You wrote a book. Now what?
If you’re like me, you wrote another and another and . . .
I wrote five books in two years, all without the aid of writing buddies or critique partners. I read some books on craft and received helpful feedback from contest judges, but my writing pretty much stayed at the same level until March 2008.
That month I found out I’d finaled in the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart®, and a whole new world opened up to me. I got to know my fellow finalists as well as other talented writers and authors.
I met three awesome women who are now my critique partners or CPs.
I’ve asked some of my blog guests what advice they would give to new writers. One answer that comes up regularly is to get into a critique group. I’ve seen agents and editors give the same advice on their sites. And I wholeheartedly agree.
Contest judges have really helped me. I thank each of the generous women who’ve given of their time and experience, sharing their suggestions and steering me to resources. But I needed more.
Enter my CPs.
Too shy to make the offer, I hadn’t explored this option. Anne, CJ and Melanie approached me, and I’m grateful. I wish I’d known them earlier, because they’ve given me more in a few months time than I’d learned in two years on my own.
Benefits of Having a Critique Partner
Contest feedback can be helpful, but if I don’t understand something a judge says, I have no way of finding out what was meant. Being able to ask my CPs for clarification is great.
Having served as a contest judge recently, I learned we’re supposed to keep our feedback encouraging, our goal being to support and gently educate the entrants. In a CP relationship, however, we build trust and learn to share at a deeper level than a contest judge can. Plus, we can ask for help in specific areas.
Contest judges focus on major areas and choose which need the most attention. We can’t address everything we see. However, my CPs and I don’t have such limitations. Thus, I get much more feedback from a CP’s edit than I can expect from a contest judge.
•Learning from your critique partners’ strengths
I’m blessed with three amazing CPs. Each has a unique voice and different areas of expertise. Together they make an awesome team.
Anne Barton writes witty, entertaining Regency historicals with endearing characters. Her voice is closest to my own. She’s also the most detail-oriented of my three CPs and helps me with punctuation and grammar. Plus, she’s a math-teacher and has a great way of quantifying feedback, which I find very helpful.
CJ Redwine writes action-packed urban fantasy with a healthy side of humor. She’s several years my junior and helps keep my contemporary voice fresh, catching me when I slip into my seen-the-seventies-firsthand dated dialogue. Since her stories move right along, she’s good at pointing out places mine drag.
Melanie Dickerson writes historical inspirationals with strong characters who jump off the page. She’s my believability expert. If something doesn’t sound plausible, she’ll catch it. Plus, she’s good at showing me places where my main characters don’t seem as likable as they might. She writes inspirationals, so we have that in common.
I not only learn from my CPs feedback; I learn from reading their awesome works.
•Discovering your strengths
As I work with my CPs, I learn what could be improved, but I also learn what I do well. Contest judges and my CPs have admired my technical skills. I have a degree in Mass Communication with a print journalism focus, and I worked as an assistant editor for a small textbook publishing company at one point. I’m able to serve as an unofficial copy editor for my CPs.
I seem to have a knack for descriptions. I’m able to point out places my CPs have done a great job setting the scene as well as places they may want to add a bit more detail.
Finding out what you do well builds confidence. It also enables you to let potential CPs know in which areas you’ll be best able to help them.
How to Find a Critique Partner
There are a number of places to look for potential CPs. Consider:
•Members of your local RWA® chapter
•Members of your other writing groups
•Members of your on-line groups
•Fellow contest finalists
•Referrals from writer friends
•Writers you meet at conferences
Don’t be afraid to ask. If you think someone might make a good CP, see if it’s something s/he would consider. Then suggest a trial run. By doing this, you give both writers the ability to bow out gracefully if the relationship isn’t a good fit.
Some Things to Look for in a Critique Partner
•Someone who writes in your genre
•Someone who has strengths you don’t
•Someone who will be honest and yet kind
•Someone you can trust
•Someone who will be fair in returning critiques
•Someone who has the time to perform the critiques
And now it’s your turn.
Do you have critique partners? If so, how did you go about finding them? What have you learned from them? And how long did you go it alone before you located your writing partners? Leave a comment with your questions or answers. I’d love to hear from you.
You could win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and February 28. Make sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On March 1, I will choose one person who will have her choice of five covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)