NOTE: Okay, so originally this post was supposed to cover the good, the bad and the "what the hell" of critique partners, but the "what the hell" stole the show and I’ll have to tell you the rest tomorrow. I promise there’s a “they all lived happily ever after” at the end. And on to the blog….
Earlier this summer, I set out into the great, wide, virtual yonder to find a critique partner to help me as I write and polish my first novel. I’d heard how incredibly valuable they could be as readers and as sounding walls, and I wanted one.
I didn’t have a completed manuscript. I hadn’t been part of a writing group in about 10 years. I had no idea if I was good a critiquing others’ work or if what I said would be the least bit helpful to them.
But did I think about that? NO. I wanted a critique partner.
I spent days obsessively Googling “critique partner,” “critique partner fiction,” “critiquing fiction,” “fiction writers group,” and every other term I could think of. I think I even tried some things I’m embarrassed to type, like “finding a writing partner.” On second thought, I don’t know why I was embarrassed to type that. I was one step away from posting a personal ad.
SUFW (Single Urban Fantasy Writer) desperately seeking a SSFFW (Single Sci-Fi Fantasy Writer) or DSFFW (the divorced version of the former.) Must love all things strange and fantastical, neurosis and poring through pages of deathless prose. Knowledge of the English language preferred but not required.
The ad never made it to the internet, at least in that form. What I ended up resorting to was far more shameful. I began hunting for forums. The kind of overly optimistic, upbeat, “We’re all winners,” fluffy bunny forums that I normally wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole, even a virtual one. I ended up on the bastard child of forums – Yahoo Groups.
I joined a fantasy writers group and posted a message entitled “In search of a good critique partner.” It was the Reader’s Digest version of what I was working on and looking for in a critter. Within 48 hours I had a handful of responses.
A few were the equivalent of “Dude! I’ll be your critique partner!” They were easily dismissed. One guy wished me luck, but told me that he was too busy to critique anything of mine. I wondered why he e-mailed me at all.
But one did stand out. She said she had been writing for years, was working on her first YA science fiction novel, and looking for feedback. We got in touch on IM, chatted for several hours and found we liked the same genres, same books, same authors and it seemed like chubby little cherubs had brought us together on that fateful Monday night, until we exchanged writing samples.
Girl: Oh. Well, you specifically mentioned American cheese.