Monday, May 8, 2017

Long-Term Critique Partnerships: Myth or Magic?

Way back when Middle Earth was still in existence, I started trying to write a book because my husband thought I should have a hobby. I think he figured if I spent a year or two writing a romance novel, maybe so much of our monthly budget wouldn’t be spent on the book aisle in Walmart. I’ve been a voracious reader all my life, so it seemed to me that I would’ve learned to write by osmosis or something. I’m not really sure what I was thinking.

Point of view? Yeah, I had twelve of them. Backstory? No worries--I covered that in the first paragraph. Conflict? Who needs that? I wanted my characters to like each other.

After my first rejection, which was a much nicer letter than I deserved, I realized maybe there was more to this than I had imagined. It was about that same time that I decided writing a book was pretty stinkin’ hard. I needed help. I needed a critique partner.

I met Sierra Donovan on a Harlequin message board. Neither one of us was published at the time, but we had similar interests and were at a similar place in our writing, and we clicked. Over time, we learned we could trust each other with our work, and after all these years, we’re friends, too. We certainly never imagined we’d still be working together more than twelve years later. 

So what makes our CP relationship work for the long haul?? 


We have a similar tolerance for grammatical errors.

Everyone makes mistakes. Some people make the same mistakes repeatedly (cough...me...cough). However, if you’re the lieutenant of the grammar police (rules are rules for a reason) and your critique partner is a grammar flower child (let’s use all the grammar and be happy) then you might have a problem. It’s hard to get to the meat of what your critique partner is writing if you can’t get past the grammar.

We share the same commitment to timely critiquing.

The meaning of timely is different for everyone. Long-term critique partners and bestselling authors Catherine Mann and Joanne Rock have written well over 150 books between them. Because they’re often up against deadlines, they have a 24 hour no-excuse turnaround time. According to Rock, “It honestly never feels like a chore because we are paid back in kind--given help when we need it most.”

Sierra and I shoot for returning critiques within 24-48 hours and sometimes less, but it hasn’t always been that way. This timeline works for us at this point in our careers, but...if you have seventeen children or a full-time job outside of writing or it’s football season, you might need a looser timeline. The key is finding someone else who works at the same pace.

We are each other’s biggest cheerleader. 

One thing I’ve learned about writers is that we celebrate the milestones--all the milestones. When I got my first real rejection, a writer friend brought over a bag of mini Snickers bars and unwrapped them for me as I cried. Every step of the journey represents hours, sometimes years, of work. No one knows that better than a CP. 

Superromance author Dana Nussio has been a part of the same critique group for sixteen years. These seven women have been together through many published books, but they’ve also supported each other through cancer, surgeries, teenagers and more. The key to their longevity, according to Nussio, is “truly wanting success for each other and willingness to be invested in that success.”

We give--and receive--feedback with respect. 



Criticism, even constructive criticism, is never easy to take. Having respect for your critique partner’s gifts, talents, and time, can change the conversation. Frank Clark once said, “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”

I love it when my CP tells me she likes my writing. Her praise gives me a boost of confidence--and I need that! But honest constructive criticism makes me a better writer. And I want that even more.

We trust each other to “get it.”

Another way to put it is that your critique partner’s comments have the ring of truth for you. Sierra Donovan says, “That doesn’t mean they only tell you what you want to hear, but their comments feel right to you--they seem to get what you’re going for and gauge whether you’re on the right track or not.” 

A long-term critique partner isn’t a myth, it’s a marriage. It takes work and compromise to make it work consistently.  Which brings me to one final pro tip: 

Expect to kiss a few frogs. 

Sometimes a trial period is a healthy choice. Agree to critique three chapters and re-evaluate the benefits. Both people come into the relationship understanding that sometimes it’s not a good fit--and that’s okay! Just like finding romance, finding the right critique partner is a combo of chemistry and perseverance and...sometimes it doesn’t work out. But when it does, it’s magic!

So, how about you? Do you work with a critique partner? Do you have any tips for making that relationship work? (Or, even better, things not to do?)



Today, Stephanie is giving away TWO double packs. A copy of her Love Inspired release, The Dad Next Door by Stephanie Dees and We Need a Little Christmas by Sierra Donovan. Print or ebook. Winner's Choice. Leave a comment to be entered in this fun giveaway. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition!



