THE PROS AND CONS OF CRITIQUE PARTNERS

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy Saturday!

As of last week, I finished my third draft of Where Shadows Lie. My critique partner read through the story as I edited it, so this also means that she reached the end as well! (which was rather nerve-wracking, but that's to be expected)

I knew that once we completed our critique sessions I wanted to write a post about the whole process... but how-to/advice posts aren't really my thing (especially since Rosalie and Alyssa recently wrote amazingly helpful posts on this topic). So instead this is just my experience of having my novel read by my critique partner, Emma. 

We met in person at the library weekly, which became a day I both dreaded and looked forward to, hehe. (yay for friends and writing! boo for being scared to have someone actually read your writing!) But here are some of my thoughts about the whole process:

PRO #1: INSTANT FEEDBACK
This can also be rather terrifying (especially if the feedback is negative), but mostly it's so helpful. As soon as my critique partner finished the chapter I received her all thoughts: the good, the bad, the confusing parts, and the parts where she fangirled over characters and plot twists (mwahahah).

And if I'm unsure about a certain plot point, I can ask her! I tried to ask general questions so I didn't narrow in on a small moment in the story. Instead of asking, "was this scene too slow?" I tried to ask, "how was the pacing in this chapter?" Then I'm not accidentally ruling out chances for other possible feedback. If I still need clarity after this question, then I can narrow in on that specific scene and ask about it's pacing.

CON #1: YOU REALIZE YOUR NOVEL ISN'T PERFECT
Sometimes when I'm writing, I sit back in my chair (or flop on the ground and stare at the ceiling) and pretend that my novel is perfect. I dream of handing over a chapter to my critique partner, only to have her say, "Wow! There's nothing but good things here!"

Spoiler alert: that doesn't happen. Ever. There's always something tiny to nitpick or readjust -- I think the main goal of editing is not to make your book perfect, but into something that you're satisfied with and proud of. Editing is a journey.

 
PRO #2: DISCUSSION OVER STORIES!
This is one of my favorite parts of the critique sessions I've had with my friend. I've been working on this book since October of 2016, and haven't been able to talk about the plot twists and characters with anyone until now. IT'S SO FREEING. It's a little preview of what it will be like to have people reading the published version someday. :D

Not to mention that it's so refreshing to study someone else's writing! It becomes tiring to continually evaluate my own novel, and it's a fun change to discuss motives and goals of someone else's characters. (ahem, though it's not fun when they die. -.-)

CON #2: YOU MIGHT FAINT
To those confused by this point, you've obviously never had someone read your work before. Because watching them intake your precious novel is pure torture. 

If you do feel faint during a critiquing session, here are some tips on how to avoid it:
  • bring a paper bag to access if you start hyperventilating
  • if you do faint, bring pillows so you can at least land on something soft
  • also bring a fan to keep you cool when you start sweating
  • or just bring a water bottle and dump it on your head if the nerves prove too much
    • because then you aren't nervous about the story or fainting -- just the fact that you're completely drenched
  • binge-eat comfort food (like pizza!!)

PRO #3: MEETING WITH A FRIEND
With working and Church activities and responsibilities and writing and just day-to-day life... it's hard to find a spare chunk of time. It becomes ever harder when you try to find a chunk of time that words for two people.

But somehow my critique partner and I were able to find a few weekend afternoons and mornings to squish in our writing time, which was so needed. Not only did we critique each other's novels to pieces, but afterwards we got to catch up on life. It's a 2 in 1 experience. ;)

CON #3: WATCHING THEM READ YOUR STORY IS PURE TORTURE
Before this novel, I've really never watched anyone critique my work in person, and I didn't prepare myself for how terrifying it was going to be. I'm sitting there, across the table, watching her scroll through my document. -- does she like it? is she yawning because she's tired or because she's bored with my story?! did her eyebrow twitch or was that an expression of intrigue and surprise?? --

See "con #2," because this is where the possibility of fainting might become a reality.

Obviously I jest a little bit, but it really was scary. The good thing is that my nerves lessened the more we met for critique session. I became used to the fact that I would receive lots of comments, and learned to be happy when she only pointed out a hundred errors instead of two hundred (ha).

PRO #4: YOU'LL SEE THE POTENTIAL IN YOUR STORY
me during our first critiquing session: please just like it please don't say anything bad please be nice please --

me during our final critique session: GIVE ME ALLLLL THE CRITIQUES.

