Monday, April 4, 2011

Critique Partners

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?!

18 comments:

  1. Good blog. I to have some good critique partners. They are the best. I don't know how I would survive in my writing without them.

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  2. Great suggestions. Do use CPs that write in the same genre as you?

    A-Z Fellow Challenger
    Holly Ruggiero’s POV

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  3. Yay for GREAT CP's!!! I love that they see what I can't.

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  4. I love my CPs, they're awesome!!

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  5. My hat's off to all the great CPs out there. I'm just diving into revisions. I'm going to have to nab one soon!

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  6. Hi. Nice to meet you. I am glad you have people to help you. It is always better to do things with a buddy.

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  7. I just signed up to find one and we just made our connection. I think it's going to be a good relationship! It's amazing the different critiquing and support will do when it comes to chasing dreams!

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  8. I did have some poems critique. I found it pinched a bit, then realized I needed this to improve. I like the sandwich approach a positive, negative and end on a positive note.
    It can't always be done...

    Great post~

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  9. Ever since graduating college and having workshops, it's been hard for me to find critique partners. I have people to read my stories, but most are friends or family. I know they're honest, but they're not as helpful as a critique partner!

    I DO love being a beta for people though. Just like you said - it's reading a book for free!

    - allison writes

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  10. my CPs keep me honest and stop me from becoming a lazy writer ;)

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  11. I don't have any CPs but I'd love to find someone I feel comfortable sharing my work with. Great post! :)

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  12. I found my critique partners on Critique Circle, an online critique site. Great place!

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  13. Great post. And helpful tips -- I don't have a critique partner(s) but have been thinking about getting a few. Thanks for sharing

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  14. I don't have any official CPs, but I do have a couple friends who are also writers, so we pass stuff between each other when we feel it's ready to share (which isn't often).

    But in regard to #3, I try to abide by Nathan Bransford's sandwich method: Start with something positive, get at the real critiquey bits, then end with something else positive. Then, eat a sandwich.

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  15. I like the "tactfully honest" part. That's sooo necessary! Sounds like you've got a great group ~ :)

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  16. I don't have critique partners. I'm wary of handing my baby over to someone I don't really know. I do have beta readers, though, and one of them betas for her husband, who is a screenwriter, and she is rather good at it, so I'd say she's close to a critique partner. She caught so many little things, and it rocked, because I'd rather it be her than a critic.

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  17. I have never had critique partners, but I am sure there are those who critique what I write in silent. Nice to "meet" you from the A-Z challenge!

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  18. Great post.
    I am a beginning writer and always lacked confidence. After joining a writing group and getting not only advice but positive feedback on my work, I can see improvement. Family and friends aren't always honest;therefore a crititique group is very valuable.

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