I'll admit it; I love a good review. Nothing makes me happier than hearing how much someone has enjoyed my writing. Truly, I love to see the reader/listener reaction at my writing groups as they process and grasp what's going on. If I've done my job well, I might even see that spark of understanding a theme, idea or emotion that I meant to convey.
These moments are few and far between. Mostly, writers create in their own space. A part from writing groups and beta readers, often the only feedback they get is the form rejection letter when they submit to an agent, publisher or submission call. Of the nearly twenty agent rejection letters I've received for Wolf Creek, only one didn't look like a form letter. The agent took the time to tell me that she didn't think the idea for the novel was unique enough to sell – a worry that already has a footing in the back of my mind.
Worse than the void of no comments are the well-intentioned words of encouragements that take the form of vague compliments.
'I loved it.'
'It was great.'
'Don't change a thing.'
'I can see the movie already.'
While these compliments can be ego boosters, an author who has opened more than a dozen rejection letters knows how empty these comments can be. Nothing is ever perfect. All works could be improved, especially after only one draft. These comments leave the author with no idea of where to go to improve their work. Unless these words are coming from someone who is offering me a publication contract, I say thank you, enjoy the pat on the back and go back to the work of creating a solid story.
If a reader can give me specific examples of what they loved, great. It's even better if they tell me where the story lost them or the characters came off as unrealistic. Critiques that point out strengths as well as weaknesses, as subjective as both may be, are far better than well-meaning statements of praise.
Encouragement is like dessert; yummy, but full of empty calories. An author needs balanced and specific criticism to thrive.