Dealing with Criticism

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I’ve talked about criticism before on this blog. I don’t know if it comes across, but I’m not opposed to it. It’s a crucial tool whenever you’re developing a skill of any kind. It’s necessary as people kissing your butt all the time won’t help you improve. To get better, you need to seek it out.

With that in mind, around the time the hard copies of my book came out, I sent links to my book everywhere I could think of, trying to get feedback (and I’m still looking for feedback, so if you’ve got any, lay it on me.) After about a month, I got something back from this sketch site that I’m not going to name here. This site promised a sort of “standby review” that you can link to your site, sort of like what I have in the what people have been saying section of the Noxus site. It was quite the experience, to say the least.

These comments were made by a self-described older man who apparently didn’t have much to say. He didn’t like my writing; he didn’t like my ideas, and probably wouldn’t have read Rendezvous on Noxus if he’d had a choice.  

The criticism that comes to mind first and foremost is that there was absolutely nothing new or refreshing in the story. I kept looking for something pleasant and unique that I could latch onto but it was like I’d seen every situation and most of the sentences before. Now maybe it’s my fault for being old and reading so much sci-fi that my standard is high…

Now I’ll fully admit that there are parts of Noxus that follow some well-trod paths, but that’s by design. It follows in the vein of some well established IPs (intellectual properties.) Star Wars, Star Trek, Mass Effect, and there are others. I acknowledge that none of these are books (excluding the branches that diverge from the main story) but in those, and in a lot of the books I’ve looked for in the genre, I have yet to find a form of media with a protagonist like mine. But apparently, that’s problem for this guy. He goes on. 

The character Paras could have been lifted from any street in America today. …if you are going to write about the future I suggest you stretch your imagination to the limits. I suggest reading a lot of the greats from all the different eras and pick one you like and feel could be a style you would like to master then rewrite your story imitating that style as much as possible. Will we really still be getting drunk in bars just like the ones now in the far future? Will haggling over an agreement still be done exactly like it is done in a market in Asia today? Will characters be so predictable? I can take this kind of future world in a made for TV movie. I expect it there.

There’s a lot wrong with this passage here, and I’ll tackle them one at a time. 

For some reason, keeping elements of the human experience that have endured for centuries such as drinking, haggling, and cursing, just having foibles in general is a detriment to my work. Also, I wasn’t aware that Asia was the only place people haggled over the price of anything, ever.

I’m not sure what sort of future this reviewer envisioned, but it’s not a gritty, human future. He seems to feel I should build off of what’s already been established by other writers instead of forming my own worlds, my own universe, and tell my own story and he pretty much says so. 

I don’t know where it’s seen as acceptable to tell someone to rewrite their story copying someone else, but I’ve never heard from someone who has this school of thought. 

Mr. Reviewer here is entitled to his opinion, as we all are, but what troubles me is that he posted this under the guise of it being helpful when it’s really anything but. Yes, I’ll be the first one to say Noxus has its flaws. There are issues there that happened for a number of reasons but will definitely not be repeated. However, Mr. Reviewer didn’t touch upon those. His issue was that Noxus wasn’t written to his taste. It didn’t deal with a colony on the moon (something he compared my book to, as that story blew him away), it wasn’t sterile, it didn’t show a new side to humanity. It dealt with people as they are, not how they might ideally be in the next 20, 30, 60 years. There are parts of society that seem to be under constant change, but it’s my opinion that, that there are things that might just remain constant. Clearly, we don’t share this vision. This book wasn’t for him. 

And that’s something that’s got to be taken into account when you get criticism as well as give it. Not everything is meant for the consumption of all. Ideally, there’d be a sweet spot you can hit where everyone who comes across the book loves it and is able to put aside their own biases to just enjoy it, but that’s not realistic. I did not write this book for older, presumably white men who have issues with people behaving like people, for characters who are “someone off the street.” I try to find something I can use in all the feedback I get, often times to a fault, but this was less than helpful. 

So I moved on. 

I shared this story today this up to show that not everyone is going to leave a glowing, loving review to your work, but it’s not the end of the world. That other review I got from Bibliosanctum wasn’t exactly glowing. In fact, they gave me the same rating this guy did of 3/5 stars, but their words were actually helpful, their criticism fair. 

Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has something they feel they have to say, sometime they’ll even think that what they’re saying is helping you, but that isn’t always the case. You’ve got to learn to take these things with a grain of salt, take what you can use, throw out what you can’t, and move on.