I love to write (and read) mysteries and romantic suspense/thrillers tailored to an adult audience. That’s why I initially sought critique partners who focused on the same genres and shared my sense of humor and fondness for snark.
They “got” me—and my writing style.
However, mostly by happenstance, I’ve widened my critique/Beta reader circle. I belong to a five-person local critique group (four women and one very secure man). We meet one afternoon each month for an intensive critique session. We’ve been at this for several years. We limit the size of the group to five so we have the time to provide in-depth critiques.
Here's our gang at Danielle Dahl's book launch for her fabulous memoir, Sirocco. From left, me (Linda Lovely), Jean Robbins, Danielle Dahl, Donna Campbell, and Howard Lewis.
Howard's working on a young adult fantasy. Donna's an author who focuses on Southern-flavor, character-rich short stories. Danielle is busy penning the second installment of her coming-of-age memoir loaded with family conflicts and set in war-torn Algeria and a France less than welcoming to refugees. And Jean continues to explore psychological mysteries with a deft literary hand.
Our backgrounds are as different as our writing styles and reading tastes. Our birthplaces include Algeria, two Southern states and two Midwestern states. Our former professions include English teacher and labor union representative, engineer, translator and manager, GED teacher, and me handling all types of public relations and advertising projects.
To prepare for monthly in-person sessions, we each email five+ pages from a work in progress. These submissions may or may not be sequential. For example, I may choose a love scene I’m insecure about, pages with troublesome dialogue where I’m trying to surreptitiously shoehorn in some backstory, or a section where I want to see if my attempts at humor are actually funny. We also read completed manuscripts for each other once we’ve polished them and feel we are nearing the finish line.
While I’d never give up the invaluable feedback I receive from fellow hard-core mystery/romantic suspense authors, I find the questions, suggestions, and comments from authors who don’t share my mindset to be equally valuable. A male critiquer—no matter what genre he writes—is priceless, because he can warn when a hero’s dialogue is pure nonsense—“No man would ever say that.” Having critique partners from different parts of the country helps you discover which regional sayings are fun versus ones so puzzling they cause a “huh?” reaction that takes readers out of the story.
I firmly believe the more diverse your critique circle the more likely you are to appeal to a broader audience—plus you become a more nuanced writer and reader. I didn’t know how much I could enjoy fantasy, short stories, memoirs and literary turns of phrase until I joined this group.
I also have recruited members of my book club as Beta readers. The more (and more diverse) the merrier.
Who critiques your manuscripts? Who are your Beta readers?