Surviving the Arena: How to Read the Comments

So you’ve got your story written.

You wrung out your brain for a good premise, spent hours putting one word in front of the other; you cut and polished and tweaked that sucker until it shined.

You’re proud of this story. It isn’t perfect, but darn it, you gave it the best you had. You send it off, fingers crossed, and hope for the best.

Battle day comes and your story goes live in the arena.

The first trickle of votes start to roll in.accuse

And then come the comments.

None of them are mean (because this community is freakin’ awesome) but they are critical. Your ending didn’t work. Your characters didn’t resonate. Your take on the prompt wasn’t very interesting.

Your first instinct is to hide from all of that. To run and hide in a hole with no wifi so you don’t have to be hurt by those negative comments. At least that’s what I want to do when I’m up in the arena.

Even constructive criticism can hurt. There is a part of you that doesn’t want to hear what you did wrong and how to improve. You want to hear that your story is perfect and flawless in every way. You put work into this after all. You put a little piece of your soul on the page, and it still wasn’t good enough.

But those comments are good for you. Someone took the time to read your story. Someone thought about what it meant to them, and wrote out those thoughts for you to read.

Yeah it hurts. But sometimes getting hurt is good for you too. We can never improve if we never recognize our failings. We will never get stronger without accepting our own weakness.

We all struggle with the fear that we’re not good enough. And if we let it, that fear can cripple us. But that’s not why the fear is there. The fear is there to make us better, to push us to try harder, to get closer to the ideal.

You can do better. You can be better. Your ending could have been stronger, your characters more compelling, your story more interesting.

Facing that reality is the only way you’re going to get better.

Read the comments. Take what you can learn from them and leave the rest. Because your story isn’t good enough. But next time it’ll be better.

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  1. The best reason to write for the Arena is to get comments. When I’ve written, I’ve always put forward what I thought was my best story, my most polished given the time constraints.

    In return I’ve learned that my work wasn’t everything it could have been, which is sobering, but at the same time brilliant.

    You know why?

    Someone read it, and gave enough of a damn to tell me what they wanted from me next time they read something I’d written. Which means there would be a next time. I’d impressed enough for someone to stop and think about something I’d written.

    You can’t buy that feeling, nor can you buy the advice you get.

    • That’s very true. It’s surreal that someone would read something you’ve created and shared their unique perspective on it. Whatever way you look at it, it’s an accomplishment.

  2. The feedback that stories receive here is invaluable as a writer. Honestly, you don’t get commentary this good in most Creative Writing courses…

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