There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Writerly Tools: Critiquing Edition March 7, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 1:18 am
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I fully intended on the Editing Edition to be the last edition of the Writerly Tools feature, but new ideas keep finding me! This week, I had the pleasure of being introduced to a few new tools myself, which means I am passing them along to you!

So, you’ve plotted your novel. You’ve written your novel. You’ve exhausted every thesaurus resource your fingertips could possibly find online. And now you’ve edited your novel. Now what?

Now it is time to share your precious gem with other writers in the hopes of having them rip it to shreds and destroy your writerly self-confidence. The latter will, hopefully, only be a momentary reaction, but it will be a reaction nonetheless. Give yourself a moment. Scream and yell and stamp your feet as you cry to the world about how unfair your evil shiny new critique partner is. Cry it out.

…Maybe not that much.

Okay, in all seriousness and now that I can cross “Use James van der Beek crying meme” off my bucket list, a new set of eyes is just what you need. And I don’t mean your mother or your best friend. While sharing our stories with the people we love is great, the problem is that, well, they love us. Which means their eyes are biased when we need critical. I’m not suggesting you go share your precious story with the bully who stole your lunch money growing up, but you do want someone who is going to be honest with you. Here’s some advice that’s been given to me over time on the subject of critique partners:

  1. Look for someone within your own genre. Someone who loves John Grisham novels might not be the best fit for a book targeting the same readership as Jodi Picoult. Sure, people are capable of reading different genres and enjoying them. But when looking for someone to critique fantasy, I generally like to know they’ve written their fair share as well.
  2. Make sure you are on the same schedule. People have busy lives and would-be authors are no different. Juggling writerly responsibilities and real life can be difficult. So if you want someone who can do a chapter a week, be clear with that.
  3. Have a good idea of what you are looking for. Grammar edits? Plot holes? Character contradictions? All of the above? You might not be able to find just one person to do it all. Which leads me to…
  4. Have more than one. Have a few, if you can. You want your novel to be the best it can be, and one set of eyes might not be able to get it there. Don’t be afraid to have more than one person critiquing it.
  5. The most important part: LISTEN. Like I said before, cry it out and have that visceral first reaction. But then you need to clear your head and get back in the game. Writing the book is not even half the battle. Keep in mind that your critique partners are not out to get you and your little novel too. They are trying to make it better and if they are spending the time critiquing it, chances are they believe in the book and in you. Pay attention to what they say and know when to take their advice and when to put your foot down.

My first critique partner from the net is actually a poster on this blog and she pushed me. Hard. She would tell me “I know you can do better than this” and ya know what? She was right. And my writing is all the better for it.

So now that I am stepping off my soap box, you might be asking “Where can I find a critique partner?” Calling out to the masses on Twitter might be great for finding beta-readers, but with critique partners you need to make sure you are good matches for one another. Which is why I recommend you check out these three sites to find a critique partner (or three) of your own:

  • On the first glance, this might look like a place to post fiction and get reviews. Which is great, but not exactly what we are talking about here. If you dig a little deeper, you can see where it comes in handy. You can create your own profile (for free!), join groups, and post requests for critique partners in the forums. Posting a couple of chapters is also a good way of reeling in someone who might be interested in critiquing.
  • Ladies Who Critique: This site might be a bit gender-biased, but I have to say I’m loving it. I posted my profile, joined the sci-fi/fantasy group, and am now communicating with potential critiquers.
  • Critique Circle: Now, I literally just registered for this site since I’ve been busy with the other two, so I can only tell you the basics. They work on a credit system, which means you have to first critique before you can submit your own story to be critiqued. How many credits that will cost you depends on the length of the story. Now, before you start to grumble (like I did) about the credit system, think about it like this: Their system guarantees each member is actually critiquing instead of just tossing theirs out there. It’s a give and take system, which I really like. It reminds me a lot of the AbsoluteWrite forums (which, coincidentally, might be another good place to find a critique partner if you are an active member).

Overwhelmed? Good. I was too, so that makes me feel a bit better. Now hop to it, fantasy writers! Go put these tools to the test and tell me about your experiences in the comments!

-Mara Valderran

4 Responses to “Writerly Tools: Critiquing Edition”

  1. Aldrea Alien Says:

    The thing with places where it’s a credit system, you will inevitably get people will write in any old thing to get the credits they need.
    I found this was the case for which, besides having a tit-for-tat credit system, had a very competitive vibe that was more about getting to the top of the list than helping people better their works (not to mention the trolls when you ask people to clarify what they found puzzling -_-).
    The Critique Circle’s credit system vs critique is certainly better set up. Though the amount of people who’ll read it is more luck-based (and probably better for smaller chapters numbers). Between to two, I’d say it’d be better on the helping side.

    Personally, I prefer finding long-term CPs through places like Ladies Who Critique. Found some really nice and helpful people there.
    I haven’t heard of Figment. Going off to check it out now. ^_^

  2. So far I haven’t joined a big critique site–the occasional match-up event (like those at WriteOnCon) are basically what I’ve been using so far. But it’s good to know they’re there. 🙂 Some great thoughts in this post–I love the crying meme. (And I wish I could say it wasn’t applicable to my life when I get crits back, but as you say, you just have to get the first reaction out of your system. Lol.)

  3. katemsparkes Says:

    I’ve realized that I basically go through the five stages of grief every time I read a critical comment on my work, except that it’s the five stages of critique. That was a fun blog post to write, but I honestly thing it scared the bejeezus out of my critique partner…

    Scribophile is another critique site much like Critique Circle, but I find it’s a bit more casual and friendly-feeling. That’s entirely my personal perception, though, and the same flaws apply as what Aldrea Alien mentioned up there.

  4. One day when I finish the WIP and need some serious critiquing I’m going to come back and investigate thoroughly. I’d love to hear a follow up on your experiences though!

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