I critique hard, if the person is wanting publication, because she's going to meet that sooner or later. But I do try to encourage, to find the good points. There are some critiquers who take pleasure in smacking a writer down, making her feel small, but what good does that do?
If you're going for publication, then the publishers will see your book as a 'product' and all they want is to make profit on it. If you can buy into that mindset, you can cope, but if you see your book as a work of art that requires gentle care, you're in for a disappointment.
I've had bitter setbacks, and some harsh words, together with a folder full of rejections, from good to form "thanks but no thanks" letters. But I've also had some success and I now have books with Ellora's Cave, Samhain and Loose-ID, together with some Stuff going on in New York of which I dare not speak.
It hurts sometimes, and you have to look at the market from the publisher's point of view as well as the writer's, if you want to be successful.
And watch out for the sharks and scammers. There are so many would-be published writers that there are a lot of them about. Would-be's and scammers both.
If you're a writer who just does it for the joy of creation (and I was that kind of writer for most of my life) then criticism isn't helpful if it isn't productive. And you deserve support and help because you're doing it to enrich your life. But if you're going for publication, it can get very nasty out there, and that includes critiques. I've met some wonderful supportive people, and I've also met some that really don't care about anything except ripping you to shreds and aggrandising themselves.
You decide which is which and go with the more helpful ones. Do your best to ignore the others.
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