Feedback vs Criticism: Dealing With Negative Comments

We all need input from others to help us improve but when dealing with negative comments it’s important to know the difference between feedback vs criticism. And no, you don’t have to take every piece of advice you receive. But maybe you should take some of it.

Feedback vs Criticism Dealing With Negative Comments

When deciding if something is feedback vs criticism it all comes down to motivation. This isn’t always easy to discern but once you know the difference it will be easier to identify.

Feedback vs Criticism

Feedback is a response or reaction to an activity. It can be negative but its intention is to correct and/or inspire positive change. Feedback is specific and precise.

Criticism speaks in general terms relying on statements like “always” and “never.” It assumes motives for behaviour and applies sweeping blame and judgment.

Another difference between feedback vs criticism is feedback focuses on behaviour/problems and is most often given in private whereas criticism focuses on the personal and is often given in a public setting.

The best way to tell if you’re receiving feedback vs criticism is to determine what the intention of the negative comment is. If it’s intended to shame you or is a personal attack this is criticism. If it’s intended to solve a problem and help you improve then it’s feedback. You still don’t have to take the feedback but at least you know it’s coming from a good place.

Many of us hold back from publishing or putting ourselves out there online and on social media because we’re petrified of negative feedback and critical comments. We’re already insecure enough—and our self-talk works hard to keep us humble. The last thing we need is rejection from Internet strangers.

Except we need to put ourselves out there. Because professionals publish their work; they put themselves out there.

I love the way Jeff Goins puts it in You Can Be a Critic or a Creator (But You Have to Choose One):

Professionals make things every day and then they share them. That’s how they get better—by making things. Amateurs, on the other hand, wait for their big break and hide in the shadows until someone discovers them. Incidentally, they are the ones who are quick to criticize those making things. Which one would you rather be: the brave creator, or the cowering critic?

But what if you are the brave creator and still receive negative comments? If it’s criticism you can ignore it but if it’s feedback here are a few strategies for dealing with it effectively.

How to respond to negative feedback

  • Recognize it’s not personal and be polite in your response
  • Respond in a way that lets the person know s/he’s heard
  • Don’t rush to reach or take the feedback at face value
  • In a day or two, embrace constructive feedback
  • Keep your response short, simple and sweet
  • If needed, apologize and sympathize in your response
  • Insert a little marketing into your response if possible
  • As soon as possible move the conversation offline

Publishing in the digital age means we can receive instant feedback and so we need to develop thick skin. Learning to recognize the difference between feedback vs criticism and responding (when appropriate) in an effective way will not only help you improve but also help you grow your fan and follower base.

We all need input from others but when dealing with negative comments it's important to know the difference between feedback vs criticism.

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Writing Contests and Why You Should Consider Entering

Entering writing contests is good practice for writers. And the cash prizes and publication are nice too.

Writing Contests

While you may not feel like you have time to be dallying around entering writing contests there are some good reasons to do so, aside from money and publication. First, if it’s the right contest, it can give you exposure to your future agent, editor or publisher. Second, writing to deadline and according to a set of guidelines keeps you sharp. Third, if you win you can say “award-winning writer” on stuff. I mean, isn’t that worth the entry fee alone?

Of course there are scams out there so you do need to vet each contest and check things like the rules and who’s judging. You also want to make sure the entry fee is reasonable and you’re not signing away all your rights by entering the contest. But once you feel like it’s on the up-and-up then enter with abandon!

Where to Find Writing Contests

Here are a few of my favourite stops when looking for new writing contests to enter.

  • Poets & Writers has a searchable database of writing contests, which includes any creative writing contests they’ve published in their magazine during the past year. These contests are vetted before being entered into the database so it’s a trustworthy resource
  • The Writer is a wealth of resources for writers and keeps an up-to-date contest listing on their website. You can even join their mailing lists where they’ll send the contest details to you so you don’t miss a thing
  • Submittable has a great weekly roundup of publishing and journalism news (Called Submishmash Weekly) and, of course, up-to-date contest listings. I find a lot of great opportunities here. And you can sign up for their weekly round up too, which saves you having to remember to check for updates
  • Writer’s Digest has an updated contest listing for any Writer’s Digest Contest. They’re listed from soonest submission deadline to latest and cover a wide range of writing contests
  • If you’re looking for Canadian writing contests Heather McLeod has a nice roundup of listings organized by date. These are recurring contests so check the links for updated details
  • Speaking of Canadian writing contests, CBC Books also put together a guide to writing prizes for Canadians. Organized into fiction, non-fiction and poetry, there are tons of recurring contests listed and this is a post worth bookmarking
  • Writers Write has a small list of upcoming contests for fiction and poetry writers. Listings go till the end of the year so it’s worth checking out
  • Reedsy has a robust contest search, which is updated each week. Search by genre, location and sort by entry fee or prize money

While you may not feel like you have time to be dallying around entering writing contests there are some good reasons to do so, aside from money and publication. First, if it's the right contest, it can give you exposure to your future agent, editor or publisher. Second, writing to deadline and according to a set of guidelines keeps you sharp. Third, if you win you can say "award-winning writer" on stuff. I mean, isn't that worth the entry fee alone?

