character was

anticapitalism and used quoteunquote “salty language.”

And I read that like this is a Christmas

story where she actively,overtly monologues about the importance

of relationships overmaterialism, and not letting

you know greed hurt the environmentand hurt people and hurt society.

And there’s nothinglanguage in the story.

I don’t, like the word “crap” doesn’teven make it into the story.

There’s literally nothing. I don’tthink “darn” or “heck” are in the story.

I don’t know where you’re getting this.But you just let it go anyway.

All of that to say, let’s get back to categories.

So the next step, so there’s all

the things like,you know, the crazy stuff.

Now, what if I get

criticism that is valid,like there is a review and it complains

and I look at it and I go, oh,that’s a fair complaint,

or I get criticism on my storyfrom critique partners.

And I’m like, “oh, how dare you be accuratewhen you say this is needing some work?”

So, yeah, it hurts.

But, you know, this is why wehave that filtration system.

OK, so I go through and I can filter out

the things that don’t matter,that don’t apply.

So then when I get to the ones that do,I can take this now and turn it

into a proactive task list rather thanhaving to sit around or be sad about it.

Because it’s not hurtful.

It’s not personal.

It’s actually here to helpmake my stuff better.

OK, so

I had one review

that I read and the reader said

“as the story started, very strongand a really interesting villain.

But then as we went on through the story,

the villain’s motivationseemed to disappear.

So he was just a cartoonish badguy by the end of the book.”

And I was like, Oh.

So my intention was that I had a villainwho started with a reasonable cause

but got more and more investedin that cause and started making less

and less rational decisions, just gettingcarried away with, you know, the mission.

And so that by the end,he was not thinking clearly, but

I clearly didn’t achieve what I wasgoing for, for that particular reader.

You know, I didn’t make that clear enough

that’s what was happeningfor that particular reader.

So, you know, that’s one where I read

that and I was like, oh, OK,I’m going to make a note of this

for future books that that that kind of Ineed to be careful about writing that kind

of devolution so that peoplecan see what’s going on there.

You know, if I get my critique pages backand my critique partners say they didn’t

understand a scene or they didn’t get thisor they didn’t catch this little plot

point that I was so certain Ihad put in there in a good way.

Yeah, that stinks.But I need to redo the scene.

They’re not telling me this–

you know, my critiquegroup is awesome, OK?

Nobody in there is going to tellme something just to be mean.

They’re going to tell me somethingbecause they want me to succeed.


So so first of all, get yourselfsome trusted critique partners, OK?

But if they give me that informationand here’s the thing.

Like, my work is very,very, very, very personal.

That’s how creativity works, OK?

It’s really personal stuff,but it’s not me.

I am not words on a page.

So if people critique the words on thepage, they are not coming after me.

They’re telling me how to makethe words on the page better.

All right.

And it’s easy to get that confusedbecause, darn it, why is my baby ugly?

Why do you think my baby is ugly?

But that’s a good thing.

So, you know, and sometimes

sometimes this is something where you lookat this as… Just another personal example.

I wrote a scene.

This was actually in an early version ofShard & Shield, and I wrote a scene where

one character verbally eviscerated anothercharacter and humiliated him in public.

And I gave it to some beta readers.

And all the female readers came back with,”oh, terrible worst person ever.

I hope he’s hit by a bus or whatever

the world building in this particular

world’s equivalent of a bus is,”you know, the kind of thing.

And the male readers came back

with literally, “I don’t knowwhy this scene is in here.

Nothing happened.”

And I look at this and I’m like, OK, so.In a broad generalizing sense

women tend to be a little bit betterat picking up that, you know,

social verbal evisceration than youraverage guy does, who tends to be a little

more either we’re cool or we’re chest thumpingand angry. (I’m hugely exaggerating.)

But anyway,

so I can be upset that they didn’t pick it

up when I was trying to dothat subtle evisceration thing.

But that’s informationthat I need to know.


So I rewrote the scenewith a lot more bluntness to it.


ShyRedFox is saying, you know, menand women have very different critiques.

Yeah, it’s and, you know,it’s not like you can draw a hard

line and there is nobleed over, obviously.

But,you know, this is one of those things

where it might be good knowing who isyour audience, who are you writing for?

If my audience — I used to have a tool andit died, so I no longer have this data.

