I thought of the theme of this post, and I immediately thought of The Beatles song. Then again, throughout the course of any given day, I say, think, or hear phrases that remind me of a whole bunch of songs, so this isn’t a surprise to me. (It is, however, why I have a running soundtrack in my head and why, even if a room is silent, I’m moving my head or feet like I’m marking time to a song.)
Anyway, this post is basically a shout-out to a critique partner and a plea for you to find a good collaborator.
I’m not sure how she’s going to feel about a public proclamation of her name, but I want to thank friend and talented author Mae Clair for her help. I’ve been struggling with an opening for my WIP (to the point that I moved on and decided to come back to it later… and if you know me AT ALL, you know I don’t do that when I write). Mae was gracious enough to listen to my difficulties and offer suggestions until I got the idea for the opening fleshed out. This is the third or fourth opening I’ve had for my WIP, but it’s by far the strongest. I can’t tell you how grateful I am.
I’ve worked by myself, worked by asking family and friends for opinions, worked with large writing groups, and worked with a critique partner. For me, having a single critique partner (or a very small, selective group of partners) is the most effective way to go.
Working by myself does give me some freedom and leeway, but it’s also limiting and short-sighted. I miss the benefit of external opinions.
Family and friends mean well, and they do represent a random sampling of a reading audience, but they simply don’t understand writing techniques and genre tropes.
Large groups can be effective. With that many sets of eyes looking at my work, someone is bound to see something I missed. But they don’t have the time to get into detail about one person’s text, and they also run the risk of too many cooks spoiling the broth—in this case, my broth, or my WIP.
For the way I work, a partner or small group is most beneficial to me. I’ve chosen that person or persons because I’m aware of the talents and skills they offer. I know we’ll work well together. We have the time to get into deep discussions on the project. And we’re not obligated to work at a specified time—we can work when we decide it’s convenient, not when a group meeting happens to be scheduled.
For me, I get the biggest benefit from working with a critique partner (or partners). You may work differently and find one of the other options above suits you better. I insist on advocating for someone to look at your work, though.
- Brainstorming with someone else can get you past blocks or create ideas you’d never otherwise have considered.
- A partner can hold you accountable and keep you on schedule.
- Having someone read your work before your editor does will make your draft far stronger before you submit it.
- And if you happen to have a group who is willing to read your final product, you have a ready-made street team, so on release day, you should have reviews ready to go.
So, yeah, let me thank Mae for getting my head on straight and my work on track. And let me end by suggesting you find a partner or partners of your own to help you out. You won’t be sorry.
What do you think? Do you use a partner or friends/family or a group, or do you wing it and work alone? Sound off below.
Hmm… it looks like The Beatles really understood the life of a writer. (And I’m not just talking about their song, “Paperback Writer“.) Let me leave you with this…