Welcome back! Today we have Alexa Bourne talking about how important it is for improving your craft to have good critique partners.
I signed my first writing contract back in December 2011 and I can honestly say I NEVER would have gotten there without my critique partner. Yes, having people tell you how great your story is and how awesome you are is very important, but a true writer needs the person (or people) who will tell her what’s wrong with a story.
My road to my perfect critique partner (CP, for short) wasn’t always easy. In fact, more often than not I had a BAD experience. I had a woman who told me what was wrong and how she would fix it (basically rewriting my story). I had good critiquers who stayed with me through one book but then realized they didn’t want to be writers anymore. I had another critique partner who worked with me during one book and then she and her family moved away and she didn’t want to keep critiquing by email. I had critique partners who didn’t really know how to write (and we didn’t stay partners for long). But I knew I needed someone to help me so I kept looking until I found my perfect critique partner.
Now some people could say they don’t need a critique partner. I’m here to tell you a CP can be crucial to success. Is it possible to get published without a critique partner? Of course, but I honestly believe a good CP is worth her weight in gold. A writer might not be able to step back far enough to view her work professionally or objectively. She could be submitting manuscript pages to friends to read and, while the friends may be willing to help, they may not understand the details included in becoming a professional writer. A good critique partner can be those eyes and that professional guidance.
What is a perfect critique partner? A perfect critique partner is the writer who is right for you at that specific time. It is a person who can give you guidance, who can point out what does and doesn’t work. It is someone you trust to be honest with you and someone you know who wants what is best for you and your work. It may seem simple, but we’re asking people to tell us what is wrong with our babies. We’re asking them to rip apart something we feel great pride and joy in. Hearing your baby is ugly isn’t easy, right? So we need to totally believe in the person giving us that difficult news.
It’s also important that you and your critique partner talk about what you both want in the relationship. The key, as is with most relationships, is communication. If you can’t ask for what you need then you won’t grow as a writer. Some partners only brainstorm with each other and read sections of manuscripts that aren’t making sense. Other partners want to meet or exchange work each week. It’s good to find a partner whose strengths as a writer are different than yours that way you can help each other even more. For example, pace is a main issue for me in my drafts. My CP is excellent at pinpointing where the story begins to drag and when I repeat myself too much. At the same time, I’m really great at catching grammar issues for her, and when the story just doesn’t gel I can usually help her figure out why.
Sometimes a CP can be helpful in another way. When I’ve had a rough writing day, a rejection or a bad review, I’ve sent her some work and asked her to just tell me everything that’s awesome about it. J Do I really believe there’s nothing wrong with that piece? Of course not, but sometimes we just need an ego boost. My relationship with my critique partner is solid enough that she’ll tell me all that’s right on that day and then save all that’s wrong for another round of critiquing.
The right critique partner is invaluable. You can help each other, grow together, and back each other up. It may take quite a while before you find the perfect critique partner for you, but keep looking. Remember how many toads I had to dance with before I found my perfect partner? I guarantee when you do find that perfect partner (or partners), your writing and your future readers will thank you for taking a chance on the partnership!
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Cindy here again!
Thanks for being here, Alexa. So true about finding a critique partner. I don’t know what I would do without mine.