Critiquing 201 - I've Found a Critique Partner, Now What?
You've done your search, you found someone who's interested.You talk, they respond, and now you've done it -- you've decided you want a partner in critiquing. Where to start? How to start?
Critiquing is a lot like a marriage and with proper nurturing and care, a critique partner will be your most avid fan and your greatest critic (much more honest than your mother, less clueless than your
husband). Here are some suggestions for establishing a solid and productive relationship.
Before you start:
decide what you want from your critique sessions. Do you want line-edits? Grammar
checking? Or are you just
interested in finding out if someone thinks your heroine is a ditz?
2. Are you
ready to receive criticism for your work? This
is a very important and usually overlooked rule to critiquing. A critique partner
may actually tell you that, well, your plot sucks, or the hero is just a little
too much of a girly-man. Are you comfortable enough
with your writing to have someone tell you what is wrong? A critique partner
can be the first step in strengthening your writer's hide, so to speak. If
you are not
ready to receive criticism, you are not ready for a critique partner. Find a
fan, instead [i].
you respect you CP's opinion? For
goodness sakes, find a critique partner whose work you like. I don't think Nora [ii]
needs a critique partner (Hilary [iii]
might, but -- nah, never mind), however there are many writers of all levels
-- beginning to published -- who write very entertaining stories. This solves
two problems. One,
you will find you actually enjoy reading your CP's stuff, and two, this
usually means that you think your CP has talent and will be more amendable to
receiving criticism from her. It is
difficult to receive criticism from someone you think writes like crap.
Laying the Foundation:
3. Talk to
your CP and state very clearly what you want from the sessions. Ask her to do the same. Over
time, this may change, but you need to start somewhere.
The First Time:
4. The first
critique session is worse than a first date. You don't want to say the wrong
thing, yet, this a critique, right? So, what do you do? Be very gentle in what
you say. Do not
immediately quote from GMC [iv],
or tell your CP she needs to learn to write. Start out with the good stuff (always
start with the good stuff, makes you her friend), and then progress slowly into
the negative criticisms. Take note of your CP's reaction. If
she starts to cry, or starts turning red in the face -- stop immediately.
you find flaws in someone's work, it is only your opinion. The characters, the story, the words belong to the author
alone. Always. The author has first and last right of refusal and can choose to ignore
whatever you say. This doesn't mean you're an idiot or a bad critiquer, it
only means they disagree. Don't
get offended and don't shove your opinion down their throat, even if you
believe your right. Bite your
tongue and move on. A healthy
critiquing relationship is about give and take.
number five works in reverse. Do
not think you must incorporate every bit of advice from your critique partner. Think about it, decide if you agree, and then either implement it, or
suggestion, which is one of the most important: never ignore the positives in
a critique session. They are as
important as the negatives. Tell
your critique partners which parts made you laugh, which parts made you cry, and
which passages you thought were very good. It is as important as a writer to understand her strengths as well as her
weaknesses. Hearing praise of your
work -- for the first time -- from a peer is an experience that everyone should
have, especially your critique partner J.
[ii] Nora Roberts - the goddess
[iv] Goal, Motivation, Conflict
by Debra Dixon