Since I'm so hopelessly behind on email (my inbox has reached nightmare-inducing levels) I'm trying to tackle some of the questions that keep popping up, that way I'm answering all of them at once! And these are two that show up a LOT:
Do I need Critique Partners?
How do I find them?
The answer to the first question is easy: YES.
Yes, I personally feel that you need CPs. I know a few published authors who work without them--but they sorta fall into that same strange crack as the people who write their book in like a week or sell their novel after like a day on sub. The rest of us live in reality. And the reality is, you need CPs--especially when you're just starting out. My writing went to a whole other level once I had people who could point out what I was doing wrong--not to mention having people to turn to when a scene isn't working or a plot thread needs brainstorming is a priceless, priceless thing. So yes. Get a CP. Get 2 or 3 if you can.
Which inevitably leads to the follow-up question of: How do I find them? And that, unfortunately, I don't have an easy answer for.
Honestly? It's HARD. I think that's why so many people keep asking if they even need them, because it's so hard to find them. And I remember feeling the exact same way.
Because here's the thing: you're not just looking for any writer willing to read your pages and offer suggestions. You're looking for a writer who not only has valuable suggestions to offer (cause uh... not all suggestions are good ones) but who also "gets" your story and what you're trying to do--and who you get along with well enough on a personal level that you can accept their critique without getting your feathers too ruffled. And THAT is a tall order.
So all of that being said--how do you do it? How do you find CPs?
Basically, you have to put yourself "out there" and LOOK.
I know some people have found them through conferences, or flyers posted at their library or on the bulletin board at a nearby college. If you're looking for "local" CPs who you could meet with in person, that's probably the best way to go. But I think the majority of us prefer to have a bit wider of a pool to choose from, so we find our CPs online.
Sadly, theperfecrCPforyou.com doesn't exist (if only...) but there are several forum websites where people connect with other writers, like Absolutewrite.com and VerlaKay--even WriteOnCon when the conference is going. And I know lots of people who've had great success with posting in there that they need a CP and seeing who responds. I've even seen bloggers do "CP Matchmaking" or seen people post "ads" on their blogs looking for CPs. Whatever works for you.
Personally, I found my CPs through the blogosphere. I searched for other bloggers who looked like they were at the same "place" as I was--i.e. serious about writing but still learning--and then spent a few weeks getting to know them through their posts and emails. And once I'd decided that they *might* be a good fit, I proposed the idea of exchanging pages--and squealed with glee with they agreed. And that--as they say--was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
(side note: a lot of time the tendency people have is to reach out to the writers who are already agented/published, wanting their experience--which I get, but ... usually those writers already have CPs they're working with--plus deadlines and publishing obligations--so they usually don't have time to read for anyone else)
Basically, it's hard. And definitely not an overnight process. But it's SO worth it. Do not let the fact that its hard scare you off from trying. Trust me--good CPs are worth their weight in gold.
That's pretty much all I have to say on the subject--other than a few random pointers for making the CP process a bit smoother:
- Don't ask them to read your pages without offering to read theirs
- Start by only exchanging a small batch of pages, rather than entire MSs, that way you can make sure you're both a good fit for each other and that you can work with their notes
- Come to some sort of agreed upon schedule for when you'll each be returning pages with feedback. Obviously you both need to be reasonable and flexible--but exchanging of notes should also be mutual, so make sure you're getting critiques back to them in a timely fashion and that they're doing the same for you.
- If you don't like their notes, don't be afraid to politely say it's not working out. Not all people have the same vision for a project / can work together. HOWEVER...
- Remember, you're working with a CP because you want to grow as a writer--not because you want someone to pet you on the head and tell you everything is perfect. A good CP will both praise and push you, and you need to let them, not argue with / ignore them.
Okay, I think that pretty much covers it. Hope that helps!