Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What’s in a critique?

What's in a critique? Why do we need critique partners?

If you are writing fiction? Then you’ve learned what a complicated task it can be. But then again, who ever wanted something easy? I prefer a good challenge.
With my freelancing and non-fiction, no one cared about my plot arc when I wrote on how to decorate the perfect dining room tablescape (yes, it is a fashion term.) No one questioned my character arc when I interviewed residents from Anahuac, TX on their famous Gator Fest. And no one cared about a poetic setting description when I covered the Presidential election in Crawford, TX.
But in my young adult fantasy novel, people will care. My readers will care but first my agent will care.
So fiction writers, it’s time to toughen your skin and share you heart-filled work. I’d rather hear that a scene needs help from a fellow writer than have my dream agent tell me.
But what’s in a critique? How can you use the critique to help you go from ‘pen to publish?’ My best advice is to truly listen to each critique. A rule that I follow is that if the comment upsets me, then there is probably something to it. In order to save time fiction writers must throw the Kubler-Ross model out the window.

Denial- There is NOTHING wrong with my manuscript! It’s perfect!
Anger- I spent over a year of my life on this. How can no one love it?
Bargaining- I promise I can write it better.
Depression- I’ll never get published. I don’t care anymore.
Acceptance- OK, I’m going to make changes, make it the BEST manuscript and keep trying.

It’s easy to fall into this trap and waste a lot of time not listening to critiques. Of course don’t jump on everything that someone tells you. This is your story. You know it as well as your heartbeats, or you should.

I have a wonderful critique partner. One of the many things that she helps me with the most is giving me reader feedback. My young adult fantasy has a lot of suspense and twists but those can become tragic flaws if it is too confusing for the reader. Especially with fantasy writing a writer can get so trapped in the world that they can forget what the reader does and doesn’t know. The writer is the all-power ruler within their writing universe. My critique partner keeps me grounded in making sure I don’t get too carried away in the fantasy elements.

There are many ways to benefit from critique partners. The first step is recognizing that we all need one. This topic is truly endless so I’m turning it into a series:

-Wicked English Teacher VS. Avid Reader
-Playing the Critique Partner Want Adds
-Sharing the Love
-Shared Therapy

And I’ll see how the topic response and discussion goes from there. Until Friday’s blog I want to give a shout out to my fabulous critique partner, Rachel Harris. She is a huge blessing. AND I get to, in turn read her wonderful manuscript! See? It’s all about give and take! You can read about Rachel Harris at her blog, The Ending Unplanned.

Let the discussion begin:
Did you work for a while without a critique partner?
How did that work for you?
Have you experienced the Kublar-Ross steps of manuscript denial?
Do you regret not getting a critique partner sooner? Or are you still without one?

NEW ADDITION TO PEN TO PUBLISH- Oscar's dog tip of the day!

Currently the snow is falling in Arkansas. It is so important to keep your pets warm. Especially if they have a medical condition. Oscar has epilepsy.

Oscar's Tip of the Day: Sit on your owner/writer's feet. Preferably with a blanket or two. Stay warm in the snow!


  1. This is a wonderful topic! And yes, Rachel is just awesome! I have a few people who I trust to give me their honest opinion. It's priceless. For someone to take the time out of their own busy schedule to help you is one of the greatest gifts. I appreciate each and every one that has offered me advice.

    I'm looking forward to your posts!

  2. Aw, thanks for the shout out! And I see my other CP, Trisha, here, too! Fun :-)

    Okay, Let the discussion begin:

    Did you work for a while without a critique partner? Nope. I joined the Houston YA/MG Writer's Group two weeks after I started writing, and that is when I started swapping with you and Nancy. :-)

    How did that work for you? In the beginning it was mostly be and Nancy swapping at a record setting pace and she taught me a lot. Where to put my info dump back story, making my protag more likable, little things like that. Although we only exchanged the first 50 pages or so, it made a big impact on the rest.

    Have you experienced the Kublar-Ross steps of manuscript denial? It depends. Some comments I jump on and can totally see where they are coming from. I slap myself on the forehead and then make it better. Others I have to let marinate for awhile because I just don't really see it but am not going to totally dismiss it, either. And then there are some that I'm like NO WAY lol. Some of those could be completely wrong and I am sure some may be straight up denial :-)

    Do you regret not getting a critique partner sooner? Or are you still without one? I don't think I could have gotten one earlier. And while I have two excellent ones now, I think having a group of 3-5 people can be really beneficial for all involved to get others opinions and rely on other people's strengths, so I am still on the search for one or two more as well.

    Fun series. Looking forward to it :-)