I hope you can find awesome writing contests to enter this year! But if checking out websites is still too much to ask I have one more place you can go to find great contests—I’ve created a Writing Jobs and Contests Twitter List. All you have to do is follow the list and check it every now and then. I mean, you’re on Twitter, right?

Health Tips for Writers

This quick list of health tips for writers is the result of an instrumental change I made, which has made a huge difference in my life and career. I reached a point in my writing life where I realized being good at writing wasn’t going to be enough to have a substantial career if I wasn’t healthy enough to sit at the computer to, you know, write all day.

Health Tips for Writers

If you’re anything like me you spend a lot of time sitting in front of your computer. And, if you’re anything like me, living this sedentary writer lifestyle can lead to some unwanted health issues like weight gain, headaches, eye pain, joint/back pain and more.

For a long time I thought I had a pretty active lifestyle—until I got a Fitbit and learned the harsh truth. I learned I didn’t move much at all and after a few months of denial (the activity tracker must not be tracking all my movement) I decided to do something about it. Because…well, the writing was on the wall. I had gained weight, I was tired all the time, my back and neck had chronic pain and I was overall miserable. I had a feeling I was on the fast track for something much worse health-wise.

So I decided to make some changes. This was about a year ago and I’ve seen nothing but positive results after implementing a healthier routine. And yes, this was inspired by getting up at 4:30 a.m. for 21 days. I learned if I can do that, I can do anything.

Health Tips for Writers

Take a screen break every 60 minutes. The FitBit makes it easy because it buzzes every hour and reminds me to get moving. And, I’ve learned, if I get up and move every hour—walk around, have a stretch, whatever—I am pretty productive. It makes it easy for me to push hard on my work because I know I get to take a quick break soon. It has been a great habit to pick up! Plus I hear not looking at a screen all day is good for you or something.

Get outside. Halfway through my workday I take a walk. I used to think this was such a waste of work time but I’ve learned the exercise combined with the fresh air (and lack of screen time) acts as a reset. It renews my energy and I return to my desk full of ideas. My walks last for about 15 minutes and I find it’s an excellent length.

P-O-S-T-U-R-E. Yes, sitting with proper posture has been something I’ve worked on as is making a big difference to my back and neck. As in, I don’t have such issues with pain. Which allows me to focus and concentrate on my work. Of course I have moments where I slip back into slouching and hunching but as soon as I realize it I adjust. And it’s working.

Snacks should be vegetables. Ugh I know! But if you’re wondering where that sneaky 10 pounds came from take a good look at your snack cupboard. I’m making a deliberate effort to have more vegetables in my life and it’s making a difference.

Hydrate. All day, e’ry day. I’ve loved coffee for a long time (speaking of coffee, here’s a great oldie I dug up from the archives on the time I reheated my coffee and found a fly floating in it) but as I changed up my nutrition habits I realized my relationship with coffee had to change. We could still see each other but I needed water to be the primary liquid in my life. Staying hydrated helps me stay focused and clear-headed. And I don’t seem to have many headaches anymore.

Have a strong morning routine. I think this is the most important of my health tips for writers because this is where everything started for me. I get out of bed and tackle the things most important to me first, before I do anything else. This helps me set up my day for success and I’m so glad I found something that works. It helps me arrive at work with a clear head, ready to dive into the day.

Exercise first thing in the morning. Speaking of morning routines, allow me to suggest adding exercise to it. Working out first thing isn’t easy but it makes a remarkable difference to the rest of your day. I used to try and hit the gym after work but there were so many times where other plans or meetings came up or I found convenient excuses to skip out. Adding exercise into my morning routine means it’s something I do—not something I think about doing or debate about doing.

So those are my health tips for writers. Walk around, drink lots of water, get outside, build an awesome morning routine. You know, do healthy things! Author Joanna Penn published a book on this topic as well, so if you’re looking for a deep dive on building a healthy writing lifestyle check out The Healthy Writer: Reduce Your Pain, Improve Your Health, And Build A Writing Career For The Long Term.

If you're anything like me you spend a <em>lot</em> of time sitting in front of your computer. And, if you're anything like me, living this sedentary writer lifestyle can lead to some unwanted health issues like weight gain, headaches, eye pain, joint/back pain and more. Here are some health tips for writers I hope you'll find helpful.

How to Write a Case Study

If you know how to tell a story you can write a case study. However, if you’ve never done it before you might be wondering how to write a case study. So here we go. By the way, a case study is a success story told about a client you’ve helped. Simple, right?

