Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Partnership

I had a hard time starting this piece. My critique partner is sleeping. Let’s be truthful, I can’t live without her. When I think my writing sucks and that this time the magic isn’t going to happen, that I’ve lost my ability to write, just the word ‘more?’ will encourage me. No, she’s not a cheerleader or a crutch. In fact, she can be pretty hard on me. She’s a brave woman.

Why? Well, I don’t take criticism well. Okay, see, now it’s out there. I get cranky at myself when I’ve missed words or misspelled something, but tell me a scene isn’t working…I’ll pout. Yeah, I’m such a baby. So then I’ll stomp back to the drawing board and fix it. She’s never steered me wrong, and I hope she can say the same back.

Because we’re partners. We take it to a little higher level than Anny mentioned yesterday or than she’d want. Not only does my critique partner comment on story flow, but she marks structural problems. She’d be horrified if I turned in a manuscript that wasn’t clean. Same here.

But that’s what’s expected of our partnership. I would never try to rewrite her story, but I will point out errors. When setting out in a critique relationship, it’s of the utmost importance to know what’s expected—just like in any relationship really. For example ‘this is good’ as a comment alone won’t cut it for me when I’m looking for a critique—but I won’t complain if I hear it. I expect to be flayed and have the words cut to the bone. Thankfully, painful flayings are much less frequent than they used to be.

My critique partner and I have been together since 1992. That’s as long as I’ve been married. In fact, we hooked up two weeks before my wedding. I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say we know each other well. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I think that’s important, too. You won’t get a feel for each other’s writing in just one session. It takes several. Patience is important, as is communication. If you don’t like the way a critique is done, you should tactfully say so—and not because you’re pouting (like me) or because you don’t take criticism well.

Anyway, 1992…that’s a long time. We were together for fourteen years before she was published and fifteen for me. Ironically, our books were accepted mere months apart. Since we essentially learned to write together, we’re at the same writing level and it seems just. Time together aside, I could have been bitter or competitive because she got an acceptance first. I’m a very competitive person, but let me say and be very clear, there is no place for competition or bitterness in a critique relationship. There just isn’t. Neither is there a place for superiority. Both of those things will kill the partnership in short order. Even if your partner is published first or more frequently published, she still needs you. She trusts you to be there for her.

For the record, my critique partner is Bronwyn Green and I couldn’t be more proud to have her at my side as I write and to stand beside her as she pens great books.

9 comments:

  1. Brynn, welcome to the Grip! And what a great start. The teamwork you and Bron show is truly inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yay!!! Excellent post! And while I'm not either one of your critique partners, I know that when you look at something I've written (which is an honor given your schedules) I always get the truth. And yes, that one word "more?" makes the fires burn hot for creativity.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nope. No room for competition among critique partners. I cheer LOUDLY when either of mine gets a contract. They do the same for me. It's wonderful knowing you have someone in your corner.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post, Brynn. Congrats to both of you for finding such good fits for partners. :D

    ReplyDelete
  5. I couldn't ask for a better critique partner - hell, I couldn't pay for one!

    For two pretty opposite personalities, I think we work really well together. :) I'm beyond grateful to have you holding both the lantern and the whip--without the light to guide and the whip to motivate, I know I wouldn't be where I am today.

    Finding the right critique partner is as critical as finding the right spouse. I wish everyone the same kind of luck Brynn and I have had!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wonderful post! You are so fortunate that you've found such a great partnership. It is rare for people to know each other that well.

    Welcome to the grip!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was going to say "Hear hear!" but Molly beat me to it. Okay, I'll second Molly's words.

    I need someone to keep me straight so I don't give my wonderful editor too much work. At least I hope I'm not wearing out my editor as I adore her as much as my critique partners.

    ReplyDelete