A Place to Call Home 


Lawman Joe Sheehan is desperate to bond with the daughter he's just discovered he has. But as a virtual stranger to twelve-year-old Amelia, the task seems impossible. Until Claire Conley moves to town. A social worker renovating a mansion into a foster home, Claire is the first person to get through to Amelia. Falling for the single dad was not on Claire's to-do list. But with Joe and Amelia around, the house finally starts to feel like home. Claire's ready to fight to convince Joe that together they've done more than fix a house…they've built a family.


Award-winning author Stephanie Dees lives in small-town Alabama with her pastor husband and two youngest children. A Southern girl through and through, she loves sweet tea, SEC football, corn on the cob and air conditioning. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing kids and drinking coffee, not necessarily in that order. Her new series for Love Inspired is one that’s close to her heart, featuring families built by love in unexpected ways. For more information, visit stephaniedees.com and sign up for Steph’s newsletter to be entered into a Kindle Fire giveaway!

We have donuts! Pass the box!

120 comments :

  1. I was very fortunate to get a critique group when I joined ACFW that really helped me.

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    1. It's funny that writing is such a solitary endeavor, but we can't do it alone!

      Mary, I loved your blog about pulp fiction the other day! So clever!

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  2. WELCOME STEPHANIE! I brought donuts. Must post the picture. Every time I see that 12 POV comment I fall over laughing.

    That was me!

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    1. I just thought readers deserved to know what the heroine's cat was thinking!

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    2. LOL! You two are so funny. :)

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  3. I'm so excited to be getting to hang out with the Seekers today. Thanks so much for having me!

    My daughter just got home from college last night and we made oatmeal cookies so that's what I'm having for breakfast with a giant glass of milk. I brought plenty to share!

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    1. If these cookies have oatmeal in them, they are practically breakfast cereal.

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    2. Hey, I eat oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for breakfast quite often. They have to be as healthy as a breakfast bar!

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    3. Stephanie, my daughter got home Wednesday night. And my son moved home Friday, then graduated on Saturday. It's so nice to have kids home! Oh! And my son moved home with a pan of brownies he had baked. I trained him right! LOL

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    4. You did train him right!! I love when all my kids are under the same roof! Makes a mom very happy :)

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  4. Cookies for breakfast! My kind of gal. As soon as I finish this donut.

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  5. So, out of curiosity, who are the actor and actress roles being filled by when they turn your book into a movie?

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    1. I had to go back and look at the art reference photos I picked out, but in my mind, Joe looks like Gerard Butler and Claire looks like Sophia Bush with long hair! I love that question!

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    2. He actually ended up looking like Ben Affleck. The good guy Ben, not the evil, dump your wife one.

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  6. Love that cat! Are you a cat person?

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    1. I love cats...I think they're so quirky and full of personality. I had one (or two) for many years. Now I have a poodle and a part-time cock-a-poo (who belongs to one of my kids)!

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  7. I met my first longterm critique partner seven years ago. Now there's a group of five of us who have been together about four years. We've seen each other through rejections, contracts, book releases, more rejections, babies, jobs changes, moves and family stuff. I have no idea what I would do without them!

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    1. That sounds like a great group! I love how we get together for work and end up supporting each other through life!

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    2. Kara, our group, though not critiquing together much anymore, still keep in touch and get together when we can. I love that group of ladies who slogged through my earliest manuscripts. :)

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  8. Welcome, Stephanie! The only critique partner I've had has been Seekerville and so far, they've steered me down the right path. Thanks for visiting today!

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    1. Thank you! The Seekers are one smart group of writers. You're in good hands :)

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  9. My CP and I have been together for 17 years now. :-) She's my best friend, knows me sometimes better than I know myself, and has definitely been my support through more than just books. :-) When you find a gem...you keep it.

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    1. Yes! You're right. 17 years! That's awesome for you both!

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    2. Susan Gable, we're thrilled you stopped by! Welcome. 17 years is longer than most marriages. WOWZA!

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    3. Susan, welcome! Isn't it wonderful to have someone you can trust like that?

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  10. I'm part of a three-person critique group. We meet when we can and have turned into more of a brainstorming group. It serves our needs at the moment.

    The 24- to 48-hour turn-around time you mentioned is amazing. Especially when a deadline looms.

    Congrats on your success, Stephanie. Will you be at RWA this July? See you then, I hope!

