Thursday, January 29, 2009

How I Critique…hmm

Tip of the Day: Need a critique partner? Make sure you find someone who is writing in your genre (so no, you don’t want to pair up with the poet or non fiction writer if you’re doing YA). Visit a message board like Verla’s and post that you’re looking for a critique partner.

This is tough for me. It’s another case of I never think about what I’m doing, I just do it. Em had that beautiful list on Tuesday that anyone can probably take and apply when doing their critiques. And Kate’s was so thoughtful and honest in her post. I’m feeling the pressure here guys! :-) I guess I’ll break it down into two groups. What I do and what I like.

What I Do:

The first thing I do is see if the beginning grabs my interest right away. I’m really big on the beginnings of stories knocking me over. So if I get a book from one of my Critique Partners (CPs) and the beginning is just eh, then I’ll suggest they cut some stuff or suggest another way to open. Then I just read for things like flow and consistency and realism. I know I shouldn’t, but I always pick up on grammar errors too. I guess that’s from years of teaching and countless hours of grading. But funny thing? My grammar usually sucks (really, ask my CPs or my editor!) so that must be something that I just turn off internally when I’m writing. I like to comment in places that strike me really funny or make me go AWWW!! Or just touch me in some way. I just think it’s good to show the writer where they are really hitting home. And I also like a good main character. If I’m not feeling the MC I’ll let you know. Finally, I like to share ideas and the writer can totally take them or leave them. But if I think of something that I feel would be a really cool twist I’ll let my CP know and they might use it or it might spark another idea for them. I LOVE when CPs do this for me too. Which leads me into my next section…

What I Like:

I like having a number of CPs who all look at my book differently. I like that one of them will always point out my terrible grammar or tell me to cut out the 500 smiles. And that one will tell me, What about the Dad? The Dad should totally be in this scene! And that another one will have endless patience with me and say show not tell here. And here. And here. I also like the notes where something is good. Then I can look back at that as a reference. And I love when a CP tells me where I’ve strayed off. Like, umm, would your MC really think this? Or do that? Finally, I just like when a CP is honest. If something is really not working, let me know. I’ve heard someone say before that you can’t be friends with your CPs because then they are too nice to you (no really, that shirt looks so good on you! :-) ) but luckily my CPs are friends and still let me know when things are le sucky and need to change. They are the best!

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut


Kate Fall said...

I'm friends with my critique partners too! I think you have to have a level of trust that someone has your best interest at heart. Plus it's good to know that just because someone hates my sentence fragments, they don't hate me.

DeenaML said...

I think it would be harder to be CPs without being friends! Like Kate said, you do have to know that someone has your best interst at heart.

I will do this topic for one of our free week posts, but I definitely correct grammar, spelling, and point out my thoughts everywhere -- but it's because I really, really, really want my CPs' work to succeed and sell! So I feel like I want to do so much to help them get to that point -- even if sometimes I overdo it. :)

Emily Marshall said...

I agree. I think you can be friends with CPs. Sometimes I think this is where the Internet comes in handy. Because even though you are telling your friend about her nasty shirt, at least you don't have to look at her face when doing it. And then on the other end, even though it stings, you know your friend is only trying to help. Plus, it's nice when that same friend points out all the positive too. You know they mean it!!

Okay, I'm rambling. Good post. And now I'm getting all mushy about how wonderful critique partners are.

And I'm the same way with grammar Tina. I used to be such a stickler when writing papers and non-fiction, but my internal editor seems to take a hike when writing fiction. So it's so nice when CPs point stuff out. When I finally notice it, I'm like duh. I'm such an idiot. It must be because we have tons of other things to worry about...characters, plot, likability of characters, tension, funny dialogue...the list goes on.