How to Write a Case Study

Maybe before I get into how to write a case study I’ll talk about what makes something a case study. In essence, it’s a study analysis where you overview a business problem, outline options for solving the problem and what happened in the end. The fact that you’re telling your client’s story from beginning to end, and including twists and turns along the way, makes this different than an advertisement or a sales page because you’re keeping the twists and turns in the story. The fact that it’s not just “I decided to do this thing and then it worked and now I’m successful yayyyyy,” makes it a case to study. Case study. Right!?

Something to keep in mind is although this isn’t a traditional sales page, a case study is a tool in your sales and marketing arsenal. It’s something you want prospective clients to read and become convinced to hire you—so make sure it’s targeted to people who are on the fence about working with you and tell client success stories that will help them see how you’ll help them reach their goals.

How to write a case study

Here are a few sections to include:

Introduction

In one or two sentences present your reader with the problem or issue and a quick summary of the outcome.

Background

Think of this section like setting the scene. You don’t want to spend too much time here but your reader should learn what has brought your client to this point in his or her business.

Alternatives

I know this might seem like overkill but you want to list ideas you or your clients entertained/tried in order to build your narrative arc. Overview what alternative solutions you considered and explain why they wouldn’t/couldn’t work or were not possible.

Proposed Solution

This is your moment! Highlight your one and only amazing solution to your client’s problem or issue. Make sure it’s relevant, specific and realistic, explain why you chose it and support your solution with evidence. Your evidence can contain either research or anecdotes or both.

Recommendations

Here you’ll overview the steps you took to accomplish your proposed solution. This should be specific, strategic and relevant (are you sensing a theme?).

When writing a case study make sure you tell it from beginning to end, following this outline as much as possible. Use as much data as you need to frame your point but keep your reading in mind—too much data = dry and boring. Don’t be dry and boring.

A case study doesn’t have to feel like a case study—your reader doesn’t even have to realize they’re reading one. If you share a client’s success story from start to finish in a compelling way and help potential clients decide to do business with you…then you’re case study has done its job.

The question of how to write a case study is a great one. But maybe you're wondering what a case study is and why you should care about it. I get that.

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How Long Should My Book Be?

Have you ever asked how long should my book be? Did you know what a great question it is? GREAT question! Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with wild abandon and with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

How Long Should My Book Be Guide to Word Count

When you’re planning a book (even if you’re a pantser) it’s important to know a few things about your genre ahead of time—things like, well, what genre it is. And what the theme is. And how many words it will be. Yeah. Even word count should be pre-planned.

And I know how weird that sounds if this is the first time you’re hearing it. What!? There’s a word count for novels!? Yup. And it’s kind of one of those things you should abide by unless you’re crazy-famous and/or already a successful author (because obvs these guidelines don’t apply to you) or you don’t care about selling books. Because word count matters. And the rules change for every genre.

So, your first task is to figure out what genre your book is in. After that, check the list below to find the answer to your question how long should my book be?

General guidelines: How long should my book be?

Fiction

  • Middle Grade—20,000 to 50,000 words
  • Young Adult—45,000 to 80,000 words
  • Novels—50,000 to 120,000 words
    • Paranormal Romance—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Romance—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Category Romance—55,000 to 75,000 words
    • Cozy Mysteries—65,000 to 90,000 words
    • Horror—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Western—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Light Paranormal Mysteries/Hobby Mysteries—75,000 to 90,000 words
    • Historical Mysteries/Noir—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Thrillers/Crime—90,000 to 100,000 words
    • Chick Lit—80,000 to 100,000 words
    • Literary—65,000 to 100,000 words
    • Science Fiction—90,000 to 110,000 words
    • Romantic Science Fiction—85,000 to 100,000 words
    • Space Opera—90,000 to 120,000 words
    • Contemporary Fantasy—90,000 to 100,000 words
    • Other Fantasy—90,000 to 120,000 words

Non-Fiction

  • Devotional—30,000 to 50,000 words
  • Self-Help—40,000 to 90,000 words
  • Memoir—50,000 to 90,000 words
  • Narrative Non-Fiction—50,000 to 110,000 words
  • Biography—50,000 to 110,000 words
  • Prescriptive/How-To—50,000 to 150,000

Of course these guidelines are only just that—guidelines. And there are WAY more genres and sub-genres (e.g. new weird and slipstream…what now!?) so it’s best to do your own research. But do pay attention and at least be aware of publisher AND reader expectations. Because you still have to list your word count in your query letter or book proposal!

Sources: The Swivet, Jerry Jenkins, Books & Such Literary Management

Have you ever asked <em>how long should my book be?</em> Did you know what a great question it is? GREAT question! Many debut authors dive into their manuscript with wild abandon and with little thought to structure, plot or word count.

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