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    1. I won't be at RWA this year, but I'm hoping for Denver next summer.

      I would love to have a group of writers to meet with in person. My go-to brainstorm partner is Brenda Minton. She's helped my characters out of some very sticky situations!

      Congratulations on your honor!! I'm so excited to see you make it to the Publisher's Weekly list!

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    2. Denver. My hometown. I will be there. Not going this year either.

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    3. Thanks, Stephanie! Brenda Minton is a lovely woman and a talented writer. You make a good team!

      I hope to be in Denver too!!! :)

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    4. Stephanie, I'm wondering how long it would take me to hop onto I-85 or I-20 and head to Alabama. ;)

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  11. Welcome, next door neighbor! (I'm from Mississippi). I've never had a critique partner, so this subject is new to me. Perhaps it's time I start looking for one, because it sounds like a win-win relationship. Congratulations on your book debut! I wish you a ton of sales!

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie! As Mary mentioned above, if you are a part of ACFW or RWA, you can apply for a critique partner or group and get matched. And I think Seekerville does match-ups from time to time, so that would be a great option!

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    2. Thanks so much for the advice, Stephanie! I'm a member of both ACFW and RWA, and I had no idea those options were even available.

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  12. Stephanie, welcome to Seekerville. Congratulations on your debut book! Whoohoo!

    I've grown up loving the SEC and love being southern. What a great giveaway. Thanks for the encouragement today.

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    1. Thanks! I'm thrilled to be writing for Love Inspired Romance!

      I've enjoyed writing this small town in Alabama (there are three books already written and on the schedule). I took a quick peek at your blog. I love your photos! The Carolinas are so beautiful--from the interior hills to the coast. I love visiting there!

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  13. Thanx for the giveaway! I enjoy hearing about the life behind the book. Enjoy the cookies.

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    1. Haha! I already have eaten way too many! Hope you have a great day!

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  14. This is a good post. I have been in a couple of really good critique groups, three to five people. They dissolved for various reasons, but were good while I was in them. My first critique partner came out of one of them and we worked together for almost 20 years, counting our time in that group. She taught me much of what I know about structure, which is a weak point and learning curve for me. We met in person for several years and then by e-mail when she retired and moved. We decided to take a break last year but may pick it up again. I'm currently working with someone more local. We correspond by e-mail and meet for brunch every couple of months or so. Still earning each others' strengths and weaknesses, but it's been good so far. With both partners, we exchanged material, usually one or two chapters, on a monthly basis. This worked for us and works for us now, although I can see us having to step it up a bit when we're all published and have stricter deadlines.
    I like having one crit partner to work with. The groups were great and gave good advice, but as I come closer to publication (and both my former and current crit partners are already published), I need something more targeted and focused.
    I am pleased to see that published writers still make use of this form of evaluation. Not sure if I will when I'm published, we'll have to see, but I will always be friends with my two crit partners. We have been through a lot. Raising teenagers with the first one, her husband's leukemia (IN REMISSION) with the second, and OF COURSE all the twists and turns this wonderful, scary business of Writing For Christ brings.
    And I love the Frank Clark quote. There is a way to do this and a way not to do this.
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Great point, KAYBEE. Not all critique groups work out. Sometimes it's no one's fault, it's just not a good fit.
      Mine was online. I tried one that was face to face and it just (for whatever reason) wasn't useful. It was a long drive and I could only go once a month and it just served to stop me and fill me with doubt, though they were really nice ladies.

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    2. Thanks for sharing your experience, Kathy! I've had a couple of critique partners along the way that didn't work out for the long haul, but I've learned something from each of them!

      Sierra and I have taken breaks from critiquing over the years when life has intervened. That could've easily been a tip.

      We work over email also since we live on pretty much opposite ends of the country!

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  15. I meant to say LEARNING each other's strengths and weaknesses. Whatever.
    KB

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  16. I've been in several cp groups over the years. Some didn't last but a meeting or two. Some for years. Good cp are priceless. It's such a relief to trust your baby w/someone.

    17 kids. That's the one that got me. LOL.

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    1. Ha! I don't have that many, but I imagine it would put a damper on your writing time!

      I enjoyed reading your blog from the other day. Such great insight into characters!

