Critiquing, Part 1: Their Stuff

redpencilI recently faced one of my fears and searched out crit partners. It’s funny how scary the idea was to show someone my story since my end goal was to share it with everybody. Ah, the mind, it is an odd thing.

It was an interesting process, and I learned a few things on the way. One, space out your crit partners. I knew reading and critiquing would take time, I just didn’t realize how much time it would take. And of course, you can only read and review one book at a time. I also realized it would have be kinder to the second reader if I had fixed the typos (yes, I’m call all errors typos) and awkward sentences found by my first reader.

But this post isn’t about all the things I learned about finding a crit partners. It’s about what happened after I got ’em!

redstar What’s harder than giving your precious writing to someone else to look over? redstar
The responsibility of reviewing their work.

It’s huge. Your job is to find all the problems with their labor of love – their creative passion.

Reading someone else’s work is fun and exciting – jumping into a new world with some kind of crisis BUT when you put on that editing hat, it’s so different. Awkward phrases, “typos”, repeated words, etcetera can’t be overlooked (like when I read published work).

But you also get to spot those gems where the words are put together beautifully or the innuendo is subtle but spot on and makes you smile or the emotion so deep you get choked up. And you get to tell them that too!

The process is a lot slower than I thought. (Perhaps it will get easier and quicker the more I do it?) I read slower, sometimes re-reading, took notes, and scrolled back to previous parts to check for consistency. –Why is it always easier to do with someone else’s work! But I digress.

The hardest part is taking my own personality out of the equation when it comes to style. This was chiefly true when I started a story, but once I grew accustomed to the writer’s style it was less of an issue. For this reason, I chose not to work on my stuff the same day I worked on someone else’s.

The cool part is being on the ground floor, so to speak, of a new story. Though I’m still finishing my second critique, I have been intrigued by both stories.

I’d love to hear about your first crit experience and suggestions about critiquing in general.

Now, I’d like to introduce my crit partners:

redstar Dana Ardis, Author of New Adult Urban Fantasy
One of her short stories is being published later this summer in the Modesto Fresno Anthology (the title is subject to change).

redstar Shah Wharton, Author of Speculative Fiction
Currently writing The Supes Series.

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  1. Finding great critique partners is like finding gold!
    Mistakes are easier to spot in someone else’s work. At first I felt bad mentioning issues, but that is the purpose. But critiquing another, I learned to spot mistakes in my own much faster.

    1. I hope what you say it true (about spotting our own mistakes faster).

  2. I found that it takes more than one pass through a story. Just like when we are editing our own work, we have to go through the other person’s work several times to catch everything.

  3. You’re doing pretty good on the learning curve there. One of the biggest lessons I had to learn about critiquing other people’s work was to take my voice out of the equation. Your job really is to help make THEIR voice shine. And clean up all those typos.

    So glad you found a couple of people to work with. It’s a great growing experience to give and get feedback on your work. 🙂

    1. I think another key is reading stories you like.

  4. Oh gosh… having a good CP is everything… I know I’m so lucky to be connected to the people I am. I’ve learned so much from them and know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them!!!

  5. It does take a leap of faith to search for crit partners, but once you have a good group together it’s gold.

    Good luck and congratulations on finding writers to work with.

  6. Shah is such a gorgeous name!

  7. Hi Holly, long time no see. I rely so much on my CPs. Espe ially my editor who is the first to do a read through on my original draft.

  8. Like Alex said, good critique partners are golden. I was surprised how much I learned just be critiquing the work of others. It’s greatly improved my own writing.

  9. Good for you! It’s hard to put yourself out there, but if you find good CPs, it’s worth it.

    Don’t worry about people finding awkward phrasing. That’s part of their job. The only thing that seriously bugs me as a CP is folks who don’t bother addressing spelling mistakes that their word processor has already flagged. I also expect them to search an replace usage errors they’re prone to, if they know of the weakness beforehand. They should do a reasonable editing pass, but I don’t expect them to catch everything.

    Great post! Good luck with your critting. 🙂

  10. It’s been fun so far 🙂 I learn so much from critiquing and being critiqued. I’m working through your notes – almost finished and I’m loving your tips and suggestions 🙂 X I must say this whole CP is relatively new to me and I’m all for it. How I managed without one strikes me as bizarre! 😀

  11. CP’s helped me improve my writing in no time and it’s great to know you can depend on someone else to find the holes and inconsistencies in your story, not to mention read a good novel while it’s in the production phase. Enjoy the process!

  12. They sound like wonderful crit partners. ANd Alex is right–it’s a blessing whenever we find crit partners who help elevate our stories.

  13. Yes, it is time-consuming because you want to do a good job for them like they would for you.
    It’s really hard to find crit partners you connect with. I had some early on who were very good writers but just didn’t know how to critique.

  14. Finding CP is tough. The first one I had I assumed she was my CP b/c we exchanged work and critiqued it allll the time but then when I called her that in front of our writers group, she was all like, “You’re not my CP!” like she was embarrassed by me or something? Then my second one we exchanged work through the first 100 pgs and then she just stopped sending me stuff? Maybe she thought since I got published I didn’t have time for her, I dunno . . . now I have 4 Beta Readers for my sequel. We’ll see how that goes *fingers crossed* Hope you’ve found yourself a slice of CP Heaven 🙂

    1. Yipes! I consider myself very lucky to have found two good ones so quickly!

  15. Reminds me of how I used to get my ex to check my papers before I submitted them. They’d always come back in red and fixed up. But my marks were much better for it.

  16. I tuned into your blog today and your post was part two, to this series, so I linked back to part one. Better to read part one first, huh? I completely agree with what you said and it truly resonated with me, the part about being so nervous and scared to show your work to one person when your ultimate goal is to have millions read it. I’ve chickened out a couple of times when it comes to partnering up with a critique partner and let me explain why: I am so dang confused about when is the appropriate time to seek out a critique partner. I have always been confused and I still am. I have heard from so many of you that have wonderful crit partners, how you don’t know what you would do without them and how they are (were) able to help you find the plot holes in your story or correct things that were off and so on etc. etc. I have also heard that no writer should ever, ever let anyone read an unpolished draft. So I guess I am still clueless about when it is time to find a critique partner. Do you look for one during the beginning of a draft so that they can let you know if your premise and concept are strong enough; your characters are fleshed out and well rounded enough; that they identify and empathize with your protagonist; that the plot lines are believable and the stakes high enough; that you have a structurally sound novel with the plot points, pinch points, mid point, crisis, climax etc., not only in the right places but that they meet all of the other criteria. Because I can certainly see the benefit of having a critique partner read your first draft and letting you know all of these things before you put all of your time, effort blood and sweat into revisions. If you have major plot or structure problems that should be addressed prior to major revisions, this seems like the time to have an objective person tell you so. But, if we are not to ever let anyone read our manuscript until it is revised, edited and polished then how do we find an objective eye to help us with the above mentioned issues? I really hate to sound so naive and stupid but this is an issue that I’ve been struggling with for a really long time.

    Thanks for this series. I love learning more about the process.

    1. For me, I wanted to have a rough draft completed and edited and revised (once or twice). When I’m still writing I’m still fleshing out my ideas. However, if you are at a point where you’d like feedback, do it! It is enlightening and it also provides a lot of encouragement.

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