But it was fascinating data when I had it

on who was following me on social media,who was interacting with,

you know, my profiles and

who was clicking on whatthings and all of that.

And I could look and see, OK, for thiskind of work that I do.

My audience is 70 percent female.

They have this political set.

They have this

set of values.

I mean, as far as, you know, social values or financial values or

whatever. It was fascinatinginformation. The tool’s totally dead.

Don’t bother asking me.

They just vanished one dayin the middle of the night.


I’d paid them money.

Anyway, all that to say,

if I know that my audience is 90 percent

female, maybe I can write that way and andnot worry about catching everybody up.

But if I know that I’m writing formen and women both, I want to be more

encompassing in my writing and I’m goingto have to take those critiques.

All right.So.

All right.Oh, great.

Oh, good.So Kate’s got a comment that, “I think

some writers believe every review is validand that they owe every reader because

they feel guilty that the readerspent money on their book.”

Yes.And at the same time, no.

So thank you, Laura.

That was very helpful.


Part of… Let’s jump way back,I don’t even know how many months ago this

was, I don’t know, August,September, I have no idea.

But we were talking about marketing and I

said one of the primary thingsof marketing that people don’t think about

with marketing is I need to filterpeople away from my book.

Marketing is turning somepeople away from my book.


so that’s part of the reason we need to be really targeted and do a good

job of marketing exactly what our book is,because I don’t want you spending money

on my book if you are not the kindof person who is going to like my book.

And it feels so wrong,especially when you’re getting started

and you’re like, I have two readersand one of them is my mom, OK?

And it feels so wrong to to tryto filter people away from your book.

But that is what prevents

that kind of review of, I expected Aand I got B, and I don’t even like B.

Great. Then don’t buy my book.

OK, so

so yeah, that’s a great point.

And it’s just again it’s why we need to put

so much weight on properly identifyingand marketing our book to prevent that.

Now if I have done a great job of saying,I’m writing angsty epic fantasy and you

should only come and pick this up if youlike angsty epic fantasy, and if you love

angsty epic fantasy and you pick up mybook, then yes, I owe you a great book.

OK, yes.

But if you’re into I don’t know,

I’d go back my, my standard,you know, my standard genre.

What I’m trying not to offend somebody

in particular is like, OK,paranormal fly-fishing romance.

This is not an actual genreso I can make fun of it.

But if you had, if that is what you are

into and you pick up my angsty epicfantasy and then you don’t like it?

Yeah, you probably didn’t.

I’m not going to be upset that you said

you didn’t in your review,because you said the truth.

OK,I’m just going to take a note that I need

to do a better job to make sure I don’thave paranormal fly-fishing romance

readers picking up my angstyepic fantasy book.

All right.We’re going to have more,

Amazon is going to have like eight new

categories by the timewe’re done with the stream.


So where I’m going with that,the wrap up there was that if I have

evaluated the critique,if I’ve evaluated the criticism,

whether it’s in critique on unpublishedpages or a review on published pages,

I need to take that seriously.

I need to take that, apply it,

put it in my, you know,maybe physical notes, who knows?

And make sure that the next thing I do

runs off that, takesthat into account.

OK, so OK.All right.

So then we move into how do wetranslate criticism because

just “I didn’t like this”

may or may not be useful from afrom a how do I fix it standpoint.

And I think it was ShyRedFox who said

earlier she gottwo sets of critiques and they, you know,

they disagreed with each other and neitherof them really worked for her story.

So, yes, that’s super common.

This is, let’s get into

how do we translatethe feedback that we get?

The first thing I want to do is, I hadto go and look it up because I remembered

Neil Gaiman saying this and I had to golook it up and get his exact words,

which are: “Remember,when people tell you something’s wrong or

doesn’t work for them,they are almost always right.

When they tell you exactly what they think

is wrong and how to fix it,they’re almost always wrong.”

OK, so if you’ve got

this is where I think we haveto allow a little bit for skill level.

Like if I’m working with somebody who has

done a ridiculous amount of writingand a ridiculous amount of editing

and maybe is a professional editorand they say this is your problem and this

is what you can do to fix it,OK, I’m going to give that some credence.

But if I hand stuff to a beta reader

who is not a professional editor and theyhand it back and they say,

I don’t know, I didn’t like the scene oror I didn’t like the scene because it was

boring or because itwas slow or or whatever

it is, I need to recognize there’ssomething wrong with that scene.

