As many of you already know, I have a very fast approaching deadline looming on the horizon, and I’ll admit, until an alert showed up on my phone telling me I was supposed to blog today, I completely forgot. That said, I prepared no topic for today’s post and I don’t have a lot of time to think up anything clever. So . . . I am declaring it Unofficial Critique Partner Appreciation Day and I’m going to gush on my awesome CPs who put up with me and my madness.
So, what does a good CP (or group of CPs) do for a writer? (And what makes my girls over at the Modern Myth Makers so awesome?)
–A good critique partner is honest and objective. A CP should never maliciously tear into a writers work, but a good CP honestly evaluates the work and lets the writer know what is and isn’t working. Not everything should earn a pat on the head and a smiley face (though those are appreciated when warranted) because no matter how good a manuscript, there is bound to be something the writer is just too close to see. I rely on my CPs to look for too convenient situations, faulty logic, and other things I just can’t see after reading over my own words an umpteen number of times. I distinctly remember a CP once telling me, “If she doesn’t figure out BIG SECRET soon, I’m going to strangle her.” Opps, guess I wasn’t being very subtle with that secret, and that was exactly what I needed to know.
- -A good CP can differentiate his or her own preferences from you work. There is nothing worse than someone trying to push their own agenda into your words. Everyone is going to bring their own bias to what they read, and that’s fine, but if you end up in a situation where your CP is making suggestions that would turn your work into something you don’t even recognize, you might consider running. Fast. I am very fortunate to have (finally) found the group I currently work with. We all love eachother’s work, and while loving a character means we might *hope* certain things happen, there is no pressure. We are also all willing to sit down and brainstorm, throwing out dozens of (often contradicting) ideas and are all confident enough in our work to use only what resonates.
- -A good CP respects your voice. Voice is a word thrown around a lot in writing. It seems that agents and editors are buying ‘voices’ these days as much as they are buying the plot of the story. But a voice can be a very delicate thing. Voice is more than what words you choose, but also the order you use them and the punctuation you accent them with. When all the work coming out of a critique group all starts to ‘sound’ the same, you know something has gone eschew.
- -A good CP cheers you on. Okay, this one is actually a little controversial. Some people will suggest that you never under any circumstance develop more than a business relationship with your critique partners. The reason for this being that it is easier to be objective with someone who you are not emotionally tangled. I think this is ridiculous, but then, I’m an extremely blunt person and expect the same from my friends. I would never tell a stranger she looked fat in a dress, but you better believe I’d tell a friend (nicely, of course) and expect the same from her. This works the same with my writing–I want my writing to be the best it came be when it heads out into the world, so I rely on my CPs to point out the faults before anyone else gets a chance see them (see point one in this list). Depending on your personality and the relationship you build with your cp, this may be very different for you, but for me, I think CPs are the best cheerleaders. My CPs are just as excited about my successes as I am: they are there holding their breaths with me while I’m waiting to hear about a deal, they have their fingers crossed when I tuck an MS in the mail, and they celebrate with me when I first hold a printed copy of my book in my hands. They also console me when the rejections come in or when the bad reviews show up–then they make me start writing again.
This list could go on a little longer, but I have to get back to work now (or those CPs of mine might track me down.) So I’ll just close by saying Thank You all of you out there who are amazing critique partners, and for those of you out there who are writers but have not yet connected with a CP, here are a couple suggestions where to find one:
-Local writing organizations. Many libraries host writing groups, so keep your eyes open on local areas where writers might congregate.
-National writing organizations. Most genres have their own national chapters, which typically break down into local chapters. Look into organizations such as RWA, MWA, and SFWA (you can’t actually join SFWA until after your first sale, but the others allow anyone who is serious about writing join. I don’t write romance, but since my novels include romantic elements, I have been a member of RWA for several years and have met many wonderful writers in that time.)
-Online communities. I’m not that familiar with any of these, but I know there are several communities on the web designed for writers to post their work and receive critiques.
-NaNoWriMo (you knew I had to work this one in there somewhere.) I actually met all of my CPs over the course of several years of participating in NaNo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month and occurs every November.
If you are out looking for a cp, know that not everyone you team up with will be the perfect fit and you might have to try several CPs or groups before you find one that will really help your writing grow, but once you find one, a good CP is indispensable.
Happy unofficial critique partner appreciation day everyone!