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  17. Stephanie, welcome to Seekerville! I didn't have 12 POVs. I just had a dozen different POV errors. When a contest judge pointed it out, I didn't know what POV stood for. LOL There's a learning curve for sure.

    I've had two critique partners. I love them and their input as they want the very best for me. As you pointed out, we've got to have that trust or all that red ink would destroy us.

    Janet

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    1. Janet! I love it!!

      Trust is so key and it's something that has to build over time. I think for me it goes back to what Kathy (kaybee) said above about strengths and weaknesses and learning to trust my CP's strengths.

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    2. Kathy is wise. I think most, if not all writers have weaknesses. Then we're so close to our story that we sometimes don't see what fresh eyes do.

      Janet

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  18. Stephanie, love the cover of your novel and the blurb!

    Janet

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  19. Tina, thanks for the donuts! I'm grabbing one and off to Bible study. See you all later!

    Janet

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  20. Hi Stephanie - fun post. CPs are indeed special. I love finding someone who "gets" my writing!

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  21. I WANT THE DONUTS.... NOM.... NOM......NOM!!!!..........

    Oh my stars, I am now officially starving!!!

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    1. I'm still thinking about those apple donuts you posted on fb about two months ago! I had donuts on the mind for days after that! I hope Tina used your recipe!

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  22. I found my buddy Sandra Smith through FH&L's critique page way back in the day.... And I'm not an easy person to work with. I work fast and hard and I don't dawdle over anything AND I didn't want anyone telling me I couldn't tackle tough subjects because I wanted to... so of course my EGO gets in my way. :)

    But Sandra was wonderful, we worked together to help each other polish for years, and we only stopped when I got editors who willing to boss me around! :)

    So then Sandra didn't have to!!

    It's hard to find the right mix, and by the right mix I mean someone who isn't a jerk, who sees your talent and isn't jealous, and who wants your success as much as their own.

    THIS IS NOT AN EASY MIX.

    A lot of authors can self-sabotage and cut down their partners because of envy or jealousy, and yes... even in Christian circles. So if your critique partner is negative or envious or kind of mean about other people... find a new one.

    Because if they're mean about other people, darling... they're going to be mean about you, too. Your turn will come and you can't afford that to sideswipe your career.

    Pray. Search. And don't be afraid to end a critique relationship if it's not working. I promise you... it's okay!!!!

    Sandra, huge thank yous from Western New York for years of love and help and encouragement!

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    1. SUCH great points, Ruthy. Part of the challenge is finding someone who works on the same schedule or is willing to work with yours.

      Some people are mean-spirited. That trait will come out in a CP. When we put things out there that are deeply personal (and of course, that's what we do as writers), if a critique is mean or harsh, it can be crushing. We don't have time or energy for that!!

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    2. Yes Ruthy, You were a godsend at a time when no one else "got our writing". smile We worked hard and trust me folks, keeping up with Ruthy was indeed my biggest challenge I ever faced in this business. That woman can write. Fortunately it was all good stuff I could't put down. smile Thank you too. It tickles my heart to see how well you have done with all those "taboo subjects". chuckling again.

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  23. Stephanie and Ruthy, you've given us lots to think about this fine Monday morning! I second Ruth's story about not sticking with mean or critical CP's - I did it for far too long. And something else that seems like a no-brainer but was a problem for me because at the time I couldn't find anyone else - do NOT be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. That will serve to let the devil in the door and you can waste days, months, years getting rid of him again. My current CP is a gift from God and she's taught me alot about my writing, been encouraging at every step, and keeps my feet to the fire. She's also become a lovely friend and for that I'm extremely grateful! And we're equally yoked and although we don't write the same genres she's quite capable of telling me what's working or not in my writing. It's like a marriage, when you find the right one, nurture the relationship! Water it, spend time on it, and it'll take you farther than you ever dreamed. Can I please have a glazed donut? :)

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    1. That's a great point to bring up, Laurie.

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  24. Welcome, Stephanie! You've offered some excellent insights and advice about the critique partner relationship. I've participated in a few crit groups over the years, and it really is a trial-and-error process for finding the right mix.

    I do believe critique partners are essential when you're just learning the craft, but--as Ruthy said above--there came a time for me when I just needed to write the stories and let my editors tell me what THEY wanted fixed.

    I'll also echo what Debby said--these days, what helps me most is someone to brainstorm with occasionally. Since I started writing for Love Inspired, I've called upon Janet several times to look over my story ideas, do a little brainstorming, and help me see where the characters or plot need further thought.

