Tip of the Day: Chocolate-covered espresso beans don't count as candy when eaten first thing in the morning; they're more like pills.
My Critique Partners (CPs) rock. They totally helped me get to where I am today in my journey. While I would've kept writing and working towards publication without them, I doubt I'd have an agent right now if they hadn't stuck with me for the past few years.
I know, I know, you all thought I was brilliant on my own. But alas, it takes time and gossip sessions -- I mean critique sessions! -- for me to reach my full writerly potential.
So in what ways have my CPs helped me get to where I am?
1. They provide me with deadlines. When I knew they were waiting for pages from me to critique, I had to send them something or I'd look like a slacker (and when I didn't know them that well at first, I really didn't want them to label me SLACKER!), so I was forced to crank out some new material on a regular basis to send to them.
2. Their own writing is fabulous, and I want to be as good as them. By critting their pages, I was subconsciously shamed into wanting to write something even better. Not a competition between us, but a personal challenge for myself.
3. They give me excellent feedback and ideas. I never realized how questionable some of my scenes were until the fresh eyes of my CPs are on them, and brainstorming with them is worth more than I can say -- and is really fun, too!
4. Critting their work is a lesson on things to watch out for in my own writing. Like when I notice that Tina uses the word "smiles" 139 times her chapter 3, it immediately makes me notice my own overused words (I knew I had a problem with "just" when I found it 235 times in a 200 page manuscript....)
5. Their encouragement and praise is better than chocolate. At times when getting an agent seemed never ending, they kept telling me I had what it takes, and I love them for always believing in me.
6. My local in-person CPs are conveniently close for local writerly events. I know I'm blessed to have the talented Maureen and Kate close by -- without them I'd be going to the Teen Book Fest, Rochester Children's Book Festival, and Upstate NY SCBWI conferences all by myself. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but how much better is it to have another passionate kidlit writer around to share these experiences and boost my writing motivation?
7. My non-local CPs are good for different regional perspective. Like if I talk about Wegmans in my book, they'll be like "What's that?" because I forget that the grocery giant is only in a few states. Plus Em and Tina are a great excuse for a writing retreat road trip!
8. Talking with them keeps me in the writer form of mind. It's easy to lose focus, or to focus on the wrong parts of the writing process, so talking to others with the same goals is super helpful and motivating.
My CPs have made me a better, more focused, and driven a writer. When I signed with my agent, she said one of the reasons she wanted to rep me was my clear willingness to continually improve my craft, take critiques to heart, and keep on learning and striving for something better in my books and myself. It made me feel really good that she recognized that about me, and that my CPs all helped me learn and practice these very things.
If you are on the cusp of signing with an agent and just can't seem to break through, I highly recommend finding some positive but honest CPs. See what they suggest, talk stuff out with them, discuss the market for your book and what agents you should query, and keep going and writing and critting and revising. To find CPs, check out the amazing
Verla Kay chat board or join the SCBWI and log onto their discussion board.
Do you have CPs? Have they helped you on your writing journey?
Deena, Miss Recenlty Repped