Friday, February 11, 2011

Wicked English Teacher vs. Avid Reader: Critique Partner Styles

On Wednesday I discussed the benefits of a critique, but in what form should that critique come in? The truth is that there are many ways to critique and they all have their pros and cons. The style of critique can also vary based on what stage your manuscript is in.

There is, what I’m calling the “wicked English teacher.” This one can be the most painful of critiques but it will still beat your dream agent shooting down your manuscript any day. This is where a critique partner takes your work line by line and picks a part the grammar, tense and anything else they can find. It may sound harsh but this is the most thorough and should be your most appreciative critique. One of my degrees is in Journalism so I find it easy to pick a part people’s work. However, I’ve been amazed at how easy the little things slip by me in my own work. Sometimes your work is too close to you for the flaws to pop out, another important reason to work with critique partners.

Another style is the “avid reader.” This is my favorite to critique. If your critique partner doesn’t get it then I promise you that your intended readers will not. This is a great way to check your plot and character arcs, make sure that areas don’t drag and that the suspense isn’t too fast to follow.

But who says you have to limit yourself? No one! Just like your book is your own your method for receiving critiques is up to you as well. I’d recommend using what I call the “melting pot” method. In other words, take advantage of it all but don’t take on too much. Remember, for every critique partner that you have you also have to critique their work as well. To reap the benefits you have to give constructive critiques. I recommend having one main critique partner for the entire manuscript. Then use other critique partners for specialized reasons.

Critique partners with specialties? We all have our strong points. I have a writer that I send my romantic scenes to. She is very strong in this area and I am smart to use her knowledge. I also have someone that I send parts of my battle scenes to. This way I can see if I’m on the right track. And then I have someone who reads my queries and synopsis.’ It is always wise to surround yourself with smart people. That’s why I feel that joining a writer’s group and network are key to being successful in this industry but I’ll save more on that for another day.

Before discussion begins, I do want to say that it is important to discuss your desired style of critique with your critique partner in advance. Make sure they know what you expect and what they expect from you. I advise revisiting that topic after the first critique, to make sure that both of you are satisfied. Also, remember that these are critiques. You are not bound to listen to them all. Take them for what they are, another person’s opinion. But remember what I said on Wednesday. If a critique gets you fired up then there probably is some truth to it. Now is the time to grow some tough skin!

Again, I want to send some love out to my fabulous critique partner, Rachel Harris at The Ending Unplanned.

How do you critique? How does your critique partner critique? Do you use many critique partners for different styles of critiques? Share your experiences, ideas and suggestions below.

OSCAR’S DOG TIP OF THE DAY: Beware of paws on ice! Dog’s are not natural ice skaters so their owners must take caution when they go out in icy conditions. Throw down some salt, dirt even a towel anything to help dogs find traction.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, I guess I fit the Wicked English teacher role and Avid reader role, huh? I don't mean to be wicked I promise :-)

    As for my critique partners, I mostly have the same melting pot approach relationship with all of them. We read the pages, comment where we get confused or pause in our reading, get shout outs for things we love and are working, little grammar or tense catches, etc; I love my CPs!