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    1. Everyone has a different process--I'm glad you found the one that works for you!

      Brainstorming help is crucial too. I'm always amazed at how my writer friends can come up with twists and ideas I never would've thought of in a million years.

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    2. Myra gives back by keeping Grammar Queen on call. :-)

      Janet

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  25. I especially like that quote you cited- so true. I've recently become a critique partner with my sister. Still waiting to see if the relationship will hold.

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  26. A couple of people have mentioned they critique by email. Sierra and I email and always have because we are long-distance CPs. But I think there's a benefit to both.

    Do y'all have a preference?

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    1. Email. Face to face is too easy to become a nosh session. Had plenty of those in my day too.

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    2. Absolutely email. Our schedules would never mesh even if we didn't live in different time zones :-) Using email, we can keep the writing critiques separate from the day-to-day exchange that is so enjoyable.

      Forgot to say I'm looking forward to your new LI series. I'm curious to see how the unexpected families come to be -- one of my favorite kinds of stories!

      Nancy C

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  27. Hello Stephanie! You are blessed to have a great group of critique partners.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. You're entered! The winners will be announced this weekend!

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  28. Those sound like great advice points. I agree on it being enjoyable hearing how authors write! Thanks for sharing!

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  29. Janet Dean has become everyone's go to person around here. We need to buy that woman a coffee. She is a genius at spotting problems.

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    1. Tina, you're sweet! If that's true, I wish I could see the problems in my own work. LOL Thankful for Missy Tippens and her red pen.

      Janet

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    2. Tina, you're right! Janet is excellent! I had a few books without major revisions thanks to her. :)

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  30. This post revealed that some of us pubs stay connected to critique partners and others move on, relying on their editors. I wonder if those who stick with cps have that dreadful PS: Perfectionism Syndrome.

    Janet

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    1. I wonder!! I think, for me, it's that I don't see the trees for the forest sometimes? I know where I want to go and it's great to have a critique partner to make sure that the reader can come along for the journey (to mix a couple of metaphors, haha!) One little funny fact about the way Sierra and I critique...we don't share the synopsis. So as we go, we have the reader experience.

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    2. Interesting tidbit, Stephanie! I, too, like a fresh read.

      I'm also really bad at the big picture stuff. It's why I need a cp.

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  31. Stephanie, how far are you from Atlanta? Have you considered attending Moonlight and Magnolias? It's a great conference. Not too large, friendly, great programs, editors and agents and the cost is reasonable. It's held on the first weekend in OCT. I'll be there! Would love to see you then! :)

    In fact, we should get a big group of Seekers and Villagers to attend. At least those who live in the SE.

    Hugs!

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    1. I'm just a little over three hours from Atlanta. I've thought about it, but haven't pulled the trigger :) I'd love to attend. Thanks for mentioning it!! It would be so fun to have a group to go!

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    2. Three hours? We're practically neighbors! :)

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    3. We'd love to have you come to M&M sometime!

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    4. Hi, I'll put in a plug for M&M as well. It's a great conference. Since Debby brought it up, I'd like to mention (I hope this is okay) that this year the dates are different. M&M is Sept. 28 through October 1.

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  32. I don't have a critique partner, per se, but I do have a couple of ladies who have critiqued my work in the past when I needed another pair of eyes and they were awesome. I have never met them face to face - only know them via the harlequin message boards and a writer's blog.
    I'm not sure if I'd be a good partner though. I'm not very grammar savvy, but I do try to be positive in comments about something that doesn't seem to be working. I'm tend to be afraid that I don't truly know what I'm talking about. :) So, I guess I don't really have any tips.
    I would love to be in the draw for your book.

    RWA is in Denver next year?!? That's my hometown and I'd love to go there even though I don't have anything going at this time. Half tempted just so I can see all the Seeker ladies (and visit my mom).

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    1. Deb, it's a great skill to critique in a positive way. I think the key is not how much you know really, but that what you mention in critiques didn't work for you. If what I write doesn't work for my CP, even if she isn't completely sure why, I want to revisit it. Hope that makes sense!

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  33. Hi Stephanie:

    Let's cover the important question first: Are you Alabama or Auburn?