But they may or may not bethe best source on how to fix it.

OK, I need it, they can identifythat it’s wrong,

but they’re not necessarilythe, it’s not their job to fix it.

Right.They’re not the mechanic.

So — never mind.

Hold everything. Chat’s gottenout of control over here.

All right.

Paranormal fly fishing, people are into it.They want to read it.

Are the fly fishers paranormal?

Are they fishing for paranormal fish?

OK, we’re going to open up a new project.That’ll be.

Yeah.Why don’t you hop up in the chair.


Yeah.So, uh.

Oh gosh.


so I’m seeing potential for astream groupies anthology, that we all come

together and do our ownparanormal fly fishing stories.

OK, there we go.Oh right.

Grace does have paranormal flies,

but I don’t know that anybodyactually uses them for fishing.

You just have paranormal fliesthat hang around in the lake in geysers.

Yeah, that’s the it’s Grace’smagical geyser superpowers series.

So there you go.


good job, guys.All right, excellent.

Let’s get back.We actually have a time limit to wrap up

today, so we’re we’regoing to get back on.

So translating criticism,criticism comes in.

I need to say this is wrong. Again.

You know, the metaphor that I use for this

is if I’m experiencing symptoms,if my leg hurts, you know, whatever,

I go to a doctor,they may or may not diagnose it correctly

on the first try,but the symptoms are real.

OK, just because it may or may not have

an accurate diagnosis doesn’t meanthat the symptoms don’t exist.

So if somebody says, you know,this doesn’t work, believe them.

But then I might have to do some more

legwork to find out, excuse me,how it doesn’t work, so.

Hey, it’s me interrupting myself.So after the stream last night,

I went on to do some more workon a marketing project,

which is involves reading all of thereviews on Goodreads for the series.

And I noticed as I was reading through all

the Shard & Shield reviews,pretty much every review that had

a complaintcomplained about the opening of the book,

which, hey, you know what,I will own that. The first twenty, twenty-five

percent of Shard & Shield isthe weakest part of the entire series.

That’s I will own that. There’sa lot of moving parts.

Yeah, I’ll just own that.

But what’s interesting and whatunderscores what I was saying here

is that while there’s a consistentcomplaint about the start of the book,

it’s expressed in so many different waysthat often contradict each other.

“The start of the book is too slow.

The start of the book is too fast.

It’s too complex.

There’s not enough information.”All of these different complaints about

the same thing, phrasedin entirely different ways.

So if I were to say, oh, man,

these complaints actually contradict eachother, therefore there’s nothing wrong,

I would be missing the boat because I knowthat is the weakest part of the book.

That is, in fact the weakestpart of the series.


if I just relied on this one review,

that will tell me exactlywhat’s wrong and how to fix it.

No, probably what I needto look at the bigger picture.

So, yeah, I just thought that that was

a really clear cut illustrationof that immediately after I got off

the stream. It’s like, oh, man, I shouldhave done this project two hours earlier.

But anyway, that’s it.Thank you.

Now back to me.

So I cannot, unfortunately, give you

the diary, sorry,the glossary of secret critique phrases so

you can immediately read A and itmeans B, you know, whatever.

But some things that I’m just verygenerally going to float out there.

And then by all means, you know,this is not a comprehensive list.

But sometimes if somebody says something

like the plot doesn’t work,what that might mean is

the characterization does notillustrate adequate motivation.

OK, so, you know, the plot might be fine.

I’m just not seeingwhere it’s coming from.

There needs to be more characterizationto make me believe it.

Boring might be actually just a lackof stakes, uneven or slow pacing,

a lack of characterization, you know,that kind of thing, you know.

And so there’s a numberof things to look at there.

If it’s oh, it’s too over the top,it’s too ridiculous.

It might be lacking justification

for actions, character actionsor character abilities.

You know, I need to make thismore plausible in some way.

So, again, there’s numbers of ways that

that you can take that and interpret that.

But what I’m, where I’m going there is,

just because somebody said this doesn’twork, the next sentence of this is how

to fix it might not beyour best place to start.

It might be.

It really might be.

But don’t feel like

if that’s not working,then then all is lost.

And don’t feel like if their suggestionto fix it doesn’t work for your story,

that their comment that it didn’t workwell for them is invalid, because the two

are both good pieces,but they’re separate pieces.

So, OK,

let’s talk about rejection.

