They may push you. They may make you rewrite. And rewrite some more. They might ask you tough questions like, “what’s the point of this scene?” They may be brutally honest. You might not like them very much sometimes.
But, relax, they’re making you a better writer, and your book a better product.
They’re called critique partners. And you need them. Why? Because they’ll tell you if something doesn’t make sense, if you need to chop twenty-five pages of backstory, or if you’ve used the word “just” fifty times in one chapter.
Good critique partners can be hard to find, but it’s worth the effort. I had a couple of false starts with groups or individuals reading my work. It was hard to get something going consistently. But I kept searching, and finally found two other writers who I thought I could work with. We met. We talked. We read. We clicked.
And it made a big difference for all three of us. Approximately a year after we created our little group, we each finished and published our first book!
Why did this one finally work? I have a few theories. First, we all write contemporary romance. One writes more fun and lighthearted material, a little racier than mine. One writes romantic mystery/suspense, but none of us write something that the others have absolutely no interest in. For instance, I would have a really hard time with a critique partner who writes paranormal. It just doesn’t interest me, so I’d have trouble reading and re-reading and re-reading. Besides, how much help can I be if I don’t get it?
Second, we were on an even playing field. As we got to know each other and the others’ work, it was obvious that we were at similar levels in our skills, stage of writing career and commitment to publishing. It wouldn’t have worked if two of us had nearly finished novels while one was struggling to get through chapter one. None of us had time to drag another along. We were all ready to move forward.
Additionally, we each bring a specific strength to the group, and that improves all of our writing. Janice is great at plotting, coming up with ideas for beefing up a sagging middle or stuck storyline. Michelle is really good at catching inconsistencies. Weren’t his eyes green in the chapter before? I’m more of an eagle-eye for spotting redundancies and over-used words. Yes, you really did say “little” five times in five paragraphs!
Of course, in order for it all to come together, we had to develop a comfort level, to trust each other with our work and ideas. No one wants to be attacked or embarrassed or give a lot of feedback but get little in return. We had to be sure we were compatible, to make sure we could be honest, and open. We started out by going for coffee, just talking. Then we read small amounts of each other’s work, and it blossomed from there.
In the last year, we’ve gone to workshops, and shared information. We’ve studied the craft of fiction writing and the ins and outs of self-publishing. And now, together, we maintain a website that promotes all three of us. It’s great because when one of us is crazy-busy, another can pick up the slack and keep up the site. We can cross-promote and share friends. Automatically, we introduce our own followers and readers to potential new books they might enjoy.
Sociologists will say that threesomes don’t often work. But for us, it does. Some people might like more opinions, more input. I’ve found that too many opinions can be more confusing than helpful. And too many group members can slow the process down. Sometimes, my partners will split opinions, and then I have to go with my gut. But sometimes, both of them will agree that something is working – or not. Then I can revise or move on with confidence. And that’s a great feeling.
Darlene has been a reader and writer since childhood. With a degree in journalism, she started her writing career as a newspaper reporter, and later moved into corporate communications. Now she’s writing women’s fiction and contemporary romance from her home in the Midwest, which she shares with her husband and two children. Darlene has self-published two books, Unexpected Legacy and Meetings of Chance. She enjoys writing stories about relationships – what brings people together or keeps them apart. And she likes a happy ending.Learn more about Darlene from her Amazon author page and her group’s website.