    About those 12 POVs, did you mean 12 different POV characters? I don't think there are 12 different types of POV. Besides the second person POVs are almost never used.

    James Patterson, who sells tons of fiction even measure by electron weight!, likes lots of POV characters because his readers like knowing what all the major characters are thinking. He also wants each scene to be a chapter no matter how short that is. If you do this it is not too hard to write in a way that the reader will not be confused by whose mind he is in. Patterson would have a writer use all the POVs she wants to as long as the reader is never confused. But then Patterson rewrites scenes six or seven times just to make them more reader-friendly!

    About CPs. Some people should not have one! Just as some people should never marry. I've talked to many writers who do not let anyone see their work until it is sent to their publisher.

    I think for some writers havign beta readers is a better choice.

    Besides I think the best CP for most writers is entering Writing Contests! These judges don't know who you are and they will tell you the truth!!! They also give their advice from the POV of what an editor is looking for. So they are ideal if your goal is to get published. You also usually get three evaluations with different opinions. I've had a "D" and two "A"s on the same entry. And all three were right based on the criteria they were using. Two were published writers...all for $30 or $10 each. Contests have helped me more than any other thing I've done. What if I had a CP who gave me a "D"?

    Advice: Try to have just one CP. It seems the most nightmares with CPs are the groups. I was at a writers' conferance where there were over 100 writers who spent the whole time telling group CP horror stories. A hundred writers! That made this session the most attended!

    Some groups are like having the blind lead the blind. Some members are nasty. One writer told of how they could not get rid of one nasty member so the disbanded the group and secretly reformed under another name. Some members would find the same problem with every comment. They felt they had to say something and didn't know what else to say. Some were never going to really write anything. They just loved talking about their 'writing group' to friends and all the writers they knew.

    In any event no one in that session had a nice word to say about group CPs. One good point came out: form a small group CP by invitation only!!!

    BTW: Seekerville is like entering contests. But so many of the Seekers are active contest takers and Tina's blogs are like going to a workshop. So if you are reading this you are in the right place. : )

    Please enter me into the drawing. Single father stories are my soft spot. (Also runaway brides but those are in short supply.)

    Vince

    P.S. A risk: one of the saddest writing stories I've heard in person was a favorite writer with over 100 books published. She told of how her best friend for decades was also her CP and all was well until she started publishing and her friend did not publish. The friend dropper her. The writer was very hurt by this. Maybe a best friend should not be a CP?

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    1. My closest friend is a writer and I can honestly say that we are genuinely happy when good things happen for each other, professionally and personally.

      I appreciate your sharing your thoughts on critique partners!

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  34. STEPHANIE, WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, GIRL!!

    Oh my gosh, I had to laugh at your first meme: "POINT OF VIEW? YEAH, I HAD TWELVE OF THEM," because that is SO me!! Except I only had eleven POVS -- ALL in ONE scene -- if you can believe that!! Have only done that once out of 13 novels, but for a POV addict like myself, it was such a rush! ;)

    You asked: Do you work with a critique partner?

    I don't anymore since I am too anal to be a crit partner, which ends up being WAY too consuming. In fact I seldom critique anymore at all since it takes me about a day to do 10-20 pages, no joke.

    I started out years ago in an ACFW crit group that I loved, but then I figured out it was mostly the people I loved, not critiquing.

    But I sure admire those who do have CPs because I would definitely have one if I could knock the crits out more quickly.

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. I have a lot of bad critique partner experiences and good ones too. Recently I am working with a few folks on a side project and I am pleasantly surprised at how nicely it is working and how they are keeping me accountable to get this side project done once and for all. Guilt is a wonderful motivator.

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    2. I do understand that! And that's a good question that you answered...how long does it take to do a critique? In general, it takes me a couple of hours to get through a chapter, but Sierra writes so clean that my anal former English teacher side never has to show up! :) Also, because I don't know what happens next, I'm always so anxious to read the next chapter that she sends me!

      Thanks for the welcome!! It's great to be here!

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  35. Vince, your comments are like a workshop. I loved this one.

    You are right, some folks should not marry or be CPs. They need to go it alone. For the benefit of WHIRLED PEAS.

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    1. Whirled peas LOL Love it!

      Nancy C

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    2. WHIRLED PEAS?

      Is that what beauty contestants from the south answer when they are asked what they hope to see in the future?