So we’re finally getting around to,

I’ve worked through allthe layers of criticism.

And so now we’re going to talk about,

you know, I send it off and Iget my rejection letter back.

And what do I do with that?

First of all, totally fine.

Have a sulk, some hot chocolate,

get some dark chocolate, whatevermakes you feel better, that’s fine.

But here’s what I want to emphasize.

First of all,

rejection is very normal.

Rejection is very, very, very normal.

Rejection is super normal.

I keep a spreadsheet with all

my submissions and then when they comeback as acceptance or rejection letters.

At my peak,the absolute highest point, the year

that I was killing it,my acceptance rate was eighteen percent.

OK, so that’s roughly two acceptances

for every five things, still rejectionsoutnumbering at my pinnacle.

And that’s a ridiculous number, by the way.

So there’s a lot of reasons.

First of all, and the reason I say this,to start interrupting myself and backing

up, but I feel like I wantto slip this in here.

I’ve had several writers tell me, “Well, Isent something out and I got rejected.

So I guess I’m not cut out to be a writer.”


You’re normal.

We’ll get you a membership card, likeyou’re fine.

There you go.It’s totally, if you’re not getting

rejected, you’re not sending stuff out,OK, and you need to be sending stuff out.

So there are many reasons.

What you need to understand is there are

lots of reasons for rejection and notall of them is because you’re terrible.

OK, yeah.

Hey, hey, Laura, is rejection normal?

I might be hammering this a little bitbecause I hear so often for people

who don’t understand,that it is completely normal.

So I’m sorry, I have a hobbyhorse.

Gonna get on it again.

You will hear this again from me.

So other reasons you might get rejected,

other than you’re terribleand you should never write again,

there’s lots of reasons.So ones that I know about,

you know, they really likeyour paranormal fly-fishing romance.

But they just accepted a paranormalfly-fishing romance last week.

And for some reason the market will not

bear more than X numberof paranormal fly-fishing romances.

They’re not going to have more than so many of them in a quarter.

So they don’t pick up yours becausethey’re already full for that genre.

OK, that is pretty common,especially in traditional publishing.

One of my best and most horriblerejections of all time, I submitted

for an anthology, the editor wrote backand said, “Yours was my favorite story

of all the stories that got submitted,but yours was very different

from everybody else’s that got submitted,so it won’t blend in a complete anthology.

So I can’t accept yours, you know,in order to make the anthology work.”

It’s a whole totally valid reason.

I’m so glad he took the time to personally

tell me that he did like my story,but it was a rejection.



It’s just an opinion you just hit somebodyat the right or the wrong moment.

That same story,

that was that one editor’s favorite,I sent it off to a different editor and I

got the harshest rejection letterof my life. It basically said,

maybe you should considertaking some writing classes.


Those, by the way, are extremely rare,like harsh mean rejection letters are

not quite a myth,but they’re kind of legendary.

Like you’re very lucky,you’re not likely to get them.

But but I just but just to say that thiswas literally one person’s favorite story

and another person’sdon’t even bother story.

And so if I had based my responses on just

one of those rejection letters,I would have a completely skewed view.


Shard of Elan.

One of the things that I get inreviews or in comments

or when I see people talking about it

on Instagram or whatever, what peoplemention a lot is the worldbuilding.

Before I decided to go with self publishing,

I was right on the edge betweentraditional and self publishing.

And I went back and forthin my brain a number of times.

I did submit traditionally and

the agent rejected it because itdidn’t have good worldbuilding.

That’s the thing that gets listedall the time in reviews on it today.

So, again,

a lot of times you’re just catchingsomebody at the right or wrong moment.

You know, they have headaches, too.

They have bad days, you know, whatever.

Or, you know, your timing was bad because

they opened yours right after theyopened the other one or whatever.

Here’s the thing.

What we do with rejection,we learn from it.

We use it to filter and make our nextto choose our next step.

If I’m consistently getting rejected

from one market,I am going to look for a different market

that is more amenable to the typeof work that I’m producing.

There are thousands of places to publish things.

Not eventalking about self publishing.

I’m talking about traditional publishing.

Everybody’s got their own particularflavor, their own particular niche.

Find the thing that likes yours.

OK, so I can learnto choose my market better.

I can learn to present my material better.

Maybe I realized that, you know, my,

my synopsis could be stronger,my query letter could be stronger.

