Monday, March 23, 2009

Finding the right fit.

In response to another writer who was wondering how to find a good critique partner, I decided to dedicate my blog today to the wonderful world of critiquing.

How to find a good partner…

• Join writer’s groups. Online or in person, either way you feel comfortable doing it. You’ll learn so much from a fellow writer, especially one with more experience than you have. But, don’t just join, join in. It does you no good to join a group if you don’t participate. People are much more helpful once they get to know you better.

• Ask your friends/family to read it. They may not be the best with grammer or punctuation, but they can sure tell you what they like and what they don’t. Just because they’re not writers, doesn’t mean they’re not readers.

• Get to know the writer’s you meet. You never know if they or someone they know is also looking for a partner. The best way to find a partner you click with, is to get to know them personally before you start exchanging words (MS’s that is).

• Join a blog group. You’re blog partners can become some of your best friends and partners, in more ways than one. Remember, a good critique partner is all about the relationship. You never know if a member of the group is looking for a partner as well.

What makes a good critique partner?

• Honesty. You don’t want someone telling you your writing is great if it’s really not. That’s not going to help you improve and it won’t help you make the sale. If something needs improved, you need to know about it so you can fix it.

• Knowledgeable. If they don’t know what the rules are, how can they help you? As I said earlier, they can still be helpful, by telling you whether or not they like it. But, you need someone who knows the rules of grammer to help you make it shine.

• They tell you what’s good about it, as well as what needs fixed. No one wants a critique partner who only tells them the bad points. Although, the advice may be useful, there will be too many hurt feelings for the critique to be taken seriously. If they tell you both the good and bad, you can learn where your strengths are as well as your weaknesses.

• They are specific. Misunderstandings aren’t helpful. If there is miscommunication, it helps no one. A critique partner should be specific about what exactly is wrong, and hopefully, a good way to fix it.

• They are objective. If it’s not their cup of tea, they might not be giving you the right advice. Just because one person doesn’t like that style, doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands of people out there who do like it. If they aren’t objective, they may bring their own baggage into the crit, which can be more hurtful, than helpful.

• They are patient. Writers are busy people. For the most part, writing is their second job. Usually, it takes a long time before they can make enough at writing alone to pay the bills. And, when they do finally make it enough to quit the full time job, that means they’re selling, a lot. So, they have deadlines to finish. That’s a good thing to remember before sending multiple emails asking where your chapter is.

• They give as well as they get. They are a real partner. They don’t expect you to crit for them without doing their part. It is a two way street. Work should travel both roads, in and out.

Good websites to check out…

I hope this was helpful and informative. What do you look for in a critique partner? Do you have ideas I haven’t expressed? If so, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear what you have to say. Good luck to everyone in their writing adventures!


Carrie said...

Hi Sierra,

Great Blog!

Experience can come in more ways than one. Just because someone hasn't been published yet, it doesn't mean they are experienced with language, how to critique and in general, what works and what doesn't.

Providing a list of what you would like to know about your MS before the other person reads it can help direct their comments and get you the information you need faster.

If you ask for comments, be open to what you get in return. Sometimes the honest truth can hurt, but in the end, you may be a better writer for it. Don't be afraid to ask someone to clarify comments that seem unclear.

Be sure each side is clear on what critiquing means to them. As a contest judge, one of the first "lessons" dealt with judging (critiquing) versus editing. From the several writers I've learned from (academic and creative) and classes I have taken, editing is very different from critiquing and can sometimes change the voice of the story from the author's to the person doing the critiquing, which is why it's important to define what you want the other person to do with your MS ahead of time.

Carrie (from Wisconsin)

Mark Alders said...

I've tried lots of different critique groups and forums. Many had mixed results (including bullying and teasing and 'isolation' tactics). Suffice it to say I only workshop my work with a trusted friend now.

The last experience I had ('cause I thought I'd give it one more go at a critique group) was not good at all. I did a lot of work on someone's writing, only to get back a "this is good" from them on mine.

