Today in the A-Z Blogging Challenge, we plow onward with the letter "C". I want to talk about something, or someone, really, no writer should be without....a critique partner.
|The "Red Pen of Death" in action.|
I have one, and I wouldn't trade her for all the bronzer in New Jersey. Her name is Shelley, and she can be followed on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/ShelleyNGreene. Shelley was kind enough to help me with this entry as well...she contributed a lot of great ideas.
Now, I'll bet you're wondering what does she do that makes her so indispensable? So amazingly awesome? Well, I suppose that a better question would be what doesn't Shelley do for me. As a critique partner (and I should emphasize the "partner" part...I play the same role for her - this is a two-way street), we review each other's work, looking for any obvious issues we find.
What kind of issues?
A lot of feedback stems from character voice and pacing issues. Part of being in a partnership like this is getting to know your partner's characters, story, and writing style as well as they do, and they, yours. Being able to "hear" their character's voice when you read what they've written is a valuable talent to learn. It enables you to say honestly, "I'm not sure (insert hot hero main character) would do this," or, "What was (sexy female main character)'s motivation here, because it seems like she's acting out of character." Since character development is so important to a good story, your critique partner should be sure to tell you if anything seems amiss. They will also not judge you or think you're a raving lunatic if you complain that the voices in your head have suddenly stopped talking to you. If anything, they'll commiserate.
|Yes, writing can feel like this. Frequently.|
Your CP will also help you figure out what to do when your story is zipping along like Speedy Gonzales on crack, or slogging along as slowly as molasses in inappropriate spots. Story pacing problems can be a huge pain in the ass, and until someone you trust (like your critique partner!) steps in and gives you another set of eyes on it, it can make you feel like you're bashing your head against your keyboard.
Another role Shelley has for me, and I for her, is that we beta each other's work for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and word choice, among other basic errors. As much as we'd all like to believe that what we crank out for a first draft is as epic as Jesus riding a Velociraptor, it's not.
So, we take the time to go over each other's work word by word, enjoying the reading as we edit, of course, but also reading it with a critical eye to make it the best work it can possibly be. We both leave comments along the way, telling each other what we thought of different sections or sentences, offering commentary on plots and scenes, and above all, words of encouragement. I'm not positive that all critique partners do this type of editing work; a lot of writers often have separate editors that do this type of thing for them. I guess both Shelley and I lucked out.
But the best thing about having an awesome critique partner? They get you, and they get your writing, and they're totally honest about it.. When you go off on a tangent about how your main character refuses to do this, or how you're suffering from word constipation, aka "writer's block," they know exactly how to help you, even if it's just listening to you rant for a bit. When you feel like going all Avada Kedavra on your work, they talk you off of that ledge.
|Critique partners stop you from hitting this key. Voldemort wouldn't be a good CP.|
A CP will help you become a better writer than you already are...they're cool like that. And no, you can't have Shelley. She's mine. My precioussssss....