Monday, October 15, 2012

The Crit Partner Relationship

You write in a cave. Or a dining room table. Or at a coffee shop. But, really, you write in your own head. You're alone in there, with your characters and you're the only grown up - the only one who makes decisions. This is good, at least for the first draft of your work. But soon, you'll need to let your WIP (work in progress) see the light of day - and the eyes of your crit partners.

If you don't have a crit parnter, go get one. Go ahead, I'll wait. No, not really. You need one. You need more than one. If you really haven't got one, may I suggest getting the BCWG bible, The Writing and Critique Book Survival Guide By Becky Levine? It will start you off in the right direction. You can also get crit partners via blog hops & pitchfests - like Deana Barnhart's GUTGAA. There is no shortage of resources online for getting you hooked up to a crit partner.

But what do you do when you have one and it's not working out? A writing friend recently asked me for some advice. A new crit partner of hers had come back with some negative feedback. Not constructive criticism, but the kind of feedback that's no use to anyone - unspecific, vague and seemingly intentionally hurtful. It was way off base. My friend didn't want to be treated with kid gloves so she was unsure how to respond. Was her crit partner just giving her tough love? Was her main character really so unlikable? It was enough to undermine even the strongest writer's ego - and we all know that we don't have strong egos (inflated, crazy, psychotic, yes, but not strong.)

My advice was to remember that every crit partner, no matter how good, has an agenda. They have biases - ones they may not even know they have. Take everything that they say with a grain of salt, especially until you get to know their style and quirks. When you get feedback from crit partners, put it on hold. Don't take it to heart OR discard it. Just let it sit in limbo for a while. Once the feedback has a chance to cool off, you can examine it, and your story, to see if what your crit partner is saying resonates for you.

My friend spoke to her crit partner and it turns out that there was a bias there - something the crit partner wasn't even aware of. The honest discussion put both crit partners in a better place, open and receptive to each other's feedback.

What's your relationship with your crit partner(s)? How do you keep each other honest?

1 comment:

  1. My crit partners keep the fire burning under my ass when it comes to writing. They encourage me to share my work when I would rather set it on fire in a frying pan. I get so caught up with making everything perfect that I forget that the first draft is going to suck, but getting the feedback about my novel helps me get a handle on my revisions without waiting till the story is complete. I also love talking writing with them. It always seems to revitalize my passion and get back to the computer. Oh, and we keep ourselves honest by revisiting our goals (i.e., personal and groupwise) and making chances when needed.