How To Deal With Criticism As A Writer

Blood Circus an urban fantasy short story collectionWhat’s New?

A couple of things, actually. For one, the audiobook for Blood Circus was released last week. And, Blood Scent and Blood Circus are (finally) available in paperback format.

Also, I’m working hard on Book 8 in the Colin McCool series, in the hopes I can finish it by the end of the year. No promises, but that’s my current plan.

Now, onto a topic that came up earlier today… how to deal with criticism as a writer.

How Writers Should Deal With Criticism

This morning I came across a post that was just trashing the Colin McCool series in one of the UF groups I frequent on Facebook. Now, I’ll be the first to say that I realize some people are going to hate my work (and that’s fine), but in this case I felt compelled to respond:

The reason why I bring this up is because I know there are a lot of aspiring writers on this newsletter list who read this blog. And, one of the most difficult things new authors deal with is rejection—both in the form of actual rejection letters from agents and publishers, and the always-inevitable negative reader reviews.

Believe me, I get it. When you spend weeks, months, or in some cases years pouring your heart and soul into your writing, only to have it rejected (sometimes rudely) by others, it can be incredibly discouraging.

Unfortunately, this sometimes causes aspiring writers to lose confidence in the quality of their work and give up.

But I’m here to tell you, quitting is ALWAYS a mistake. Here’s why…

First and foremost, writing is a learned skill, and guess what? That skill will improve the longer you do it.

The truth is, every writer starts off penning clunkers, because that’s just part of the process. So, if you give up early in the game, you’ll never reach your full potential as a writer.

Second, opinions vary:

(If Dalton says it, you’d better believe it).

Thus, the opinions of most people aren’t worth heeding.

When I was a panelist at Boston Fantasy Fest earlier this year, I told the audience that I start every new novel secure in the knowledge that some readers are going to hate it. But, I’m not writing for those people—I’m writing for the readers who love my style of storytelling.

So, if someone leaves a negative review for one of my books, big freaking deal. They’re not my target audience, anyway.

Finally, if you’re writing for the sole purpose of receiving accolades from others, you need to seriously reconsider your motivations for writing. I’m not one of those people who will tell you that writing is a “calling,” but I will say that it should make you happy to sit down at your keyboard and create.

In short, you should write to please yourself. Heck, I do that all the time. I write scenes and chapters to books and stories I know I’ll never finish, just because I have an itch or I need to flesh out a character. To me, that’s fun. I don’t make a dime off it, but it helps my process, and oftentimes I enjoy those writing sessions more than when I’m working on a novel.

Ahem. I’ll get off my soapbox now and get back to the title of this segment—namely, how to respond when people are trashing your work.

  1. Divorce yourself from your emotions as much as possible. Sometimes criticism is warranted, and sometimes it isn’t, but if you allow your emotions to do the thinking you won’t be able to tell the difference.
  2. Decide whether you should respond. In other words, don’t feed the trolls!
  3. If it’s legitimate criticism, be thankful the reader took the time to read your work, and also be grateful that they took the time to respond with helpful criticism.
  4. If you decided to respond, thank the reader for item 3 above. Be polite and professional—you are a professional writer, after all, from the moment you publish your works or cash the first check.
  5. Finally, if you feel the need, defend your work. Now, I don’t mean that you should respond to negative reviews on Amazon or Goodreads (that’s almost always a mistake). However, when interacting on social media it may sometimes be beneficial to respond to negative criticism of your work. Letting readers see you’re a real person who is kind in the face of criticism can go a long way toward winning new readers.

And then, when you’re done, leave it. Speak your piece, and move on. Do not get drawn into long discussions (these can often degenerate into arguments—bad move), and don’t dwell on what that person said (unless it was useful advice).

That’s my two cents on how to deal with criticism as a writer. If you’re an aspiring writer who is struggling in this area, I hope it helps!

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Even myths have legends. And not all legends are myth. When a local hospital is attacked by strange and frightening men, Fiona Patterson and Zeke Prisco save a catatonic old man named Peter–and find themselves running for their lives with creatures beyond imagination hounding their every step.

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Buy Links:


  1. Shaun on December 26, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    Wanted to say I am really enjoying the Junkyard Druid series. I thought you might base your focus on reviews so I am leaving a 10 star review in Hopes that you will continue Collin’s saga in earnest. Thank you for the fantastic stories and keep up the good work sir!

    • M.D. Massey on December 27, 2018 at 10:49 am

      Thanks Shaun! I sincerely appreciate it when readers leave positive reviews. 🙂

  2. Mark Cohran on January 4, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I just finished reading all the books up to Druid Vengeance. I’ll have to say I’ve enjoyed the character development and the plot arc throughout the series. I’ve been reading Sci-Fi fantasy for 50 years now, so I consider myself a competent connoisseur of the genre and I’m looking forward to reading the next book. In the meantime, I’ll be reading the novellas and likely starting the THEM series. Keep up the good work.

  3. Mathew Sanders on January 31, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    I love the books. I have read them all and the shorts as well. My only Criticism is that I enjoy them so much I read them very quickly then I am waiting for the next one. Yhea so can you churn them out a bit faster man. I can’t wait to see what trouble Colin get into next and what Mab will do to him next.

    • M.D. Massey on February 21, 2019 at 7:22 am

      Working on it! 😀

      Thanks for the kind words, Matthew.

  4. Jeni on February 28, 2019 at 11:45 am

    I just started your series – love the references to Austin. We have a son who lives there and it’s fun to read the names of places we’ve been. (just starting book 3 today)

    • M.D. Massey on March 2, 2019 at 7:25 pm

      Great! Glad you’re enjoying the series, Jeni.

  5. Jon R. Osborne on May 18, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    Great advice for writers. Criticism can be tough to face, especially when many writers, including successful ones, face ‘impostor syndrome’. Sometimes you can learn something from it (I learned my Spanish was rustier than I thought from one review), but often, as you said, the person leaving the negative review is not your target audience. Don’t dwell on it and move on.

  6. John Farina on June 14, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    Just finished listening to Druid’s Due and thoroughly enjoyed it. Your narrator is excellent and brings the characters to life. Do not lose him! I had also read the books and was surprised at how well my imagination matched Mr. Barnett’s performance. If I can offer one suggestion; please be careful of the repeated use of cultural slang. Words like “hella” went out almost as quickly as they came in and can really date the prose. Otherwise, I love the series and eagerly await your next book.

  7. Phil on June 26, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    Best advice I had was from an old time Disney writer: “NEVER read your own press. Develop your trusted sources who actually know what they are talking about to give you feed back and let everything else alone. Sales will tell you quickly if you are off track. Anything else is simply emotional masturbation and doesn’t do a thing to help you be better.” He was right. It became shortened to: “Never read your own press.”

    I always state that I am grateful for all reviews. Period. The good, the bad, the ugly, the inane. I get “Did you see that review?” all the time. My answer is always “No. I don’t read them. They are for other readers, not for me.” What makes growing as a writer much easier and much more satisfying is to go to my trusted sources to get feed back. IF they all tell me the same thing? Then I have a major problem. And my trusted sources are always other writers who sell and know how to work it. And if I’m not selling? Then by golly… I don’t even have to do that.

    So if any of my readers think they are communicating with me via reviews? They are way off the mark, but I am still grateful for them sharing their opinion with other readers.

    • M.D. Massey on June 29, 2021 at 1:12 pm

      That’s good advice, Phil. I received similar advice from a friend in the martial arts community who was an author long before I started writing and publishing. He told me, “Never believe your own hype.” It’s kept me humble over the years, that’s for sure. 🙂

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