One thing I've learnt over the last five years as I've ventured into publishing is that collaboration and networking is key. There's nothing more awesome than working with your peers, whether on an anthology, co-authoring, writing communities, or a bunch of solid, supportive beta readers, critique partners, book bloggers and editors, or other creatives such as cover artists. In the publishing world as it is today, sometimes it's the only thing that stops you drowning.
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But those people I love the most are my critique partners (sorry, I'm a bit biased!). I have a large group, each with their own particular skills in picking up plot holes or ferreting out issues, and not all stories go to all of the group depending on the genre and heat levels. These are the people brave enough to look at some of my, er, shall we say 'less polished' projects, and spend some time helping me slap them into something coherent. The ones not afraid to say 'this sucks, fix it', often confirming my own thoughts on a scene but that I've tried to avoid facing. Just lately most of my book dedications have been to these courageous souls who have taken the time to help me turn chaotic primordial soup into a story.
My current upcoming release probably went to the most critical of them, especially as I wanted to put the opening into The Rebecca, a RWA contest run by LERA that provides amazing feedback on your story as part of the competition (well worth doing even if you don't place. Which sadly, I've yet to do. Three so close but not quite there attempts so far, lol). The interesting thing with putting something through critique and beta readers is that they are just as likely to give you contradictory feedback as to agree. If they're agreeing, then you can be fairly certain their concerns need to be addressed. But when they contradict? What do you do then?
I've had the same situation with The Rebecca feedback. Two saying the world building was good, one saying it was confusing. Two disliking a particular phrase, one liking it. One saying the story was too slow, one too hurried, and one asking for more detail. In those situations, it can be hard to decide what you actually need to fix, or if it even *should* be changed. Sometimes I look at the qualifications of the judge or the experience of the critique partner. In the case of the contest, you might have published and unpublished authors, editors, publishers. You might think that perhaps an unpublished author would not give as good a level of critique as one published, but there's no way to tell how much critiquing they might have done, how much experience they have, how new they are to critiquing or judging. And even if you consider they might be too inexperienced as an author to judge, perhaps consider that they might be looking at it more as a reader than a writer, so therefore it still has value. Although all authors are readers, I think sometimes we can forget to look at a story simply as a reader and judge it by our experiences and expertise purely as an author, or even as an editor. So I like to send my work to a mixture where possible, and several to give the best possible range of responses. All of them hated your heroine? Might need looking at. Same phrase being questions by everyone? Might need reworking. Only one had an issue with calling the hero Gavin? Might get away with that one. :P
But at the end of the day, you really have to rely on your own judgement. If the reactions are pretty mixed, my solution is to go with the version that *I'm* happy with. Because if you can't be happy with your own story, what's the point?
So, to finish, here's my upcoming release for the 25th July, and my last Rebecca entry. Can't wait to here what the reviewers think after all the critiquing it went through!
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What has your experience been with critique partners?