Good critique partners are hard to come by. I am blessed with four valuable CPs who read my stuff with objective eye and give me amazing insight. They’re out there, playing the same game I am, people who are in the biz or are at a similar stage in their writing. One of my writing betas is a freelancer who is top-notch at the editing process—helping me make those cuts I can’t bear to make myself. Another critique partner gives me the most amazing line edits while two others help with voice and big picture issues.
They help me with all kinds of writing stuff - from formatting my manuscript to making me show and not tell. They call me on my redundancies and inconsistencies. Thanks to one of them, I finally learned how to make an "em" dash. And then I passed the info onto another.
How do you find them? I found most of mine through writing conferences. I know some have found their writing buds on Twitter, through blogging. There are always people out there looking, just ask. Heck. That’s what I did.
What exactly makes a good critiquing relationship? For everyone I’m sure it’s different, but here are a few things that have worked for me…
1) Bringing different strengths to the relationship—aka one might be amazing at descriptions or characterization, while the other specializes in effective dialogue or action.
2) Being tactfully honest. In other words, there are nice ways to tell someone that something's not working. The goal is to improve. Learning to take criticism and to give it constructively are an essential part of an effective critiquing relationship. Treat the work (and the author) with respect. I know sharing my work is a HUGE vulnerability point for me. It takes a lot of courage to let someone else in on your writing.
And - PS - try to keep in mind that when someone does a critique for you, they are not critiquing you. They are critiquing your work. Again - the goal is to improve.
3) Accentuating the positives. There’s ALWAYS something good you can find in a piece of writing. ALWAYS.
4) Letting your critique partner know what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for nitty-gritty line edits or an overall feel from the project, let your CPs know. And expect the same in return. No one’s a mind reader. Well…at least I don’t claim to be.
5) Setting realistic goals—for yourself and your CP. One of my CPs and I try (and we really do try) to trade off a chapter or two a week. Another one likes to work on my projects in small chunks. Another one begs me for the next chapter faster than I can get it to her. (PS – LOVE THAT!) Whatever works—just establish it up front.
And do you always follow every bit of advice? That depends. If you neglect commas in independent clauses on a semi-paragraph basis (ahem…like me), you might want to “make those changes.” But if one CP has a problem with something and the others don’t, then I might pass on that suggestion. That’s why it’s important to have more than one—everyone brings different perspectives to the table.
And while having critiquers, and good critiquers at that, is an essential part of the writing process, I have also discovered that being a good critique partner is equally important.
WHAT?! Are you kidding me? I’m a full-time teacher, a mom, a Facebook addict, and I write! When do I have time to read somebody else’s stuff?!
But I do it. I read other people’s WIPs. I edit articles. I practically beg my seniors to let me red ink their research papers. Why?
a) I looove to read. And shoot—when I read someone else’s work,I get to read FOR FREE.
b) The more I edit, the more critical eye I have for my own work. When I tell my seniors to quit using so much passive voice, guess what? I engage in more active voice in my own stories. When I edit redundancy in someone else’s work, I’m less redundant in mine.
So—hopefully you get it. The more I critique someone else’s work, the more technical I get with my own writing.
Finally, critiquing brings a certain level of intimacy—after all, I’m cracking open my rib cage and exposing my heart to these people. So it’s no wonder one of my CPs has come to be one of my closest friends.
Critique partners - they're essential. Find them, relish them.
I know I absolutely heart mine.
So, fellow bloggers, what do YOU love about your critique partners?!