I know – deep in my guts I know – that the next step forward for me in my writing is to find critique partners. A critique partner is different from a beta reader. A reader comes at a manuscript as just that – a reader. A critique partner approaches a manuscript as another writer.
It’s pretty standard industry knowledge that workshopping and critique partners are a good way to improve craft. I‘ve been in writing workshops before, and I’ve had various sorts of writers and readers read my work and provide feedback. I’ve had this done to varying degrees of success.
The best instances are when the person is able to really get me to see the hidden gems that I need to pull forward in my own work. The worst cases are where either the reader just didn’t “get it”, or they tore it to bits without remembering that my heart was buried in there somewhere.
There are many hard parts about this process.
- I have to respect the other person’s opinion enough to take what they say as potential feedback to improve my work.
- I have to trust the other person’s intentions and kindness enough to not get defensive about what they say.
- I have to know that this person knows what the heck they are talking about – that their opinion has weight. If someone suggests something that would cause a major rewrite – have they done a major rewrite? Do they understand the price of following their suggestion? (Otherwise, they might make that suggestion too lightly, you see.)
- The other person has to have the time to devote to my work and respect any deadlines I might have. They have to be available.
- Preferably, they have something of their own that I can critique for them.
- Ideally, the CP would be a kind soul who would phrase things in a way that didn’t make me defensive. If I get defensive about a tone or perceived condescension, it can take me weeks or months to even gear up to be able to read their feedback, let alone be able to do anything constructive with it.
- Also on my wishlist is a critique partner who heavily favors the speculative fiction side of genre writing – both in writing and reading. I say this because there are cliches that only another fan could spot, and there are tropes that are sometimes delightful to twist, but it’s only delightful to a Spec Fic reader.
Look at those requirements. Basically, I’m talking about book-dating. This is a relationship, a give and take. Because it’s really hard to find people who meet these qualifications, and because it takes me a long time, personally, to build up trust in a person, this has to be a dating-toward-book-marriage sort of thing. I am looking for long-term book-love, here. No fly-by-night book crushes and one-story stands.
I am online book-dating, a little bit.
I joined critters.org last week. It is specifically Spec-fic, so it meets that wishlist item. But all of the critiques I’ve heard about the site is that it heavily favors short works. Which means that I might meet up with some good folks there, but I’ll have to take the relationship offline if I want to really go somewhere. I have a short story that keeps getting near-miss rejections from magazine editors, and I would like to hone it a bit more. I plan on submitting it for this site to take a look at.
I have requested and gotten a few critiques via Twitter, but that has been… hard. I read the first part of the response emails, cringed and haven’t opened them back up to review the story line notes. I felt sort of shredded just reading the emails.
Just like romantic-dating or friend-dating, my book has made this wishlist. Do any of my blog readers have a book with a similar list?
- On Critiques (authormagazineonline.wordpress.com)
- Trick-Or-Critique Competition (baconbooks.wordpress.com)
- How to Write a Critique (ravenpierce.wordpress.com)