Friday, November 21, 2008

Critique Partners and What They Mean to Me

Warning: This post might be a little sappy, but hopefully informative. :)

I don’t know how many people who read YAedge belong to a critique website or group. I wanted to blog about the few sites I’ve used and how I ended up with such a great group in the end.

When I realized that I was serious about writing, I looked into sites that promised my work would be critiqued by all sorts of people.

There are quite a few out there: Critique Circle, Critique Groups, Urbis. And those are just the few that I've tried in the past.

Most of these sites, you earn credits by the number of crits that you give. With those credits, you can open up the critiques that you get from others. At first, these sites worked great for me. I would post a few short shorts, a first chapter at the most. The critiques I got in the end weren’t too helpful for me. It wasn’t a line by line critique, something I realized I was looking for when going through the process. The feedback seemed to be based more on the overall impression that the reader got. Some would post questions, but there wasn’t a way to start a dialogue with them. I was frustrated and lost.

I turned to books.
I scoured writing books, read blogs and plain ol’ read anything I could get my hands on. I was reading 2-3 books a week (which I still do) in the genre I was writing to get a feel for the point of views, settings, etc. of the books that were already out there.

When the critique sites didn't wet my whistle, I wrote in my little bubble. A friend would help me, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted a commitment that wasn’t one sided. That’s when it all changed for me. Tracy (who I didn’t know at the time) posted to TeenLit group on Yahoo (a great group if you write young adult fiction), asking for critique partners who wrote or didn't mind critiquing edgy young adult fiction. I emailed right away.

To be honest, I was nervous at first. Would I be able to keep up? Was my writing good enough for someone to spend the time reading it, going line by line telling me what was right/wrong? Could I make such a big commitment to someone I didn’t know? Would our personalities mesh? These were all questions that flew through my mind

Let me tell you, answering Tracy’s email was the best thing I could have ever done.When she contacted me based on my email, we swapped the first couple of chapters from our current WIP. Reading the first chapter of her book was awesome. I loved it instantly and knew that I could give a critique that would help her. We agreed the partnership was good to go and we would start criting right away. Tess came into the picture at this point and we decided that three could work. That gave us each two different points of view. Every person notices different things when critting. We agreed to critique a chapter a week from each member.

We’ve been a group for eight months now. In that time, I’ve had a full book critiqued by both of them, as well as eight chapters of my WIP. Not only have I become a better writer from their critiques, I’ve learned just as much by going through their work with a fine tooth comb. I look forward to reading their work and when I don’t have a new chapter from them, I find that I miss it.

I would have never guessed my writing would improve as much as it has. Not only have I gained people that I trust with my writing (which I think is one of the most important parts of the process), but I’ve added two great friends. Like I said, I can’t imagine where I would be without them.

Thanks girls for everything you've done for me in the past 8 months!


Tracy Belsher said...

Wow, Tami - what a tribute to the power a finely tuned crit group. :)

I agree - the most important thing for a beginning author is to crit and be critted - no matter how painful it can be at first.

I'm that thrilled this little gem we've created - however small - is so damn mighty. May we have loads of WIPs to crit for each other in days to come.

Tess Sharpe said...

Girl, you totally made me tear up!


PS: Yes, I am still alive. And still buried neck deep in kids.

Tami Klockau said...

Thanks Tracy! Just being honest!

TEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOHOO! I hope all is going well and you're back with us soon!

Shari said...

I LOVE my crit group! I've learned so much working with them, and the support and encouragement we all give one another is awesome. Three of us have been together for two years now, and our other two members have been with us for a little over a year. I'm a very lucky writer to have such great writing buddies! :)

Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

I've never been in a crit group but after reading your post, maybe I'll try one out!
Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Ch. 1 is online!