Tiffany Droke, "Me, Myself & I." Age 17, Grade 12. 2010 American Visions Medal, Painting.

One student asked a writer how to respond to criticism they didn’t agree with.

Anonymous: When my English teacher edits my short stories, sometimes I don’t always like or agree with her comments about the way I write. Do I have to listen to them?

Ned Said: There is such a thing as being too responsive to criticism. Writing isn’t like math — it’s never objectively “right” — so it can always be critiqued, and if you don’t stand up to the critics at some point your work turns to mush. You should listen to the edits of your teacher that ring true to you — especially the ones that 1) match comments other people have given on your work and 2) resonate with secret worries you had yourself (“I knew I used too many adverbs!”). But if your teacher suggests things that are really outrageous, like “needs more adverbs,” you’re within your rights to say “thanks for your opinion” and keep writing the way that feels right to you. That’s how you develop a style.

Have questions about writing, or the business of publishing? Ask a real writer! Ned Vizzini Vizzini is the author of three acclaimed young adult books: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (now a major motion picture), Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah…. Ned has spoken at over 200 schools, universities, and libraries around the world about writing and mental health. E-mail your questions to

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