The Only Appropriate Response To Criticism

“[A]s far as I’m concerned, a good beta reader is like proof that there’s hope for humanity.” – Fellow blogger Cathleen Townsend

It’s surprisingly hard to find beta readers who will actually read and then critique your work which is why I love my writers groups so much. It’s sincerely difficult to get honest, constructive feedback. This afternoon, I just helped a fellow writer out with a beta read. I spent several hours wading through passive voice, filler words, and vague language. I deleted 1,000 words just by removing the words: really, much, in order, actually, just, basically, that, and very. I sent the revised book with inline comments on the content.

Here’s the response verbatim: “I really don’t need or want an edit. I just need feedback on the content.”

Oh. Okay.

This reminded me of a Grover Levy song released in 2007 called “Tell Us What We Want To Hear”. You can buy his CD on Amazon for $3.99. 

The lyrics were

“Won’t you tell us what we wanna hear?
Tell us we’re the victims, play on our fear,
Won’t you tell us what we wanna hear?
Tell us that we’re blameless,
We’ll make you rich and famous, and cheer for what we wanna hear.”

When you receive feedback, positive or negative, there is only one appropriate response.


Executive coach Marshall Goldsmith wrote a great article and book on receiving feedback.  You can read the entire thing here. Let me quote just a touch “The next time someone gives you an idea or counsel, listen without judgment, try to find value in what you’re hearing, and say: “Thank you””

If you want to only hear praise, let your mom read your book. She’ll love it.

Write Something That Matters.


One thought on “The Only Appropriate Response To Criticism

  1. Wow! I’m quoted. I feel so…official. 🙂 It’s true that it’s very pleasant to hear nice things about our work, but a beta read is all about making it better. I try to point out the odd nice turn of phrase, but I’m afraid it’s essentially negative, even if we’re trying to be tactful.

    And my comments tend to be terse. Not mean, just blunt. This adverb doesn’t add. Kill the weasel words (usually a little or a bit). This is telly–can you think of a way to show it instead? All that sort of thing.

    Hopefully, once we wade through the beta comments, all the glowing things will be said about our bright, shiny books at review time. 🙂


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