I think it’s one of the hardest things to do in writing. You’ve worked so hard on your manuscript, sweated over plot points and characters, hoped you managed to avoid cliches and those insidious repetitions that creep in all over the place when you’re not looking. And then you finally decide to let someone read it, or part of it.
What you imagine is this:
“Oh my god! I’ve never read anything so sublime! This is superb, it rivals Tolstoy in its depth of character and mastery of drama!”
OK, a little hyperbole there, but face it writers: we all fantasize about mind-blowingly glowing praise, right?
Instead, what you get is this:
“Why is your character behaving so strangely? Did they really have forks in that period? Too much use of the passive. The plot is a little contrived.”
Even if you’ve prepared yourself mentally, criticism can sting. But here’s the thing: We all know that we are the worst judges of our own work—unless you’re James Joyce or someone like that. As we become more proficient with our craft, some of the beginner mistakes (digressions into unnecessary descriptions, excessive exposition etc.) do vanish or diminish. But there’s nothing like a new set of eyes and a good critical brain to really make you SEE and HEAR your work.
Chances are, what a good critic says will only underscore what you already felt intuitively before but were reluctant to work at for one reason or another.
When I read my colleagues’ works, I often find it inspiring. Not just when something is so close to being wonderful that there’s little to say, but also at the draft stage, when there’s still a lot of work to do. Seeing what others struggle with highlights the faults in my own writing for me, almost as if they’re reading my work at the same time.
So all in all, good criticism is good. I suppose that’s obvious, but I just had to say it.