Mean book reviews are a fact of life nowadays. And if you spend any time in a workshop, you’re going to hear some pretty harsh feedback. But Cecilia Tan, the erotic speculative fiction mastermind behind the Magic University books, has some brilliant advice on her blog.

Not only does Tan offer some great ideas about how to deal with harsh criticism of your writing, but she talks about reading stories in her slushpile—and finding that the story that she had the most doubts about was usually the one that her readers ended up loving the most. She adds:

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Same thing in my MFA writing workshops in grad school. The stories or chapters or poems that the class argued the most about–meaning some of the students hated it and some loved it–were often the ones I was sure were actually the best stories. I found myself sometimes taking a fellow student aside and telling them, essentially, don’t let the haters get you down. Sometimes you walk out of a workshop feeling like the life’s been beaten out of you because the reaction was so negative from other students. “Don’t feel bad,” I’d say. “Getting a rise out of them is the proof that you’re actually onto something, you’re writing is actually working. When the story doesn’t work, nobody really cares.” The writers by and large who were able to take that negative feedback as a positive sign were the ones who went on to publish and have careers as pros. The ones who were too discouraged to keep going…didn’t.

The whole thing is brilliant and very much worth reading, if you’re a writer who gets to hear or read other people’s opinions on your stuff. [Cecilia Tan]


Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, coming Jan 26 from Tor Books. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.

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