I feel like there’s a lot of advice out there for writers in critique groups on how to give the most helpful, most sensitive, most comprehensive review of someone else’s work. What seems to be lacking is an understanding of how to take and respond to a critique.
I’ve been involved in various writing groups and classes over the last twenty years or so. I have developed a very thick skin. But I remember when it was new to me and I was easier to crush. So my first bit of advice is to ease into the process. Start with some critique exchanges on a heavily moderated site like scribophile.com. Getting feedback while remaining anonymous can help you toughen up in private.
There are some things to remember whenever someone is telling you what they think of your work. Even if your reviewer doesn’t acknowledge it, their opinion is only as valuable as one reader. You are free to disregard anything they say. Keep in mind: they may just not be your audience.
Once you’re brave enough to join an in-person or online critique group – and I believe any writer serious about working toward publication needs to get here – the best advice I can give is to say thank you.
If you have submitted your work for review and someone has been kind enough to spend time reading and offering feedback, be grateful. No matter what they say. Even if you think they’re arrogant and wrong and mean. Say thank you. If you think their advice is bunk, disregard it. But say thank you.
If you get a reputation for arguing with reviewers and getting defensive about your work, it will get harder to find people willing to spend time giving you feedback. The harshest critique of all will have value if only to toughen you up.
Writers need to be tough if they’re going to weather the vague rejections of literary agents, the suggested changes of editors and, harshest of all, the reader reviews on Amazon.