Monday, August 30, 2010

A Price Beyond Rubies

I’m going to expand on something Lisabet mentioned. A good critique partner has a price beyond rubies.

As writers, we know so much more about our characters than we put into the story. A lot of explanation can pull the reader out of the story (the dreaded info dump) but sometimes we gloss over things that should be explained better. After all, we know what we meant. Then our critique partner reads it and says, “Huh?”

Before that “Huh?” moment though, a lot of work goes into finding your perfect critique partner. This person has to be the Princess/Prince who feels the pea under the stack of mattresses. Not only do they have to feel it, but they need to have enough trust in your relationship to admit that they felt the pea. They have to know that you respect their pea-sensing ability, and are grateful that they told you. (After you’ve been attacked a few times by ungrateful writers for critiquing their work, you grow leery of offering suggestions to anyone, no matter how rational they appear to be, or how hard they beg for help.)

I’m lucky to have two critique partners – Nan Andrews and DL King. Lately, it’s been a one way street where they’re putting tons of time into reviewing my work and I haven’t be able to return the favor. They know that the second they have something they want to share, my time is theirs. (At least I hope you two know that!) I value their opinions, and deeply appreciate their gifts of time and insight.

To me, an ideal critique partner has the following qualities:

Mastery of the craft of writing equal to, or even better than, mine.

Different strengths than mine.

Honesty.

Friendship.


That’s what I’m really talking about here – friendship. A good critique partner is someone you like and connect with in a special way. You understand each other. A great critique is an open, honest discussion, where the aim is support and improvement. It’s hard to reach that level of communication with a stranger, which is why the relationship between critique partners should be nurtured and cherished. I’m blessed to have found my special two.

8 comments:

  1. Hello, Kathleen,

    I couldn't agree more. The better you know your critique partner, the more honest you can be in giving crits, and the more open and relaxed you can be about receiving them, because you know they're not personal attacks. You know that your partner likes and respects you, no matter how hard she is on your work.

    Plus someone who is a friend can bring that special personal insight to his or her crits. They can see YOU in your story.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  2. Lisabet - That's another important element, being able to take crit. I think that's a learned skill.

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  3. Hi Kathleen

    The elements you look for in your crit partner, very true. Exactly what I find in Lisabet, a McCartney to my Lennon. Very precious. Very lucky to have Nan Andrew and D L King. I've read their stories.

    Garce

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  4. Garce - The best part is when they call you out on something you knew, like you rushed a scene, or your decription was vague, but you thought you could get away with fudging it. It keeps you honest!

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  5. Garce - The best part is when they call you out on something you knew, like you rushed a scene, or your decription was vague, but you thought you could get away with fudging it. It keeps you honest!

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  6. Kathleen,

    Honesty is the key word, isn't it? It's impossible to put a price on someone who can respond with honest criticism.

    Great post,

    Ash

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  7. So, I have your ear and crit pen whenever I need it? OK...

    Great post

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  8. D.L. - As much as I rely on you, I would hope you know that by now. Come visit me. I have Jack In the Box tacos for you...

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