Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Final Critique Partner Love Connection

I get asked all the time if I will read my readers' unfinished manuscripts (the answer is no, I can't, not legally) or if I have suggestions on how to find critique partners, and how I found mine. I've told this story before, but I'll tell it again, because I've worked up a solution, I think.

Back when I was first looking for critique partners, I went through a stunning number of inappropriate matches. At first I didn't realize what an inappropriate critique partner was -- I thought I just didn't like critique, or I thought I was too egotistical to recognize their suggestions as valid, or I thought I was just getting annoyed for stupid reasons, like when someone moved a comma instead of commenting on stilted dialog.

But then I signed a deal with my first editor, Yoda, and his revisions were exciting, challenging. Plus, they felt like they had come directly out of my head. For the first time, I didn't feel like the edits were trying to make my book into something else. I felt like they were trying to make my book into a better version of MY book. It was like me, except objective, working on my own book.

I knew there had to be other people like him. People that critiqued in a language that I spoke. And what makes one critique partner editing gold to one writer can make them an anathema to another -- it's as subjective as writing and reading. So I set out on a critique partner dating process. On my blog, I put out an open call: I would read and critique the first 50 pages of anyone's manuscript if they would do the same for mine. We would exchange critiques, and if for any reason we weren't meshing, we could walk away, no questions asked, no feelings hurt.

I went through about a dozen before I found my two critique partners, Brenna Yovanoff & Tessa Gratton. They're absolutely right for me: we read similar things, we all like a no-holds barred critique, we don't line-edit, only edit globally. We were also very much at the same place in our writing careers and learning curves. (PLEASE note that this does not mean agented or published -- though I was both at the time -- as both were unagented and uncontracted at the time of our meeting, a fact which has since changed. It means at the same level of writing and the same general awareness of the biz, whether or not agents have happened yet).

Here's a place for others to meet critique partners in the same way (this is the one for 2013: I do a new one each year). 

Hope this helps! I promise you, a good crit partner makes all the difference in the world. I have two editors and an agent, and still, my crit partners see absolutely everything before they do.


Not Hannah said...

Cool. Very, very cool, you. BTW, recommended (in perhaps the most disjointed way ever) Shiver over at I'm Not Hannah.

ElegantSnobbery said...

Okay, I already hearted you, and now I heart you even more. The only person I have in my life to read my work is... my husband. He doesn't mind reading/giving me feedback, but he really prefers to read political non-fiction... and I write YA Urban Fantasy... slight difference!

You are so awesome for setting this up! Thanks!

Karina@Motherhood and the Creative Life said...

I think it's great you've set up something like this. I feel so lucky that I found my critique partner back in graduate school. Years later, we are still working together, exchanging our writing (and encouraging each other during low times). I think besides being at the same place in our writing, we also have this complete trust with each other with our writing that's super important. She "gets" my writing and I "get" hers, which also makes the critique so priceless.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

My husband's verdict after reading Shiver? (this was AFTER the giant auction for it and AFTER it sold in 17 foreign countries) "it's okay."

This is why you need the RIGHT crit partner! :D

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Also, NotHannah, I appreciated the description of Sam as "rumpledy-precious."

Not Hannah said...

He IS rumpledy-precious. (But you're welcome. :))

ElegantSnobbery said...

"it's okay." Ha! That's classic.

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