It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. - Seneca

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To Critique or not to critique ... that is the question.

Please welcome Guest Blogger Brenna Ash! She's here today to talk about the PROS and CONS of Critique Partners.

There are so many different opinions when it comes to critiquing. Should I have a critique partner? Should it be someone published? Should it be someone that I know? Someone that writes the same thing I do? Same voice, style? The list goes on and on.

Do I have the answers? No, not at all. But since I've been writing I've been in several different types of critique groups.

Way back when I started doing this writing thing, I took a romance writing course. The course was great, contained lots of information that I was totally clueless about and had a lot of attendees. A group of us, about 4 or 5, decided that once the class ended, we would remain in touch and create a critique group amongst ourselves. Well, this worked out okay, we swapped ideas back and forth, offered suggestions, little fixes here and there. It worked since we were all at the beginning of our writing dream. As time went on, we grew apart and for the most part, the group disbanded.

A couple of us from that group went on to another critique group. This one had a mixture of people from various levels of experience but still no one that had been published. These critiques were brutal. Unfortunately, the problem with this group was that everyone had such varying degrees of how things should be written and sort of a my way or the highway mentality. Needless to say, this didn't last long.

I then went on to single critique partners. I matched up with someone I had met in another class. This worked for a while, but we drifted apart as our writing took on different sub-genres that the other wasn't interested in.

Then one of the loops I belong to had a critique partner matching service. So, I said why not and signed up for that, glutton for punishment that I am. This was short-lived. While the critiques were helpful, life got in the way for both of us and our partnership soon fell apart.

Now, all through these critique-dabbling I was doing, I stayed in contact with someone I'd met through the first ever class I'd taken (we're best friends now) and she's always willing to read my work and offer suggestions. She's great and has offered some fantastic ideas and brainstorming moments over the years. I'd be lost without her.

Which brings me to the present. In the last two months or so I really got to think about how I could really use a mentor/critique partner that knows the business. Someone who's been published and would be willing to work with me and be honest and not hold back. I don't have any problems taking criticism. I know my work needs help. Hell, we all have to start somewhere, right?

So, I managed to hook up with a multi-published author to critique with.

This has been the best thing that has happened to my writing in a long, long time.

She is fantastic. I think I had her worried the first time she critiqued my work. She wasn't sure I'd be okay with the in-depth critique she did. She wanted to talk to me before she sent it over.

My thoughts? Hell yeah, I was ready, send it on over.

Believe it or not, my mind didn't change when I saw all of the things I'd done wrong, the grammatical mistakes, the over-talking, the redundancy. So many things, but yet she explained them in a way that made me understand the why of it all.

I'm writing again. Actually, I'm rewriting a manuscript that I finished a while ago and got a request for, but didn't dare send in because I knew how much work it needed and had no idea how to go about starting the transitions. Now I do, and I'm excited about it.

For me, the answer to the question is; yes, to critique. But just be warned, you may have to weed through a lot of partners and groups and it may even take years before you finally find the one that will work. But once you do, it will all have been worth it.

So what do you think? Are Critique Partners a God send? Or do you prefer to go it alone?

About Brenna-

Growing up, Brenna loved to be whisked away to far-off worlds via whatever book she happened to be reading at the time. During her teen years she discovered romance and hasn't stopped reading them since. After a few years, she decided she'd like to try her hand at actually writing one. Now, quite a few years later, she's still writing and hoping to get 'The Call' that all writer's want to receive.


Chicks of Characterization said...

I'd like to THANK Brenna for taking the time to chat with us today!!! Critiquing is a very important thing and its even more important to find the person OR those persons who will help you reach your DREAM!!!!!


mjmuse said...

Thanks for the post. I'm still in the process of finding the right someone who will be respectfully honest but not tamper with my "voice" either. I'll find someone in time,I hope.

Chicks of Characterization said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chicks of Characterization said...

Hi Michelle! Thanks so much for stopping by!!

Brenna and I both believe this is something that needs to be discussed! And everyone has a different opinion.

Finding the RIGHT critigue partner is never easy!AND can actually be quite painful for not only you but those critiquing for you!

Not everyone enjoys the same genre, or writing style. AND you are absolutely right, you don't ever want to change someone's VOICE. So its not always easy finding that Perfect fit!

