Something really cool happened to me yesterday. Someone who had critiqued the first two chapters of For Love of an Angel (randomly via Critique Circle) contacted me to tell me she couldn’t stop thinking about my story or my characters. Yippee! That’s what every author wants to hear, isn’t it? But that got me thinking about critique groups and/or partners, and what benefits they should be providing.
Everyone differs when it comes to their critiquing style. Some people prefer to work with one or a few critique partners, others like to be a part of a bigger group. Here’s what I found works for me:
I have a critique partner, another author who I met at RWA National last year. She gets to see my really shitty initial drafts, the ones riddled with adjectives and adverbs (poor her, LOL). After I get comments back from her I’ll do one or two more rounds of edits before submitting the first few chapters to www.critiquecircle.com. This is a site where you can submit your work to be critiqued. It sits in a pool and whoever’s interested in the story will pick it up and critique it. The great thing about this kind of critiquing is that you get comments from multiple people (usually 3-10 or more) who don’t know you and therefore aren’t worried about hurting your feelings. The downside is they aren’t worried about hurting your feelings.
I’ve found Critique Circle to be a great tool for testing reader reaction. Some people will love my work, others won’t, but I know if I’m hearing the same comment by two or more people, then that’s a suggestion I should consider taking.
So what have I learned from this type of critiquing? Well, I’ve learned what I need in both critique partners and groups.
With a critique partner, I need someone who can provide encouragement while pointing out the flaws in my manuscript. This person sees the work in its infancy stage, when I’m still very attached to it. There are those who say crit partners should be completely honest, even if the work sucks. That’s a valid point, but that’s not the kind of critique partner I want. In an industry riddled with rejection and negativity, I need to have someone on my team, someone who is encouraging me to go for it. She should help make my work stronger, not be judge and jury regarding the sales potential of my manuscript.
With a critique group, I need people who can provide quick, honest feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Getting these multiple reviews helps me decide how I want to proceed with revisions.
So tell me what works for you? Critique partners? A critique group? Or do you prefer to go it alone?