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?

1 comment :

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