And like Brenna said, sometimes when you find someone that really helps you, you may still have to move on to someone with MORE experiance.

There's nothing wrong with that. And if you have a great CRIT Partner she/he will understand and probably have to do the same thing.

It doesn't mean that you and that person can't help each other, just the opposite, it means that the next time they send you something- or vice versa, you may have learned something more to help each other!!!

While I am not a published author I would be happy to look at your WIP. If you intersted just let me know :O)

Andrea- CHRW

Pat McDermott said...

Great post, Brenna. I'd be lost without my writing group. For nearly five years, we've been meeting almost every Monday night. Though we weren't when we started, we're all pubbed in some way now, and we trust each other enough to start new projects in very rough form, wonderful when trying to figure out which way to go. We met in a writing class years ago, so that might be one way to find critique partners - join a class or workshop.

Eliza Knight said...

GREAT post! I think crit partners are essential! I have three wonderful crit partners, and my writing would not be the same without them. They point out things that I don't see. Thank you darlings!!!

I used to belong to a group, but the group setting wasn't for me. I didn't have time to devote to reading so many different manuscripts and hoping that someone would read mine. My writing was also in a different place. I did hook up with one of the gals right away though and we started critting each other. Later I joined with another gal from the group, and we exchange chapters. And just recently I've joined with yet another writing friend who I met years ago, and am glad to be working with. All three of my crit partners write different genres from each other. I seriously would not know what to do without them. They aren't just my crit partners, they are my friends. We share success and rejections together.

I highly recommend a crit partner or crit partners for all writers.

Alexa said...

Great blog! I too wentthrough several critique partnerships/groups before I found my current ones. As the saying goes, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs, but the right critique partner is worth her/his weight in gold! (Or should that be in chocolate????)

derekd said...

CPs are like shoes, you gotta find the right fit. They are also like shoes in that, you need lots of them!

I'm in a local group with 3 mega-tough ladies, am very active with an online group and moderate a second online loop devoted to critique. All are priceless to me.

hotcha12 said...


Brenna Ash said...

Thanks for having me, Andrea!

Brenna Ash said...

Give it time. The best thing is to make sure you don't rush into a critique partnership. It's a tough to find the perfect cp and a lot of times it takes going through a couple of frogs before you find your prince. :)
Good luck,

Brenna Ash said...

You are so right! It's very important to find the right person and such a hard thing to do!

Brenna Ash said...

Thanks Pat!
I think workshops/classes are great places to find CP's. Especially the ones that are very in-depth and give you a chance to post snippets of your work. Everyone gets to see what your style of writing is and your voice, etc. It's the perfect place to contact someone about partnering up.

Brenna Ash said...

Hi Eliza!!
Thanks for stopping by. It's nice to have crit partners that write in different genres. I find that each of them pick up on different things and it's a great experience overall. It's a great cross-section of how different readers see things,

Brenna Ash said...

You said it Alexa! I used the same frogs/prince analogy in one of my comments.
The search is hard, but well worth it once you find the right fit.
Thanks for dropping by!

Brenna Ash said...

You've got your hands full with all those CP's! I'm not sure I'd be able to handle so many. :)
But you're comparison to shoes may be right - you can never have too many.
Thanks for stopping by!

Brenna Ash said...

Thank you so much! It is indeed hard to find the right CP, but once you do, they're worth their weight in gold!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I have been blessed with the best in critique partners. One I adopted as a daughter-of-my-heart. Thankfully for me she has the patience of a saint and never held back telling me the good and bad of my work. Sometimes I would get a phone call telling me she loved me before hitting send, but I learned and I owe my skills to her. After 22 years, I sold in January and know it is because of her and my other dear CP's. You have to take the knocks and stick with it until it works.

hotcha12 said...


Nicole said...

I'm someone who likes a lot of feedback, so I have a group of 4 people who serve as my beta readers and a fantastic critique partner. I'm still looking for an additional critique partner, though -- someone with a real eye for plot.

For me, I prefer feedback to come with a dose of tough love. I would much prefer to hear about what I'm doing wrong than have someone be too supportive. That's not what's going to improve my novel. But it's hard to find a CP with those qualities and experience. I've been trying and not having a lot of luck.

hotcha12 said...


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