GET A THICK SKIN
Books on the topic fill shelves. Stephen King’s On Writing is one of my favorites. If you don't own it, go out and buy it. Frey's How to Write a Damn Good Novel is another one to consider.
Though I’ve taught writing classes, advised graduate students, and can wax eloquent on avoiding passive voice, I’ll focus on my other piece of advice today, a more crucial one:
If you want to be a successful writer you must be able to accept criticism.
I've edited a couple dozen anthologies and had the pleasure of working with seasoned veterans and newcomers. I offered future work to the ones who accepted criticism...or were so good I had nothing to criticize. I loved a horror story that had been submitted to me. But it had one awful sentence, mentioned a baby wrapping her fist around her twin's waist in the womb. I--the editor of the collection--changed it to wrapped her arm around her twin's waist...and sent the story back to the author for a final proof. She railed against that change. Venomously said I could not print her story with that change. That she wanted the fist wrapped around the twin's waist. I emailed her back, explaining a fist is a closed hand...and not large enough to go around a waist. But how dare I criticize her word choice, she fumed, adding the change was not acceptable.
I took the story out of the collection. She had skin of tissue paper. Maybe she had luck self-publishing.
I know authors who won't look at their titles on Amazon because they don't want to read the reviews. I know other authors who check their titles daily, looking for reviews, and slipping into a deep, soul-searing funk when they find a negative one. Me? I honestly want to know what people think--good and bad. They're not criticizing or praising me...they're commenting on a book.
I've taught students who can't handle anything other than praise, who shrivel and moan if I say their tales are boring and they need to cut the longueurs. Some have gotten nasty about it; one hissed at me: "You couldn't recognize good writing it if bit you on the ass."
I've always used the "sandwich method," offer a bit of praise, get to the crucial problems with a manuscript, close with something good to say. But some folks focus only on the polite bread and spit out what's between those slices. They only want the compliments. They want to know that what they've written is awesome and wonderful and amazing and the best thing ever and will sell to a publisher and make them as famous as George R. R. Martin.
Get a thick skin. Learn to accept comments, the good ones graciously...the tough ones even more so. Listen closely and gain some insights.
If an editor or agent tells you what's wrong with your novel, it's not to be mean. It's to be helpful and to be realistic.
Good criticism makes you a better writer.
Certainly there are folks who'll lob nasty reviews your way, pick apart your prose and make comments you don't agree with. It's your job to take it all in, accept and discard...and get better.
Get a thick skin.
I have a very thick skin, like boiled leather. "Bring it on!" I tell my editor. "I can take it."
I started toughening my skin in college, working as a stringer for the Rockford Register Star, toughened it a little more when I worked full time for the Quincy Herald Whig and then when I ran a news bureau for Scripps Howard. I added the boiled leather carapace when I started writing fiction.
Just finished my 37th novel; I've got skin like Iron Man's armor.
Get a thick skin...it'll help you fly.