Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Critique Partners Are Awesome

This is Canada again.

I'm working on my editing my WIP, and I have two documents open:
1) My draft
2) My notes from my CPs, Beta readers, and myself

Beta readers and critique partners (CPs) are pretty much the most awesome thing ever (if you have fairly thick skin).

Why Bother To Find a CP?

It's hard to be objective with your own writing. You can fall in love with a character or scene or a turn of phrase or just overlook the obvious. Getting fresh eyes on your work can be essential in turning a decent manuscript into a good manuscript.

My writing partners have pointed out things it might have taken me forever to realize on my own. Plus, they're fun to talk to. They get it. They've been there. And sometimes you just really want to talk to someone who gets it.

Where to Find Them

Oh, man, there are options galore. This is not, by any means, the full list:
  • Local Writing Groups (You're on your own for this research)
  • CP Facilitations sites
  • Online Writing Groups (Just google this & look around; there are a ton)
  • Forums with more piecemeal critiques for queries and  writing samples:
    • Reddit, for example: here (Reddit has a ton of subreddits - just go looking if you want something more specific.)
    • Nathan Bransford's writing forums
    • I believe Absolute Write Water Cooler has critiquing forum
    • Query Specific: AgentQuery Connect (I didn't actually find their advice to be as helpful as other sites, but that's entirely subjective.)
There are also more unconventional methods. If you follow blogs, sometimes you'll get to know some of the frequent commenters. And sometimes they have their contact info available. Or on Twitter you might be able to find others at a similar stage in their writing.

Whenever you're contacting someone out of the blue, you're more likely to get rejected (which always hurts; sorry), but sometimes its worth it if you really love their writing style or think that they'd make a great friend.

Even if they turn you down flat, at least you got to practice selling yourself and being gracious in rejection.

What to Do When You Find Them

Don't get me wrong, despite all these opportunities, finding a CP who meshes with you and improves your writing can be hell. You can read excerpt after excerpt from potential partners. Sometimes the feedback will be useless compliments or comments from someone who obviously doesn't get your genre. But sometimes, there will be useful criticism in there.

So, when interacting with potential CPs:
1) Be honest with yourself
2) Be critical

You've got to be able to step back and recognize when a CP has a valid criticism (Of course, sometimes CPs will come back with conflicting advice. This stuff's crazy subjective). Because that is how you improve your writing.

Good luck

I've tried out a ton of potential CPs, but only a few have stuck. Even the ones who didn't work out were all pretty nice people, just not right for my writing. So don't be afraid to dip in the waters.

Oddly enough, I've had the worst time getting helpful feedback on query letters. Tons of contradicting advice and some bad advice from otherwise good writers, so always read critiques with a critical eye.

And have fun. CPs can become some of the best friends you never meet (or eventually go out of your way to meet).

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