OK, so here’s a tip that I’ve seen.I’m just going to pass it on.

This is not original to me,

but when you put together your list of OK,I’ve got twenty places,

I’m going to send this, this query,don’t send it to all twenty places

in the same day, send itto four or five, get those


First of all, if you if you getan acceptance at that point, hurray!

But if you get rejections back,if the rejections all suggest, you know,

the same kind of thing,you have time to fix that,

to take those notes,do some revisions and then send it out

rather than burning your all of yourbridges one in one go before you leave

yourself some room to reviseand send back out.


Oh, thanks, Kate.

“I got a ‘revise and resubmit’ once.

And when I asked if there was anythingin particular I could fix,

she basically said, yeah, I read it againafter coffee this time and it’s fine.”

Guys, agents, editors, they’re humans.

OK, like sometimes.

Sometimes really, really.

It is just about the luckof the moment that you hit them.

All right.That that happens.

So here’s the other thing I will tell you.

If you get a personal rejection letter,it’s a win.

Even if it’s a mean one,like that guy said to me that one time

he took the time to write me a personalrejection rather than using a form letter.

All right.

Like that is the, if you’veseen the meme of, you know,

“you are the worst writer I’ve everheard of,” “but you have heard of me.”

OK, that’s that right there.

But seriously, if you geta personal rejection,

consider that actuallya vote of confidence.

My first rejection ever wasa personal rejection letter.

He took several paragraphsto explain that, “OK, this is good.

This is whyI’m not taking this.”

And I was too dumb and too ignorant

to realize what a huge thingthat was for my personal first

rejection letter from abrand name publisher.

So please don’t get that rejectionand just assume it’s the worst thing that,

you know, it means the worst collectionof things that you can think of.

There’s lots of reasons to get rejectionsand many rejections are actually,

you know, pretty good orcan be helpful for you.


the other thing is, if you remember,I think it was last week that I talked

about using rejections as a goal to ensurethat you’re actually submitting your work.

You know, if I have a goal to get fiverejection letters this month,

that means I have to sendwork out at least five times.

So that’s a great way to make sureyour stuff is going out the door.

And then, oh, no, if one of thoserejections turns out to be an acceptance.

Oh, that’s the kind of failurethat I can live with.

OK, so there you go.

Thank you guys so much for your chat,commentary and feedback and complete

derailments about paranormal fliesand all the glorious things.

I really do appreciate that.

Next week we are going to haveEmilia Blaser coming in talking about

metal casting for writers so we can getthings right when we’re writing about our

historical or fantasy worlds and we’redoing all the lovely casting.

It’s also just going to be really

interesting and cool because she doesreally interesting and cool things.

And she is also

into some re-enactment with,you know, Viking era Norse re-enactment.

So, you know,

if you have specific questions about that,she might be a good person to talk there.

Oh, thank you, ShyRedFox.

And next week is also ourQuitter’s Day achievement party.

And remember, sorry,guys must be present to win.

So make sure you show upon the Twitch stream for that.

And then on the 20th

ShyRedFox and I will be doing a bonus

episode along with SableAradiafor World Anvil,

which is a world building tooltool that I am just getting into.

And so they, who are much more experienced,

are going to spend some time talking methrough it and then you can totally listen

in and ask questionsand get expertise as well.

So, so that’s going to be good stuff.


metal casting, quitter’s day achievement

party, world building and the worldbuilding is going to be on the 20th.

That would be a bonus episode.

And then now at this time,we are going to take a little field trip.

I’m going to hop over and raid, if youguys would not mind coming along.

My sister is starting a stream

in just a few minutes andI want to jump in with her.

So if you if you just sit in the chat,you will automatically be taken over.

If you have not done raids on Twitchbefore, it will automatically carry you

over and you actually get some channelpoints, I think, for doing that.


what are we trying to say?

Yeah, when we’re doing drawings and stuffin the future, it actually

gives you more points for the rafflesand that kind of thing.

So we’re going to try raiding. Raiding, raiding, raiding! And everybody,

just when you arrive,just do random cheers in the chat.

Welcome her.She’s only done a couple of streams,

so we want to make thisreally cool and big, so.

Oh yeah.Sorry, sorry.

ShyRedFox.I was just getting to that.

I don’t have an official raid call.

My first raid that I’ve ever done!So we’re just going to cheer.

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