Finding a critique partner

For awhile there, I was going great guns. Two thousand, three thousand words in a sitting–man, the words were pouring out.

Now, though, they’re more like a trickle. I’ve got 47,054 of them, and that’s only about 50 more than I had two weeks ago.

The problem is that I keep reading and re-reading my favorite romance novels and then going back to my own work and thinking, “This really sucks. I’ll never be Loretta Chase/Susan Elizabeth Phillips/Susan Donovan/Rachel Gibson/Meredith Duran/Sherry Thomas/Julia Quinn/Joanna Bourne/anyone good.”

I think it’s time for some outside perspective. In my day job I edit other people’s stuff so I know how valuable it is to get someone to read over what you’ve written (at least, that’s what I tell my colleagues when I’m explaining why I’ve changed so much of what they wrote). So where do you go to find someone who can read your stuff and give you an informed critique? Without paying for it, I mean.

Those smart bitches say: “Keep your eyes and ears open. Spread the word among writers you know and trust who may already have critique partners, and let them know who and what you’re looking for. And above all: don’t compromise.”

But the only writers I know have never even read a romance novel. They’re journalists and charity comms professionals and academics. I haven’t joined RWA yet and have never met another aspiring romance novelist.

I have checked out some forums (fora?) and the sample writing I’ve seen on many of them send shivers down my spine. I read enough dross in my daily life to wallow in it at home, too.

Several people have posted ads on Harlequin’s online community, but what if you’re not writing category romance?

Dear Author has a great way of getting detailed reader feedback on a very, very small part of your manuscript. You can submit the first page and dozens of their community leave comments ripping it apart… I mean, critiquing it.

So what about you? Do you have a critique partner? Where did you find her? Do you think it’s still valuable to have a non-romance reader critique your stuff?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Finding a critique partner

  1. Katrina,

    Thank you for stopping by the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog today. I dropped in earlier and wrote a comment, but I guess it’s flying around in cyber-space. (My machine was acting up so I decided to check back.)

    Laurie Kellogg, another Ruby Sister, is my CP. We write totally different sub-genres, and neither of us reads the genre the other writes as a rule, so our opinions and remarks are untainted by what others have pubished.

    As to how we found each other; do you believe in serendipity? Her son was trying to sell me something. Since he’s around my son’s age, we got to talking, and he mentioned his mom had won the GH but couldn’t get published. His indignation touched me, and since two gals I’d worked with had just gotten The Call, I offered to see if I could help his mom. The rest is history–with one distinction. Laurie has helped me as much, if not more, than I’ve helped her. We balance each other.

    Your final question can either work for or against you, depending on the individual you choose as your partner.

    Balance is essential. My strengths are Laurie’s weaknesses and vice-versa. Chances are one of us will grasp the brass ring before the other, but there will be no “she couldn’t have done it without me” (no matter how true it might be), because ours is not a leader/follower relationship; it is a relationship of equals.

    Romance writing requires the romance to be front and center. A writer unfamiliar with the genre may find this annoying, preferring plots less character driven. However, on the other hand, that same person can provide a fresh and unique perspective. The only way to know is to try it.

    Again, I will use me and Laurie as an example.

    Before we even started, we agreed to try it for a month, meeting once or twice a week. If the partnership didn’t work for either one of us, we could end it without acrimony.

    We’ve been friends and CPs for three years now.

    Hope this helps you. Thanks again for stopping and commenting. If you have any other questions like this, one of the Sisters would be more than happy to help.

    • Katrina

      Wow, Gwynlyn, thank you so much for your fantastic comment (and for taking the time to check out my blog). I loved reading how you and Laurie Kellogg met each other. Strangely enough, I’ve been conducting job interviews for a writer at my work, and one of the questions we’ve asked people (just for fun) is “What’s your favorite word?” My boss asked me what mine was, and I said it’s serendipity. Not a word that often comes up in two different conversations on the same day!

      I’ve been learning that I’m surrounded by talented people, and I’m going to be sending them my first three chapters to critique tomorrow! They’ll be my first. Or should that be firsts?

      Anyway, thanks again for sharing your story, and doing it in such a thoughtful way.

      Katrina

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