in Writing tips

Don’t slam the critics

When an art/book/music/film critic criticises your work, don’t slam them for their opinion.

Just because we (be it artist/author/musician/filmmaker) created something, that does not make others’ negative opinions of our work invalid, and it does not immediately qualify us as critics ourselves.

When we create, how do we know what to improve? How do we know when we have improved? The answer is simple: we compare our work to that of others. We are not looking at others’ work and saying, “How would I do that?” but rather, “What do I feel makes their work better/worse than mine?”

What are we doing?
We are comparing.
We are criticising.
We are using the same tools used by critics; critics who may or may not be fellow creators.

They use the same tools as us. They may not create, they may not like our work, but their opinions are valid. However, this does not make their opinion an objective, irrefutable truth – it is simply framed by their preferences.

We, as creators, have not been granted a ‘divine right’ to criticize and not be criticised. We just have preferences, and if we deny critics their right to an opinion, we deny our own ability to assess and improve our own work. We strip ourselves of our right to criticise, too.

When receiving bad criticism we should accept it with decorum and grace, then we can do one of two things: choose to ignore it, or if we feel it is constructive, use it to improve.

I, for one, prefer the latter.

I wrote this post because I once had a terrible review of Synthesis:Weave [see the review of the first edition on Amazon (along with the good ones, but don’t buy this version!)]. The review crushed me, and had a profound impact on me for weeks. I thought my book was the best thing since sliced bread, but here was someone actually criticising it!

It’s now over three years since I published it and even longer since I wrote it. In the intervening time, I’ve written the first sequel and I believe my writing has improved. I looked back at the first book a couple of months ago to see how much my style had changed and I found myself agreeing completely (from a technical standpoint) with what I’d previously considered an awful review. Other readers enjoyed the story, which is fine, but I couldn’t in all good conscience allow others to have their interest piqued by what I consider a better sequel, only to buy the original and be disappointed. Thus the rewrite commenced!

The rewrite is now available on ( and (