I have waxed lyrical a few times about my critique partner but now I’m going to devote an entire post to her and her noble race. I may also reference a few other people, as necessary, because I’m like that.*
When we initially got together and started emailing, she said to me, it’s a bit like falling in love. At first I thought, hmmm, how far away does this woman live again? Ah, one ocean and an entire continent, yes, I should be safe.
But she was right. Finding someone who understands the genre you are writing in, your particular style and doesn’t want to change any of that is very difficult. Isn’t that what falling in love is based on? Meeting someone who loves you as you are?
We were emailing again last night. She’s been ill and we had a lot of catching up to do. She had been looking for a critique partner for two years without success when we ran into each other.
God bless Twitter.
I feel incredibly lucky to have run up against my perfect critique partner so early in my writing career. Anyway, last night, she said this:
“It’s hard finding a critique partner who is honest, interested in more than one genre, flexible and not cruel with their honesty. I’m sometimes still afraid to tell you when I find a problem but then I remember your emails and think she’ll get it 🙂 The hardest part for me is describing what I’m feeling succinctly in a way that is helpful to you as a writer.”
And that’s what it’s all about. I have had a couple of people say, oh sure, I’ll read your stuff. Then I get the comments back and find that they have taken it on themselves to correct things. And these so-called ‘corrections’ either make no difference whatsoever (so why do them) or they completely change the meaning of what I was trying to say.
I just have to say, I HATE it when someone does that. A critique partner’s job is not to correct specific parts of the text. Certainly not in a first draft, anyway. That’s an editor’s job. Editing comes later in the process.
A critique partner helps you to see where you might be going off track and suggests ways of getting back on it. Even if it’s just that you aren’t explaining yourself well enough, that is still something you need to know. Another aspect is how to tell the other person that something isn’t working. Will they freak out? Another writer friend of mine calls this “Gollum Syndrome”, when a writer won’t take even friendly and constructive criticism.
The lack of cruelty in one’s honesty is paramount, of course. I have seen people comment on Twitter about editors being smug and patronising. It doesn’t help your self-confidence, especially if you are still very ‘young’ in terms of professional writerdom. Constructive criticism where necessary and a meeting of minds is paramount to a good critiquing relationship.
So yes, it is very much like falling in love.
*I really wanted to link to a particular blog post about passionate friendships that I read just yesterday but I can’t find it. If anyone knows the one I’m talking about (mentions a best friend called Tosca, and letters from a century or two ago between friends) then please let me know and I will link to it.