At first each critique she gave hurt a little bit. I saw the truth. I saw the sense in her comments, but I took each correction as a negative. Because critiques = a bad novel... right?

Not necessarily. Because with each critique, there's a potential for making that weak part in your story a strong one. For instance, one of her comments was that she had trouble understanding my character's goal/purpose in a certain chapter. It might take a few tries to fix that problem, but then hopefully my character's motivation will come across clearly, and the negative critique (hopefully) becomes a strength in my story.


CON #4: NOW YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO GO EDIT THE THINGS

You see all of those bullet points in the notebook above? Those are all things I need to fix. Thankfully they're not all giant plot points -- some are just little line errors. But still. And those are only from the first eight chapters! I have six more pages like those filled with corrections (or should I say "potential strengths? :P).

I'm going to need so much pizza and coffee to get through this next draft.


But thankfully Camp NaNo is coming up! I'll desperately need that extra motivation to guide me through these edits. Yikes. xD


So, basically: find yourself a critique partner. Beside the risk of fainting, you really can't go wrong. xD

AND GUESS WHAT? IT'S OFFICIAL. I HAVE TICKETS FOR INFINITY WARS. *screaming forever* April 26th here I come. :P

<3,
katie grace

have you ever had a critique partner?

26 comments :

  1. I don't know if she counts as a critique partner, but I do have a writer fren who is always the first person to read my writing in all its raw, ugly glory. She's the one I go to to get the little, easily-missable stuff fixed.

    But yeah, your critique partner sounds like da bomb. Good luck editing Where Shadows Lie in April. ;) I'd love to join you in doing Camp NaNoWriMo, but I'm gonna be so swamped in April that I won't have time. :(

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    1. Awww! THAT'S SO AWESOME. I love that you feel comfortable enough to send her your work in its raw form. I'm not sure if I could be brave enough to ever do that. XD

      Eeep thank you! And boo. *sniffs* I'm sad to hear that. I hope your April is amazing despite all the busyness. <3

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  2. Aahhh yes I'd love to have someone to actually meet with and do critiquing for, but I DO have my cousin + also my sister and good friend who are writers and come to me for critiquing advice and stuff like that, and they're not adverse to reading through my stuff either.

    AHHHH INFINITY WAR. *screaming* so I watched the trailers and everything and I was really enthused but I haven't watched the other marvel movies yet so yeet that's kinda a problem. xD

    But also I'M SO PUMPED FOR CAMP.

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    1. Ooooh that's awesome! I love that you exchange with your sisters; that's awesome. :D

      EEEEP OKAY YOU NEED TO FIX THAT ASAP. YOU HAVE A LITTLE OVER A MONTH. GO GO GO. xD

      Me toooo. o.o

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  3. Eventually I need to find someone like that :) The only irl writerly friends I have are just starting out on their journeys. The humor in this post is just 10/10, I feel like this would totally be me if I was being critiqued...yikers the thought makes me shiver but also it's exciting at the same time.

    AHH INFINITY WARS. I have now watched every single Marvel movie except for Black Panther (on the agenda as soon as I get a spare minute) , I am now a marvel junkie...I JUST CAN"T WAIT FOR INFINITY WARS EEEEK!

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    1. I should've specified in the post that online critique partners can be just as helpful -- this was just my experience with an in-person critique partner. But I understand what you're saying. :)

      AHHH YESSS. YOU AND I WILL SCREAM TOGETHER ONCE IT COMES OUT. o.o

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  4. This post has made me realize that I desperately need a critique partner!! Unfortunately I don’t really know anyone offline that is serious about writing . . . Oh well. Eventually!
    Also, you got tickets to Infinity Wars???!!!!!!! YES!!! That is so awesome!

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    1. Hey, someone online can work just as well! That's how I started out, too. I didn't even dream of ever having a IRL writer friend at the beginning of my journey.

      YES. AH. SO PUMPED.

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  5. Never really had a critique partner though a person has helped me to critique my short story. I have yet to send them an edited version. Yikes!

    I'm glad you got to experience this, Katie Grace. Now you're a step closer to publishing. Mwahaha

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    1. Eeek, you'll totally get there! It's terrifying but sooo helpful.