      To find out:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSCnKLRkhT0

      Tina is the real guru!

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  36. Hi Stephanie, what a great post. I'm still giggling over the grammar flower child comment.

    I can only image having the same critique partners for a decade or more. How wonderful to have folks hang with you through the good, bad and ugly. And to have them encourage and celebrate the writing road is fabulous. Let's face it, no one understands more the tribulation, celebration and roller coaster ride writing takes us on.

    I love my critique partners. We're still a new group, but they've done so much to help my writing. We give each other the freedom to "beat as necessary" which I appreciate as much as the kudos along the way.

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    1. Sharee, it sounds like you've found your people :) You're right--it's a balancing act between constructive criticism and compliments. We definitely need both!

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  37. Beat as necessary. I think we should get t-shirts with that on the front and a large pen. hahahaha

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  38. Stephanie, what a helpful post! Wish I'd read something like this before attending a critique group as a new-wanna-be-writer. At this particular group one brave published author submitted a few pages and asked for help with her current WIP. Perhaps the author wasn't clear in asking for specific advice, because these gals were all over the place with suggestions and questions!

    I observed. Shocked into silence I came away soured on group critiquing! Even as a newbie I realized those giving advice had no idea about this author's genre!

    While it's not the same as having a Critique Partner, I am forever grateful to the Seekerville community for sharing fabulous information and themselves....and for showing such amazing kindness in times of trouble!

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    1. Why Kathryn, thank you for those kind words! A genre writer should never critique with a literary writer. That's a recipe for disaster. I have seen that train wreck in person.

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    2. Thanks, Kathryn! The Seekerville community is such an amazing resource for writers--both pre- and post-published! More than once, I've searched something on the internet and clicked on a link to find myself at Seekerville. I should know to search here first!

      You mentioned the author asking for specific advice...that is a great point. Sierra and I will often say, I'm not sure the characterization works here, or the conflict I was going for was this, can you read with that in mind. And it is really helpful! Thanks for bringing that up!

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  39. I've only just recently learned how important critique partners are, and how essential it is to have one. I'm still looking for a critique partner. Thanks for your timely advice.

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    1. Here's a list of 40 places, including Seekerville, that you might look for a potential critique partner. It really is worth the effort to find one in the long haul!

      https://thewritelife.com/find-a-critique-partner/

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  40. How does one go about finding a critique partner? My concern is that I would find it difficult to critique someone else. I'm afraid I would approach it as my English teacher self and be too hard or I would be afraid to put down their work at all so would just say nice things.

    Please enter me for the drawing. Thanks for your post, Stephanie.

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    1. Sandy, a good idea is to start volunteering to judge contests. Contest judge training is good for critiquing and it will prepare you for being a critique partner. Treat everyone as you want to be treated.

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    2. I love that idea, Tina! Here are some ideas of places to find a CP. https://thewritelife.com/find-a-critique-partner/

      I was an English teacher in the old days. In my opinion, critiquing should include as much about what works for you as well as what doesn't because we learn from both! It may take a few trial chapters with different people to find someone that you click with, but I feel sure there is a writer out there who would love to have a CP like you!

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  41. What an interesting discussion on critique partners. The comment about having email critique partners rather than local is so true. My small group of three dissolved into a giant nosh session because many times we had a common Christian prospective. I would like to have a critique partner and so will heed the advice that one might have to try some different partners until a good fit is found. Please put my name in the catdish

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    1. I've never had a local group, but I can see how there would be benefits to both. I'd love to have a group to retreat with a few times a year.

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  42. Welcome, Stephanie!! I started reading earlier today and got dragged away before I could comment. What a great post!

    I love that Frank Clark quote! Thanks for sharing.

    I was in a 4-person critique group for a long time. We met in person for hours on end, drinking 1 or 2 pots of coffee each time. :) That was back when I had to hire a babysitter! Then we morphed to doing online critiques.

    Now I have two online critique partners, and I think we work really well together. I also critique with a few other people on occasion. Sometimes a fellow Seeker will read something for me in a pinch. :)

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    1. Thanks, Missy! Must have coffee, LOL!

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  43. Stephanie, we're practically neighbors! I live in small-town, Alabama, too! My small-town is in the northern part of the state.

    Thank you for such a great post on critique partners. I've been blessed with several excellent critique partners. My two longest CP relationship have been in play for over three years. One I swap chapters with on a regular basis, but the other one has turned into more of a brainstorming partnership with occasional critiquing.

