Monday, August 3, 2015
Good Critique Partners are Hard to Find
Way back when I first started writing with the hope to become a published author, I struggled with whether or not my writing was good enough or if there were areas that needed help. Friends and relatives all thought what I wrote was wonderful. But I knew in my gut it wasn't good enough. I had a short story published in a magazine and wrote freelance human interest articles for the local papers, but I wanted to write novels- specifically mystery novels.
Trying to get into a mystery writer group back then was hard. You had to be published in the genre to be allowed in. I wasn't. I wanted help honing my skills so I could make a sale.
I switched genres and started writing western historical romance. At a writer's conference I was directed to Romance Writers of America. I was ecstatic to see they had workshops and conferences to help me hone my writing skills. They also had contests. A way to get feedback on my writing.
I entered one of the contests. I waited with anticipation to see what the judges would say and how they would help me with my writing. The packet arrived with the judged pages. The first judged entry had my eyebrows knitting together. The judged didn't explain what I did wrong only changed my sentences - lots of my sentences, with no explanation. I put that to the side and picked up the next entry. The same thing. The judge rewrote my sentences but didn't explain why. I was confused and a bit hurt that they'd practically rewrote the whole entry and not a word about what I was doing wrong.
The third entry sat on the table. I eyed it hesitantly. Would this be a duplicate of the first two? I picked it up. Yes, it showed reworded sentences. But in the margin was explanation after explanation of what I was doing wrong. I was excited. This person was teaching me what I wanted to know. And at the end of the entry, she'd made a notation that she wrote historical western romance too and would love to connect with me. Her email address and name were on the back page of my entry.
I emailed and thanked her for explaining what I was doing wrong, and we became critique partners. She had the structure of writing knowledge and I had the western lifestyle and horse knowledge that she needed for her books. We were critique partners for six years until her life took over from her writing. We are still good long distance friends. I knew she wanted the best for my writing and I wanted the best for her.
I've had a couple other critique partners since my first CP and now I have two wonderful ladies who have my back and I have theirs. We send finished manuscripts to each other knowing we'll get truthful and helpful comments. One is a friend I met through a local RWA chapter. She's a horse person and we clicked from the get go. She writes contemporary westerns and is good at asking why a character does this or that, keeping me honest in what is happening and true to the character. The other CP is an author I contracted and edited while I was an editor with a small press. When I left the press she asked if I would be her critique partner. I agreed. She has a knack for story and can tell me when I need more emotion or have strayed from the concept of the story.
I would never publish a book without the input of both of these critique partners. Critique partners, to me, are essential in putting out a good book that editors, publishers, and readers will want to read.
Writing into the Sunset