Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest Post: '1 Part Thick Skin' by JB Lynn


There’s a lot to learn when you’re an unpublished writer. (There’s a lot to learn when you’re a published writer too, but that’s a whole different post.)

Learning the craft is not easy as you try to master intangible things like character development, description, setting, pacing, conflict, resolution…etc.

Then there are other skill sets you need. Things like how to give a decent critique and maybe, more importantly how to accept a critique (that may or may not be decent).

That’s what I’m going to talk about today. How to deal with a critique, or a rejection letter, or, down the road, a less-than-effusive review.

Nobody likes to hear that something they’ve slaved over for months, or even years, isn’t simply fabulous. After all, you’ve poured your heart and soul into this and you love it. The rest of the world should too, dammit!

But life doesn’t work that way.

So you have three choices:

  1. Don’t send your work out. If you don’t share it, no one can pick it apart. Of course this guarantees you’ll never publish it, but hey, if you really can’t take the criticism, this is an option.
  2. Share your work, but develop the mindset that if you don’t like a criticism, it’s “wrong” and don’t even consider changing your manuscript.
  3. Put your work out there and take your lumps, knowing that they’re part of the learning curve. Be brave enough to drop your defenses and consider that the critique/rejection may have some merit.

I happen to think number three is the way to go…with one HUGE caveat.

It’s okay to wallow in your misery first.

No, really, rail against the unfairness of the critique deliverer for a set amount of time (I tend to like the 24 hour rule) and then look at what they’ve said again. Chances are, once you’ve had your little temper tantrum you’ll find nuggets of wisdom in a critique.  If you can’t, your chances of improving your book are greatly decreased.

I know that may be hard to swallow, but I’m speaking from experience.

I rewrote THE FIRST VICTIM three times for an editor at one publishing house…and he ultimately passed on the manuscript. I rewrote it two more times for another editor at another publishing company before it was accepted. Each time I got an editorial letter I railed about how ridiculous it was. Then I calmed down and implemented 80 percent of the suggestions and finally, after WAY more work than I’d have liked, I sold the book and launched my publishing career.

Did this mean I was suddenly the “perfect” writer? No, another editor, at another publishing company, made me rewrite sections of both CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN and FURTHER CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you receive a rejection or critique you don’t like.

  1. It’s one person’s opinion. You don’t have to take it as gospel, but if you ignore it out of hand because you don’t like it, you’re shortchanging yourself of the chance to improve.
  2. This is a tough business. You have to develop a tough skin. Yes, criticisms hurt, but you can’t let them stop you in your tracks. Forward momentum is everything.
  3. You don’t know everything. Your ego isn’t 100% “right”. Success results when you try something new and/or learn from your mistakes.

Just so you know that I don’t think I’m perfect or an expert, here’s one of the one star reviews for THE HITWOMAN GETS LUCKY that made me wallow:

“What a stupid waste of time, the only reason I finished it was I was walking on a treadmill. Ridiculous plot and even more inane characters. Main character Maggie has conversations with her dog and her lizard, works at an insurance company and kills people for pay on the side. Now is asked to steal and suddenly she has a conscious? I give it one star as I read the whole book in a 60 min walk. Glad it was on the "free kindle books" from Amazon. Highly doubtful I would read another book by this so called writer.”

Ouch! Right??

Still everyone is entitled to their opinion. The trick is figuring out whose is worthwhile and not being too egotistical to learn.


Besides being a writer, JB Lynn is a compulsive reader, a runner (of sorts), an enthusiastic cook (who doesn't get the appeal of the Food Network), and someone who has an irresistible urge to eavesdrop at all times.
For more information about JB and her books, visit:

Or you can buy her books through her author page at Amazon.  The fifth book in her Neurotic Hitwoman series - The Hitwoman and the Neurotic Witness - just hit the shelves and it's a definite winner.


  1. Owww. That one stung! I've had a few of those. I tend to ignore reviews whenever possible. Of course, those raving about my books and giving 4 and 5 stars are awesome people of discerning tastes! LOL But as a writer, I learn the most from the 2 and 3 stars. Trusting your work to someone else is a huge leap of faith. If you're lucky, you'll find a critiquer who is thorough, honest, but kind. Instead of "This stinks!" you get "Perhaps you might consider changing this passage so that the action is clearer to the reader."

    Great post today, J.B.!

  2. Two questions: Do you ever consider not reading your reviews, and do you ever make voodoo dolls of the reviewers who are unnecessarily cruel?

  3. Silver -- When I get a review like that I've trained myself to automatically think "Tom Hanks"...I know the rest of the world loves him, but I can't stand him, lol. I agree that there's a lot to be learned from 2 and 3 star reviews.

  4. Anonymous -- LOL. No, I always read my reviews because I do think it's helpful to know what people do/don't like/respond to. And no, I haven't tried voodoo dolls...but it's an idea! ;-)

  5. Wow. That was harsh. When I get bad reviews, I call my CP and complain to him. It's safe and he always knows how to make me feel better.

    This is a 1* review I received:
    Predictable, uncreative and stupid with porn thrown in.

    Yup. That was it. I thought of it as a kill shot, going straight for the jugular.

    Good post! And I agree with everything you've said =)

  6. Great post JB! Reading critiques, rejections and reviews does take a thick skin and some days my skin is thicker than others. But it pays to pay attention. The accolades are easy to process and coast on. The tricky part is being objective about the rest of it.


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