Why Every Writer Should Be Told They Suck

I’m trying out something new on the blog: adding clickable, shareable tweets to my posts for reader’s tweeting convenience. I don’t know if this will make a lick of difference, but a lot of blogs do it and I want to be one of the cool kids. In the spirit of this post’s subject matter, feel free to tell me it sucks! 

Constructive criticism is a vital resource necessary for any writer to grow. Especially when you’re a new, unseasoned writer, but even those who have been in the game for a long time need their mistakes pointed out. After all, how will you learn what to fix if you don’t know what needs fixed? Unfortunately, it also means you have to grow a thick skin–something new writers don’t come equipped with.

I value constructive criticism on my work. I want suggestions and feedback from editors and readers alike, letting me know where I screwed up and, ideally, how to fix it, that way I don’t make the same mistakes next time. I’ve learned invaluable lessons from the editors I’ve worked with, and I always strive to look out for my previous missteps in new manuscripts. However, even though I’ve been at this for a while, that doesn’t mean criticism doesn’t sting. My first reaction is always to get a little prickly, but I’ve taught myself to let it prickle for a minute, then take a deep breath and study the mistake and the ways to rectify it. When I’m finished I usually say, “Wow, I’m glad somebody pointed that out and told me how to fix it. Now I know!”

When you’re a newbie, constructive criticism can hurt a lot more, though. That’s because when you’re new you’re making a lot more mistakes, and if someone gives you a full list of the weak spots in your precious manuscript that you worked so hard on, it’s going to feel like they’re picking on you. You might feel overwhelmed, or ashamed, or want to lash out. You might start to think the whole thing is a steaming pile of crap and you should just abandon this writing thing forever.

The thing is, no one develops a tough skin except to crawl through the briars and let them scrape you up. If you’re new, you might not believe it, but eventually things get better, you make less mistakes, and the criticism becomes much easier to swallow. No one benefits from an echo chamber–it makes you go deaf. If you’re just looking for some to tell you how amazing and perfect you are, you’re not ready to be a writer.

If you’re just looking for some to tell you how amazing and perfect you are, you’re not ready to be a writer.

Of course, there’s a difference between negative criticism or outright abuse, and constructive criticism. As such:

  • Negative criticism: That was so bad I think you destroyed the entirety of literature itself. Never try to write again.
  • Constructive criticism: I liked the premise of your story, but I feel like there’s some weak spots or places where you can move the story along quicker–can I give you some pointers?

Feel free to ignore abusive, negative criticism and tell the person who spewed it that you think their face destroyed the entirety of literature. These are not helpful people, and you don’t have to share your work, or your time with them.

Do you enjoy constructive criticism? How thick is your skin at this point?

Why every writer should be told they suck–how thick is your skin? #writing @morgan_romance

Author: Megan Morgan

Paranormal and contemporary romance author.

18 thoughts

  1. This has been an interesting read that had me nodding my head more than is good for my neck.
    I need to allegorically ‘get out more’.
    I’ve had good feedback from folk who have enjoyed some of my work, and picked up on typos and silly mistakes that was cool.
    I’ve had stuff come back so fast it’s had friction burns on it, so I know it just wasn’t read.
    I’ve had comments from folk who fancied themselves as great literary Critics and filled up their critique with so many asides and clichés I was left thinking ‘Uh?’
    I’ve even paid for a criticism and thought ‘Well there’s why you only charged $35/£30; don’t make a career out of this, ‘cas all which has been learnt is I know is you didn’t like the title and you think I’m about 25/30 years old and have lots of energy -that was also cool being 64 at the time-
    In short I really need to take this advice on board and ‘splash’ my work about in places where it will be read and constructively dissected.
    To repeat ‘I need to get out more’


    1. Trust me, I need to get out more too! The thing is, you’ll find no shortage of opinions out there–everyone has one, and lots of people want to share them whether they’re asked to or not. The trick is finding the right people to give their good, well-thought out opinions, and that’s not always easy.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s important to remember, though, that not every negative response from a reader points to something you did “wrong.” Different readers react differently to the same text. if ten people in two or three different critique scenarios tell you that your opening chapter doesn’t have a strong hook, then maybe you ought to check out that possibility. If one reader tells you to be sure to add a death-star with a laser focused on earth and another tells you the story needs a romantic angle in the first paragraph and another tells you . . . you get the point. Good critiquers try to figure out where you want to take readers and try to think of the best way for you to get them there.

