March 11, 2011

On the Value of Crit Partners (and where to find them!)

You've probably heard this before, but critique partners are invaluable to aspiring writers. I'm personally a fan of critiquers who tell me like it is. No need to sugarcoat it. I can't possibly improve if I'm not told what I'm doing wrong. I've always been a very frank critiquer myself--I try to gentle my words, but I'm always honest. Back in fandom, I once beta'd for a writer, and I must have been too honest because I never heard back from her. Oops?

After that incident, I was careful to never offer to beta for anyone ever again lol, because what I learned about fandom, which ties in to what I wrote about here (on the dangers of complacency), is that 95% of fanfiction writers don't want to be critiqued no matter what they say to the contrary. And that's okay! Fanfiction is for fun!

In Which The Writing Community is AMAZING

Then I joined, and I was blown away by how awesome the people there were. I joined First Pages (Crit Group), and started critiquing pages by members. Every critique was received with grace and enthusiasm. I was so impressed. It was such a different experience from what I'd witnessed in fandom. I received great critiques from the members there as well, and I've loved every experience I've had there so far.

I delved deeper into the writing community. I started out with one CP, a long-time friend from the Naruto fandom. We were both aspiring writers, and we both shared a love of YA, so becoming CPs seemed natural. But after 14 months, I was nearing the end of my editing, and she was still buried neck-deep writing the second draft of her YA, so I found myself at an impasse. Everywhere I read, agents and published writers alike suggested getting as many eyes as possible on your manuscript, so that's what I did.

Just within the last month and a half, I've been extremely lucky to find (and been found by) critique partners who are not only great writers, but who can pinpoint problems in my writing and have ready advice for how to improve it.

So What Makes a Good Crit Partner?

Well, that answer depends on what you want =D

Better bloggers have said this before, but I think it bears repeating. When looking for a crit partner, keep in mind the following:

1. Goals - What do you want from a CP? Frank, brutally honest feedback? Line editing? A friend and cheerleader? Your goals should match up, at least mostly.

2. Understanding - Even if your goals match up, it doesn't help if you don't click as people. No one wants to take critique from someone they don't respect or like (no matter how accurate the critique might be).

3. Skill - Ideally, you want a CP who is either a better writer than you are or who is at the same level as you. I say this because I've improved by reading those better writers, and if I could get their feedback on my writing? Score! But with a CP at the same level, you get to learn together, and that can oftentimes be even more rewarding. Of course, I believe that every writer has something unique to offer so as long as you can find that CP who makes you look at your manuscript in a new and better way, I'd say you're fine =)

Personally, the best thing about having more than one crit partner is that each one tends to have their own strengths and weaknesses, and there's a really neat balance that forms. I have something to learn from all of my CPs, and that's what I love every time I pick up one of their chapters to read.

Great places to find crit partners:
Adventures in Children's Publishing: Alpha & Beta Reader Exchange
Natalie Whipple's Crit Partner Classifieds
Nathan Bransford Forums
Let the Words Flow Crit Partner sign ups's Crit Seekers Group
Maggie Stiefvater's 2011 Critique Partner Love Connection

CPs: Friends and Comrades in Arms. Or like a squad of vampire hunters--you can always rely on them to stake you if you f#@! up and get bitten ♥

Good luck finding yours! ♥

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