Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” If I were to give one piece of advice to a budding writer, it would be to pursue your dreams, but be careful and wary of the critics.
Every writer in their career has experienced a bad review whether it has been on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble or on another book seller site. We live in a world where everyone who reads—be it a recipe, novel, back of a cereal box, or the newspaper—believes he or she has the skills and expertise to critically review a piece of written work. These individuals may never have written any fiction or nonfiction in their life. They may never have written a simple letter or read a classic author or an instructional book on writing. But in a world where dissension seems to overshadow the need for harmony and goodwill, you will encounter unpleasant folks who are eager to offer callous comments and opinions.
When I submitted my first novel, I received a letter from an agent telling me everything that was wrong with my manuscript. This person will never get stars for being positive, helpful, or polite. Needless to say, I was discouraged--since all my life I’ve been a writer and have written for radio, television, education and industry. So what did I do with the manuscript? I shoved it in a drawer to collect dust.
For ten years, I refused to return to novel writing, but instead continued to write short stories, many of which won awards and were published for decent money. Finally, one day, I asked myself: If I can write well enough to write short stories, why was I so horrendous with longer pieces? Or was I? I decided to buy some books on fiction writing and start a new novel. This time, I discounted all the negativity and decided to believe in the beauty of my dreams. Since then, I have four books published in historical and contemporary genres; and I’m working on my fifth.
Along the way, in this often tiring and tedious process, I learned rejection and constructive critique are part of the whole writing process. I learned to receive helpful comments without allowing them to destroy my ego. I discovered I can wallow in a gloomy mood and gobble down a chocolate candy bar when criticism strikes, but only for a brief moment. Then it’s time to move on and use or discard the advice. I also learned a writer should always, always, get more than one opinion of his/her work before deciding to trash it.
Remember to be wary. All criticism might not be noble or valuable. It may merely be from a disgruntled person who selected the wrong book. Maybe the buyer didn’t understand the genre or couldn’t identify with the storyline, characters, or plot. . .or maybe he/she might simply be a self-proclaimed critic who reads a lot of cereal boxes.