    Sometimes I find that the best criticisms either confirm something I actually already suspected and just prompt me to get busy to fix it, or, even better, point to possibilities in my work that I either didn’t see or hadn’t fully developed. I wouldn’t call that last kind of criticism “pointing out my mistakes.” I agree wholeheartedly with the need to let all critiques “age.” Within a day or so, you’ll be able to think constructively about the source of the comments as well as how they can help.


    1. Oh absolutely, I agree that reader opinions are a whole different thing. Everybody has their own tastes and preferences, and things they like and don’t like. If something comes up over and over, of course it’s worth taking a second look at.

      I do like finding out where I can develop things–for me, that’s one of the best parts of writing. Thanks for the comment!


  3. This is pretty great! Thick skin needs to go with the territory or we’ll never get any better. I’d rather hear it from a beta reader/CP/editor than hear it from someone who paid for my work. I’m going to tweet one of your little tweety things just so you know you didn’t waste your time adding them. I’ve seen those in other people’s posts and don’t mind them on occasion, because it does give an instant “headline” to the tweet, rather than just the same post title each time someone shares. Nice addition!


    1. I would DEFINITELY rather hear criticism from an editor than from a reader–even though I know I’m still gonna get it. I would just rather my big mistakes be caught by a pro first.

      Thank you! I noticed a few people tweeted them, so it must be working!


  4. Loved this post and I’m a new writer but I’ve got an well weathered leather skin thanks to life experience. That counts for a lot.
    Come at me, I can take you all on and sort you all out (I mean your criticisms, without retribution, don’t come at me with a knife – I’m not equipped for that shit)


  5. Being an art major in college for a year, really prepared me for taking criticism. At the end of the project, we’d gather for a critique and it was required to participate or else our grade would drop. I remember saying a few years ago that all writers should take an art class just for the critique part.


    1. Ha! It’s always good to be told you suck in a POLITE way, though. Gosh, when I think back on my early days, I cringe….*shudder* But I’m so glad there were people there to tactfully ease down my delusions of grandeur.


  6. I think just by putting our write ups out there in the e-world for everyone and their uncle to read and comment on – proves there is a certain level of toughness in a person! It takes a lot of guts to exhibit oneself like this.
    Also there is a huge difference between constructive criticism and bitching! Somehow they both get muddled up in our e-world versions of folks for its quite easy to perceive hurt based on a tweet;; regardless of the intent/emotion behind it!
    I have a set of people whom I respect a lot as writers and look forward to their words of praise or CC – rest I tune out as there are too many envy-mongers who love to pull people down!!


    1. That’s a good way to handle things! Some people want to just complain and pick on you, but those people don’t deserve your time or energy. Constructive criticism is helpful–being a jerk isn’t! The online world makes things so much more complicated, as you said. There’s a lot more eyes on you and a lot more people who just want to take the wind out of your sails.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I share my work here with you all, but my book I’m working on..I think I’m holding back on it because I fear the criticism although I’ve prepared for the worst in my mind for a book that I think is pure gold. Ahh…just the nature of the beast I guess. One wonders if every writer feels like the best writer? How do you feel?


    1. Oh I definitely don’t feel like the best writer! I’m much more confident in my writing than I used to be years ago, or when I first started out, but I know there’s still things I need to work on and improve. I often think I’m doing something totally perfect and awesome until I find out I’m not–which is frustrating, but with each stumble I get a little better.

      Criticism is an important part of growing as a writer–it hurts to get it, at first, but eventually you end up being grateful that you learned something and can improve through the advice of others.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.