Sitting here on the patio, I was debating what to write and read Pam's post for yesterday and it brought to mind the importance of teamwork. We have talked about the importance of getting feedback from judges and how that helps us grow. Another important source for feedback are critique partners. (especially if they're picky like a certain redhead tyrant we know--and love) A critique partner is a person who will take the time to read through a whole manuscript and point out that in chapter one the heroine had blue eyes and by chapter ten she has brown eyes. They can see the sagging middles and make sure you tied up your loose ends. Contests are great barometers for writing skill and voice, but lets face it, they usually are only judging the first ten to thirty pages. What about the rest of the manuscript????
Critique partners should be trusted friends or cohorts in the writing process who are not afraid to "tell it like it is". That is why your mother is not your best critique partner. At least my mother wasn't because she thought everything I did was perfect. Bless her. But you need a partner who is honest, who has an eye for the craft of writing and who is dependable. In return, you need to reciprocate with the same qualities.
The dependable part is crucial. If you receive a chapter and work hard on his/her chapter, you expect your partner to do the same in an agreed amount of time. Some writers are faster at getting a chapter done than others so it helps to find someone who keeps the same pace as you. Some writers are great at seeing plot problems, others at seeing defects in character. It helps to find more than one partner so you get better coverage. Be upfront about what your strengths are so that your partners know what to expect from you.
How do you find these miracle working partners? Join local writing groups. Join ACFW or RWA. They have critique programs you can look into. Take an online writing class and if you see someone asking the same questions you are, email them and ask about critiquing. Pray.
Never underestimate that option. You would be surprised at the people God places in your path.
If nothing else, the critiquing process will toughen you up for that inevitable encounter with an editor. Hooray! We want to be prepared. We want to be flexible. We want to understand when they ask for changes. If you've been working with critique partners, this will all be a piece of cake. yum