    Please, enter me in the drawing.

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    1. We are practically neighbors! I bet there are a lot of similarities between our two small towns!

      Both of those styles of critiquing are really valuable!

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  44. I'm sorry if I missed this info in other comments. But how do y'all usually do your critiques? One chapter at a time like Rhonda mentioned? Or several chapter chunks, or whole mss?

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    1. We send one chapter at a time. Occasionally, if we have a pivotal scene, we'll exchange a scene instead of a chapter. Close to deadline, our exchanges pick up speed, haha!

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    2. I've been doing the best job in the world today...babysitting the grand, so just now have two hands free long enough to type.

      I was emailing with one of my street team members about this topic last night. The Promise of Breeze Hill releases in August and reviewers, bloggers, etc. are just now getting print and digital ARCs. My heart dropped (in a good way) when she told me that she just finished and she loved it. She's the first person to read it other than my editors because I don't have a CP.

      I tried CPs years ago and it just never worked out for me. In defense of all my writer friends, it's ME, not them.

      Feedback too early in the writing process has derailed me more times than I can count because I'm so easily swayed, especially if I get it from multiple sources.

      At this stage of my writing career, I think I could work with a CP because I'm a bit more confident in my own discernment of what would work for my story and what won't.

      But all that is about ME and my writing. My biggest hang up with having CPs is that I've never felt like I gave as much as I got. Oh, I've had my moments where I think I really helped someone's story, but it's hard for me not to just start rewriting sentences, paragraphs... whole scenes. And I don't think that's the purpose of a CP.

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  45. “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”

    Oh my, yes! What a wonderful way to express what constructive criticism is! Thank you for that quote.

    Thanks, too, for sharing how your critique partnership happened and grew. Sounds like a nurturing relationship :-)

    Nancy C

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    1. Thanks, Nancy! Isn't that quote awesome?

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  46. Hi Stephanie and welcome to Seekerville. What a great post because critique partners are key. It really helps to have someone else look at your work because they see things you are to close to see. For example there are events in your head so you think they are on the paper and then your cp says "why are they doing this?" Or "how did that happen?" And you discover what was in your head is not on the paper. LOL
    Or you might have a character with brown eyes and later they are blue.

    Like Tina, I've had some bad critique experiences, but fortunately most of mine have been treasures. (Yes, Ruthy, you are definitely one of my best treasures-smile) Even when you didn't think I was paying attention. And yes folks, Ruthy does kick your behind. chuckle-but only when it needs a swift kick. chuckling again.

    But to have a good cp you need to be a good cp. You need to give as much as you take. That is why I don't have one now as I just don't have time to give back. I am blessed to have beta readers and I will pay for editing. Then of course it is wonderful when you have an editor with a traditional publisher.
    Thanks again Stephanie for joining us. I've enjoyed reading all the comments about different experiences with cps. Happy writing.

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    1. Thanks, Sandra! I've had some not-so-good matches, too--learning experiences, we'll call them!


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  47. Stephanie, thanks for your post. I wanted to chime in because I do have a critique partner and we've exchanged chapters for over 3 years now. She tells me when to add emotion (and I'm so very thankful for that) and I'm very detail oriented so I remind her more about plot lines to tie up, etc. One thing I love is we write different genres of romance, and I think so many people think you have to get a critique partner who writes the same thing. I also try to beta read for people as I do learn so much when I beta read. I already have a copy of your book, so please don't enter me in the drawing.

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    1. Tanya won your book from a Seekerville Love Inspired giveaway!!! Woot! We love giving away author books.

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    2. Tanya, you're right. There are some building blocks for fiction that are almost universal.
      Thanks for buying the book! I hope you like it!!

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  48. Stephanie, you've been a marvelous hostess, thank you. While I am just eating dessert here in Arizona. It is all about the food! You are getting ready for bed. Thank you for so kindly spending the day with us. We pray for continued success for your writing and a great book launch!

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  49. I'm thankful for all the Seeker-villagers for making it such a fun and easy day! Hope you all have a wonderful week!

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  50. No critique partner for my writing :-) but I think everyone needs someone they truly admire and respect who is willing to guide, encourage and even correct them!
    Thanks for a great post! Happy Mother's Day!!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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