Today’s little rave, in my opinion, is about critique partners. These are people, or a person, that reads your work and provides feedback. These people can be dangerous to your ego. I have a wonderful group of people that read my work and go WOW! They’re nice to have as part of my team as they make me smile and feel like I’m achieving something. Several of them have an excellent grasp of the way story-telling works within the rules of grammar, and they are irreplaceable! Among my critique helpers, is a woman that provides bare and critical truths in a thinly disguised attempt at diplomacy. At this woman, I usually swear under my breath…a lot.
Like I said, I have a few people that read my work and the one I get the most out of professionally, is the one that tells me I can do better. I don’t think there’s been a piece of work I’ve sent her that hasn’t come back as “It’s not complete crap…but…” (see…thinly disguised!)
I have to admit, it’s NOT a nice feeling. Nope. Horrible. Yuck. But it gets me thinking. And reviewing. And soon, I make what I initially thought was Hemingway, into something passable by today’s literary standards.
So which is the better critique partner? The type that deflates your balloon, or the type that inflates it? I like the mix, and I have the mix, but if given a choice, go for the deflating one, but only if by working off their feedback that they begin to appreciate your work and thereby, you inflate the balloon together. No point having someone that constantly thinks your work should adorn the toilet roll.
If you’re going to be a serious author, then you’re going to have to learn how to deal with criticism. Not everyone is going to like your writing, and because one of my greatest critics is a friend, I’ve learned to cope with hearing what I don’t want to hear…and learned from it.
My point? Write for those that love your work. Listen to those that criticise it. Improve because of it.
If you Google critiquing, you’ll find a wealth of information, protocols, lists and how-to’s. What works for me is something very casual; a pact between friends almost. Find what suits you, find someone that gets what you’re trying to write, and find someone that’s going to help you think and thus, learn.
One final thought…if you can find someone to review your work who lives in the country you’re setting your story in, then grab them with two hands and hold on tight! I can’t stress how important one of my critique partners has been because she lives where my characters do. Local knowledge is like gold. If you can’t get a person like that, research, research, research, research…you get my point.
So, are critique partners essential? Probably not, but I wouldn’t trade mine in for anything. In my humble opinion, they’re the icing on the top of the cake. Edible without it, but far better with it.