Anyway...that's just my experience.


Anyway, great post, Sierra.

Sierra Wolfe said...

Hi Carrie! Thanks for the comments. Excellent advice! Thanks for sharing.

Sierra Wolfe said...

Very true, Mark. Sometimes groups don't work out. I've never had good experiences with crit groups myself. It's the one on one interaction that helps me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Carrie said...

Hi there,

With the problems that I am hearing from both of you, maybe this is why I haven't been able to get any critiquing groups to come forward to The Leader (the local college magazine I still write for). I have tried to get some sort of "critiquing network" going for undergraduate writers, but I am beginning to think that it just won't happen.

I do know what you mean with bad experiences though. I kind of realized that my talent went beyond the scope of most of the writers in my classes judging by the fact that most of them said I was very, "creative," and that they were somewhat blown away by what I did.

Luckily, though, there were a few who may have been brutally honest, but they had legitimate points that became glaringly obvious after I set the work aside for some time.

With critique groups, it depends upon how they're set up and what the rules are to begin with and depends upon if the other people in the group can understand all the parts to your story.

It's a shame that your groups haven't worked out for you.

Carrie (from Wisconsin)

Leigh Royals said...

I kinda started a crit group, but the two who were first invited did not participate. It was not good. But now I have found one person who is happy with my feedback, as well as I am with hers. It's a very good partnership.
This has been a topic on my mind the last week or so; a very timely piece.

Debra Kayn said...

I enjoy one on one crits. I've had trouble in the past with group crits, because it is so slow going. Other's wait for someone else to go first. Work, and family life take over for some, and it seems like you wait and wait for a crit on the first chapter, and in the meantime I am done with the book, lol.

One on one, when you find the right person is lovely, and seems to work great for me.

Great post!

Sierra Wolfe said...

Thanks everyone! I appreciate the comments. It looks like most people so far prefer one on one crit partners. I should have set up a poll. Maybe next time I'll think of that. :)

Regina Carlysle said...

Good post! I've been very lucky to find a couple of writer friends and we formed a small group. I've found smaller works best for me. We are honest with each other and it works. Sometimes we'll just ask each other specific concerns such as whether the dialogue works, is so and so coming off too harsh, is this plausible? That sort of thing.

Tierney O'Malley said...

I wasn't very lucky in finding a good critique partner. The first one just stopped corresponding and the second...well, life got in her way.
But I did find a wonderful person-Debi Valenzuela. Debi offered to be my mentor--for free. She critiqued my work, my first baby. Through her, I learned so many things. I remember her telling me to compact my sentences, delete unnecessary words. She even gave me exercises to work on. Anyway, we didn't finish working on the whole story, but she gave me enough to think about. She armed me with great knowledge that I carry to this day.
The story Debi reviewed without asking for anything in return is sold to Red Rose Publishing-my first novel.
Yes, join blog groups, Romance Divas, RWC. You never know who you'll meet.

Thanks fo the post Sierra! Awesome job, girl. Okay, going to work now. :D


Tierney O'Malley said...

I forgot to mention, Sierra. I so love your graphics. :D


Crista said...

It's always tricky finding a good crit partner, but if you don't open yourself up to it and dip your toes in the water, you'll never find one. I have one crit partner who's worth her weight in gold. I stumbled across her when I joined an online crit group I saw advertised in one the writing forums. And although the other 3 members were either non-responsive or weren't on the right level when it came to their writing, the two of us continued our crit partnership even after the crit group was disbanded.

Sierra Wolfe said...

Great comments everyone! You've given a lot of great information. Thanks for sharing! I appreciate it!

Gracen Miller said...

Great post, Sierra. I agree with everyone so far, I prefer one-on-one critiquing. I seem to get more out of it. Friends are great too. They pick out the glaringly obvious stuff in the storyline.

Loved the pictures. lol They added a nice touch to the blog.

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