Monday, October 8, 2018

Finding the Best Critique Partners #critique #critiquepartner #willaedwards #improvement

For years I struggled writing alone. I was afraid to show my work to anyone. But it was only once I started to get honest feedback on my writing that I really started to improve and grow. Its only with HONEST feedback that any of us can really find what we are doing wrong about anything and improve.

Over the past few years I've been missing that honest feedback for a few reasons. As the publishing world moved more towards self publishing and the demands on authors grew, I lost a lot of my writing community. People drifted apart, didn't have time for critiquing, and in all honesty neither, did I.

But recently I've had a change of heart. While I believe the books I put out over my career were fantastic, I'm starting to realize all the things I've missed by not having a critique partner. Someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to tell you the truth (even when you do want to hear it). So this year, I joined a critique group. For my current work in progress, I can definitely say it has made a huge improvement on my writing.

So I thought I'd go through a few things that I think make a good critique partner. This is just my opinion. Others are free to argue with these traits, but for me, they are the most important or helpful for a critique partner.

1. Honesty. If someone isn't going tell you everything because they are afraid of your feelings that is not the critique partner for me. Honest doesn't mean harsh or cruel, that's something else entirely, but true honest about your work is worth its weight in gold.

A side note on this one, if you are newer to being critiqued, you might want to limit the comments you ask for to one aspect at a time (such as first work on character, then POV, then get around to grammar). It can be overwhelming at first to get comments on everything. But they should still be honest and tell you everything they see in your work, even if its only on one aspect of your story.

2. Find a critique partner with different traits and habits than yourself. I find that often the best  critique partner are ones who are opposites of my personal style. I tend to have very thinky characters and have long sentence structures. So a critique partner that is more prone to write action or dialogue, or maybe has more stilted style, is great for me. I believe that a critique partner that has an opposite style can bring out the best in both partners, offering something the other doesn't have, and meet in a happy medium.

3. Someone who knows your genre, but doesn't have to write it. Similar to the previous, I find someone who doesn't necessarily write your genre can be an excellent critique partner. They can offer incites that someone in the genre might not see. But they need to know the ins and outs of your genre to offer concrete feedback. And especially if your write erotic romance, you need to make sure they are fine with reading what you write. BDSM or Ménage is not for everyone.

And remember, not all critique relationships work out. If it doesn't work, for whatever reason, it doesn't mean anything about either of you. We all work in different ways, and sometimes two styles just aren't congruent. There is nothing wrong with admitting that a relationship if it isn't working out for you.

Hope these tips helped. With how disconnected our world has become, with most contact occurring online, I think these relationship are even more important and valuable than ever before. If you have any other tips for finding the right critique partner I would love to hear them.


Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Willa. To me, a problem that can happen with a critique partner is it's one person's opinion and it might not be universal. I know everyone - or seemingly everyone - adores the Star Wars franchise. To me, it's so-so. For scifi, I prefer Bladerunner, Gattaca, The Matrix, Snowpiercer, or Minority Report, . Something with a theme that makes me think. So if I were the critique partner for someone who was thinking of a Star Wars type thing, it wouldn't work for me. That doesn't mean it wouldn't sell, but I'd be hampering that author rather than helping.

Another way to go is to hire an editor who has worked for a house you want to write for - or an audience for self-pubbed books in the same genre, style, etc., and ask that editor to review the plot then do a comprehensive line edit. Expensive, yes. But they know what the houses/audience want/expect.

In the end, it really does boil down to opinion. Critics savaged FSOG but it was a huge success. So who really know what's sells or is right?

Fiona McGier said...

The problem with your suggestion, Tina, is that so many houses are closing, still. I've only got one short story up at Roane Publishing, but I just got an email telling me they're closing up shop. As the great behemoth Amazon crows over yet another corpse. Sigh...