Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Critique Partner: How I found one

I had read about critique partners on several loops and knew the time had come to search for one. I wanted someone who was at approximately the same state of career development as I am and someone committed to publication. Imagine my surprise and excitement when nine PRO members responded to my email.

One by one, my prospective CP’s and I took to the dance floor. This led to back-and-forth emailing, introducing ourselves and clearly stating the timeline we each envisioned for exchanging work. I wanted a CP who would agree to critiquing one chapter per week, keeping the door open for brainstorming premises and sharing synopses, if needed. Still, I based finding a good fit on several more important points.

Next, began a “trial run” by exchanging and critiquing a chapter. This can be a sticky process, requiring a combination of honesty and tact from both parties. If the other writer’s critique style didn’t seem a good match, or if either of us felt the other writer was at a different point in the craft, we would go no further. Parting as professionals is paramount.

Reading and critiquing the exchanged chapters proved fun and well worth the hours-long effort, which spanned close to two weeks. After this intense period I found what I felt would be the best partner. Fortunately, she wanted me, too.

I’m happy to report my new critique partner and I enjoy a lively exchange of work, which has re-energized not only my writing and editing, but my overall outlook. I only wish I had taken this step a year ago.

Today I think about ways to streamline finding a CP, but can’t come up with a better plan. Mine worked for me. The side benefit, bonding with a new friend, is the sweetest bonus.

12 comments:

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Good for you, Sheila. Good luck with the fit. I belong to an online group and the members are always changing, which is good when you need a new set of eyes. But bad when you want to make a long-term commitment. I haven't found a good fit yet. Hopefully, at some point, I'll find someone to move forward with.

Sheila Tenold said...

Thank you, Dawn. I consider myself fortunate having found a critique partner. Our understanding of each other's weaknesses and strengths has multiplied these past weeks, which makes the whole critique process much smoother. Good luck on finding your own CP!

Joan Leacott said...

You're a brave soul, Sheila. I found my partners in the From the Heart critique group--our own Helen Scott Taylor and Mona Risk. We've meet at various conferences over the years and I don't regret a moment of time I've spent with them. I've learned at great deal and the writing world is a lot less lonely for their presence.

Lee Lopez said...

I've been with my two cp's for 9 years. So if you get a good one, hang on to them for dear life. We know each others writing well, we don't try to change each others story, we just help out with tough spots and grammar...It has worked all these years and continue too.
I also meet a good friend once a week at a local Panera Bread. We don't critique but we run over ideas, help each other agian over rough spots, and gab. I find our relationship and her help invaluable...Thanks Jill for being there.

Sheila Tenold said...

Joan, you're part of a power trio! I love this blog because we all learn new things about each other. I hope to generate the same good memories with my critique partner at future conferences. And, you're so right about how different the world appears having a partner in your corner.

Sheila Tenold said...

Nine years with the same partners, Lee? I'm blown away. That's better than some marriages!
A dear friend and I meet at our local farmer's market and later, over latt├ęs, we brainstorm our stories. She isn't a romance writer, but is savvy about characters and invariably puts her finger on what needs fixing. I feel blessed right now.

Mona Risk said...

Sheila, it's a blessing to have good CP's. I tried several critique groups until Helen, Joan and I formed our little trio. We rely a lot on each other for brainstorming, critique and support, and we understand each other's writing style. I don't think I would be published if it wasn't for their help. Good critique partners are the best friends a writer can have.

Jill James said...

Sheila, sounds like you had a plan and it worked. 2 weeks doesn't sound too long to find a GOOD cp.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I have been blessed with two CP's who know exactly how to teach, give ideas and lead me in the right direction. Believe me, when we started together years ago I needed more help than one can imagine. Luckily for me, my first CP has the patience of a saint and was born a teacher. I've adopted her as my daughter-of-my-heart and wouldn't trade her for anything. My second CP continues to teach me to write better and we share lots of ideas and are both growing together. I count them both as valued blessings.

Sheila Tenold said...

Mona,I hope I find the same success you did with Helen and Joan. Amen to critique partners being the best friends a writer can have. Thanks for sharing!

Sheila Tenold said...

Jill, thanks for your positive comment! And, you're right, two weeks is a drop in the bucket based on the GREAT results.

Paisley, you obviously have had great experiences with your two critique partners. I'm happy for you! Isn't it wonderful to look back and see how far down the road you've traveled. That's what's so wonderful about writers, generously sharing knowledge to help each other.

Joanne said...

Critique partners are so helpful. I've enjoyed several successful crit groups and still rely on fellow writers for help.