      *gulp* ... Yeah. o.o

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  6. This is great!!! I just need a critique partner!!!
    I have one friend I see every now and again (who like me has never seen The Greatest Showman and thinks that LOTR blows When Calls the Heart out of the water), and we sit and talk writing. It is awesome. I'm one of those people who love real conversations over chitchat, and writing conversations are my favorite!!!
    astoryspinner.blogspot.com

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    1. Ooh that sounds like a great friend though! It can be refreshing to just talk about writing sometimes. <3

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  7. Meeting weekly with a critique partner is such a cool idea!

    I always try not to think too much about the fact that someone is reading a WIP when I know that they're reading it—it's so stressful!—but I do enjoy getting feedback and finding out what works and what doesn't. Having another person's input and perspective is totally worth it though! And being able to discuss characters and plot things with someone else is wonderful for staying inspired.

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    1. Yes! I totally agree with everything you said, Jameson. It's very inspiring. :D

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  8. Haha, this is so true!! I just had a friend recently read my novel, and it was PURE TORTURE. I wanted to both hide away in a hole till the end of time and ask her a bajillion questions and talk her ear off about it. XD

    I would definitely say the pros outweigh the cons though. Getting someone else's perspective is crucial if you want to know what needs reworking in your story! *nods*

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    1. ACK THAT SOUNDS TERRIBLE. AND AMAZING. AHSDJLKF;. You are a very brave person. xD

      Oh, completely. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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  9. This was a super helpful (and funny) post! I need to find an in-person critique partner. People are super busy--I never volunteer to beta read or critique for blogger friends just because I know their story would sit in my inbox for months--so it seems like it'd be super helpful to actually write it on the calendar and go to a physical place together.

    Hailey
    www.thehardworkingcreative.com

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    1. Yeaaah. *hides* I'm horrible at beta reading. That's definitely something I need to get better at. xD

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  10. Having a critique partner is both so exciting and nerve wracking (especially if it's the first time). But it's been really cool to hear someone else's perspective on my book, and wowie, friends are so great.

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  11. Your writing journey is very inspiring, Katie. :) And same here about the college - I'm not a senior yet but I'm already trying to find plans to earn money and... I've never wanted to go to college because there's so much I wanna do that ya don't need a degree for... not to mention debt is never fun...
    And a critique partner sounds so fun! Gosh... I've yet to share my writing with anyone besides family face to face... sounds kinda painful to watch 'em read your baby... considering I have mini panic attacks when my mother grades my school reports, lol! ;D
    God bless,
    -Ang | thepeculiarmessenger.wordpress.com

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  12. I tagged you over on my blog, Katie :)!

    Rejoicing in Hope,
    Bri from forget-not-his-benefits.blogspot.com

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  13. Can so relate to this. I've only ever done online critiques and that was bad enough! Love the idea of the instant feedback...sort of. But seems scary too, as you said. Thanks for sharing the pros and cons here--and I love that photo with the plant/notebook btw. Is it rosemary?

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  14. This was a great post. Now to find myself a critique partner...

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  15. AHHHH. I didn't realize exactly how your critiquing worked, but DUDE THIS SOUNDS SO COOL. In person has to be super scary but also AWESOME. I love your forth pro! That's really important to remember with everything in life. Just because there's a problem doesn't mean the thing is bad, exactly. It just needs a bit of work. And then it'll be stronger because of that.

    I've had several critique partners over the years, but only two have read an entire novel by me! My cousin Laura has read every first draft I've ever written *cringes at some memories* and Melissa is my more recent critique buddy. I can't wait to read and critique more of WSL! <3

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  16. I love this post so much, I can't even. Just two days ago I finished the second draft of my book, and now I am FINALLY able to hand it out to betas!!! Unfortunately for me, I've never had experience with betas before. (and I know that betas are a wee bit different than critique partners, but STILL. XD) FORTUNATELY for me, however, my alpha reader is the most wonderful, kind, yet still brutally honest person when it comes to fixing this novel that I could ever have wished for.
    But all these pros and cons?? I RELATE TO THEM SO MUCH RIGHT NOW. XD Especially Con #1. I was so hoping this novel would be perfect. #disappointment XD

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  17. I enjoyed this post! I've never had a critique partner (cons of having very few writers around most of my life), but I can definitely see the benefits.

    Also, you seem to have gone very quiet lately . . . if you need something to get things going again, here's a tag. :) https://dreams-dragons.blogspot.com/2018/04/spring-cleaning-writer-challenge.html

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