The Search for the Right Critique Partner
When I first began writing, on-line groups were in their infancy. An established writer suggested I try (are you ready for me to date myself?) the CompuServe Writer’s Forum. I was young. I was unsure of my own skills. In other words, vulnerable to having my creativity squashed or inflated beyond reality. Some of the feedback I received was, well, frankly, it was crap. But I tried not to label it as such before I gave it a rest and then examined it for validity. I do recall one very, very clear and true criticism that has stuck with me to this day. One writer asked if I had a period on my keyboard. Run on sentences? Me? Um, yeah. Perhaps not the most delicate way to state his criticism, and yet, oh so valid.
There were plenty of misses as I tried to get something going on an individual basis through this group. Sometimes you know immediately if you and the other writer are simply not simpatico. Other times, it takes a while. But a break up is inevitable if your creative process is going to thrive. After a couple of false starts and break-ups, I was very lucky to Karen White, another fledgling writer from Atlanta whose talent I admired. We understood one another immediately, her comments were offered with thought and consideration, as I tried to assure my own were. We worked together for a full year with only email contact. We then met in person at a writer’s conference. We’re still together. A fairly tale marriage from a really blind date.
I want every writer to find that fairy tale critique partner or group. And I want every writer to find the strength to walk away from toxic or useless relationships. Critiquing needs to be beneficial to both parties. It’s best to find someone at a similar level in their writing, someone willing to work hard to improve. That way you insure you’re both learning and growing.
Here are a few suggestions to find those with like interest:
- Many public libraries have writing groups meeting there. Call your locals and see if they have one using their meeting rooms and when they meet, if they have a contact person whom you can ask if their group is open to new members.
- Often bookstores have both book clubs (a great place to find writers) or writing groups meeting in their space.
- Writing conferences are a treasure trove. If you search, you should be able to find one that is both local to you and not overly expensive. I met my local group through a very small one-day writer’s workshop.
- There is a wealth of talent literally right at your fingertips. Yahoo has several groups that are centered around writing. Many of them are genre-specific, some are closed, but all are worth a look.
- Join writer’s groups that are specific to your genre; Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, etc. Many have local chapter meetings as well as online groups and workshops.
There are several book oriented websites that have forums that cater to writers. I don’t have any personal experience with any of these, but they might be worth investigating: http://authonomy.com/ ; http://www.writingforums.org/ ; http://www.legendfire.com/ ; http://www.thenextbigwriter.com/forum/index.php ; http://mywriterscircle.com/ . I’m sure there are dozens more.
Finding the right fit can be daunting, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Like dating, my advice is to take it slow and get to know one another before taking the next step.
Do not take someone’s unwillingness to critique with you as a personal insult or a critique in itself about your writing. Many writers prefer not to critique with others, some already have a partner or two and don’t want to upset the mix, some may be intimidated by you or your writing (we writers are a self-doubting bunch).
See you again tomorrow for Finding a Critique Partner Part Three: The Plan!