Friday, November 11, 2011

4 Tips for Being a Healthy Writer

On Wednesday, I told you that I thought once I achieved this:

Opening my author copies of Out with the In Crowd.
my confidence issues would evaporate. I mean, isn't a publishing contract one huge vote of confidence in your writing abilities? Someone - a whole team of someones - thinks your writing is good enough that others will pay to read it.

I learned quickly - even before my book hit shelves - that being published only meant the negative feedback could come to me in a more public forum. Like on Amazon. Or on blogs. Or publications that specialize in book reviews.

Here are 4 tips I have on creating a healthy attitude when it comes to dealing with rejection and criticism.

1. Establish a Target Audience

I haven't received any scathing reviews, but I'm honest enough with myself to know that's only because the books haven't yet found their way into those particular hands. They will. Or if the Skylar books don't, the next ones will. Books are very polarizing - what one loves, another hates. I'm guessing you know people who have read the Twilight saga a dozen times. And that you know people who thought it was the dumbest thing they'd ever read.

You can't please everyone, and that's one of the reasons why it's important to have a target audience in mind. My books target teen girls. If a forty year old man doesn't like Me, Just Different, it's pretty easy for me to blow that off. I didn't write the book with him in mind.

Lots of writers, especially when they first start thinking about the concept of a target audience, want to make their target as vague as possible. Men and women, young and old, in all walks of life. That sort of thing.

Well, it just doesn't work like that. Sometimes books appeal to both genders, to a variety of age groups, but thinking about your target audience isn't just necessary for a book proposal, it's helpful for you.

2. Find a Critique Group or Partner

Getting into a healthy, supportive critique group can also build your confidence as a writer. By "healthy," I mean a group that meets regularly (either in person or on-line), who encourages each other, where there is a give and take between all members, and where criticism comes in a constructive manner.

Or some find a critique partner rather than a group works better for them. Whether it's one fellow writer or five, being in a community with other writers has serious benefits. One of which is it gets you used to other people reading and critiquing your work. And if you're in a group, this discussion often takes place in a semi-public way, whether it's around a table at a local coffee house or in an email to the entire group.

Which is great preparation for handling negative feedback from agents and editors. And that negative feedback is good practice for dealing with future less-than-glowing reviews on Amazon.

3. Know who your supporters are and let them love on you.

When particularly harsh criticism comes my way, I rely heavily on my husband and my parents to buoy my spirits. These are people who love me because of (and sometimes in spite of) who I am. My father told me many times over the years that the only way I could disappoint him with my writing was to give it up.

Now, when my parents tell me that my story is "absolutely wonderful" and my "best yet," I know they're my parents, that they're biased. But having their support still, somehow, enables me to stand taller in the face or criticism or outright rejection. (Same with my husband, he just tends to be less flowery with his praise.)

4. Remembering the One who truly matters.

I know there are people of a variety of faiths hanging out around here, so if you don't believe in a God who's involved in our lives at an intimate level, feel free to skim or skip this section.

As great as the above things are that I've listed - knowing your target audience, having a healthy critique group or partner, having support from loved ones - what I rely on more than any of that is the knowledge that I am doing what God asked. I am performing for an audience of One. Maybe Mrs. Bloggy Bloggerson didn't approve of some of the issues I covered in Me, Just Different, but I have no intention of organizing my life around her approval.

Rejection and criticism still sting, but when you lay the pain down in front of God's feet, when you are obeying His call to the best of your abilities, the sting is much easier to bear.

Okay, sermon over.

What about you? What are the things that help restore your confidence as a writer? It can be something on the list above or a suggestion of your own.

And if you're looking for a community of writers to hang out with, consider joining the Go Teen Writers Facebook group where young writers are talking about how they name their characters, appropriate chapter lengths, and all kinds of writery things.


  1. Ooh, target audience. I should start thinking about that. Thanks for reminding me!
    For me, what restores my confidence is that I know I can go back and change things. I don't know if that sound ridiculous to anyone, but it gives me comfort. :)

  2. Echo Becki. Define Target Audience is going on my to-do list. How did you come to define who you're writing for, Stephanie?

    This blog is such an encouragement to me. And the FB page is so much writerly fun! :)

    Thanks for this!

  3. LOVE this post!

    I've been dappling in writing for a long-time and the dream to become a published author is forever glowing under the surface.

    I often wonder about the criticism that will inevitably happen when that book ever gets published and how I would handle it. I just gained some great insight. Thanks!

  4. I've had a clear target audience from the very beginning, age group from 13-17 and females. Do you have a link that could help me find critique partners in my area, I've searched online and some of the sites that come up aren't very convincing. Thanks.

  5. This was an awesome post! Thanks so much. I find that thinking about God and what He thinks can totally boost my confidence.
    I do a lot of writing on, and I feel like I get both the critique and the fans who love on me there. Mostly the fans (it's mostly not because i'm good, it's because people on there are just REALLY friendly most of the time, and they already love the characters I'm writing with, because it's fanfiction).
    Also, I'm taking a writing course and I get really awesome feedback from the other students and the teacher on there.


  6. I have learned a lot about dealing with criticism with my art, and for me the biggest hing I need to remember is that not everyone is going to like it.

  7. Haha. My biggest critic is my Eighteen year old brother. I gave up reading my work to him, because he's SO analytical that he tears my work to shreds. Other than that, you couldn't ask for a better big brother.
    ~Becki Badger

  8. Great Advice. Dealing with criticism is one of the most overlooked things every writer has to learn.

  9. I loved this post! and the forty-year old man made me laugh.

    So true what you said about God! A very wise person once told me that we need to let God's approval drive our lives instead of people's approval (true story.)


  10. This soooo resonates with me, Stephanie. Such good stuff for people like me. :-) I've found the best critique partners are as tough as they are kind.

    The picture of you opening your box of books is priceless.

    Much love!

  11. I love this post! It's really helpful :)

  12. My biggest issue is finding a critique partner. I'd want someone local who WANTS to meet every week or two for a couple hours to exchange prose. Finding someone who writes is easy. Finding someone who loves it is hard.

  13. That's especially true when you're young. I so sympathize. But the right writing friends ARE out there and they ARE worth waiting for!

  14. Hey Stephanie, I like it when you talk about God. :) I know some people might not, who knows, but if you feel you want to talk about God in your blog. I'd do it.

    Anyway, when I think about target audiences... I really don't try to think about it. I mean sure, it'll probably appeal to teenage girls with my writing because I'm only a sophomore and I like writing about teenage stuff. But I just write what I love to write. :) And then whoever it appeals to, it appeals to.
    Though I think I'd probably have to pick teenage girls for my target audience. :)