We’re really excited to officially announce a new part of the blog today–the Critique Partners page! After a reader suggested a sort of “Critique Partner Speed Dating,” we couldn’t wait to try the idea out. A few people have already taken the plunge and put up profiles. If you’re looking for a CP, please take a few moments to fill out the information. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up with the critique partner of your dreams…!
And while we’re on the topic of critique partners, here’s Kat Zhang with an article on just the thing.
by Kat Zhang
As a writer, you quickly learn that one of the most prized gifts you can receive is an honest critique. Sometimes (or should I say most of the time?) our work is too close to our heart for us to see its imperfections. I like to say that my stories are my best friends, my babies, and my worst enemies all at once. I simply don’t trust myself with them. When I love them to bits, I wonder if it’s just my motherly instinct telling me that my child can never be less than perfect. When I hate them and want to throw them out the window, I wonder if it’s that enmity coming into play.
So when I find someone who will look over my bundle of joy (or worst nightmare, depending on the day—or hour—or minute) and tell me straight up, no frills, what he or she thinks, I count myself extremely blessed. A good critique partner is often hard to find. Some turn out to be more cheerleaders than critiquers—they love everything you write! Nothing should be changed! Not a word!
I’m not putting down the value of a good cheerleader (or saying that a good critique partner will never say any of the above—maybe you just wrote a really kick-ass book!), but as writers, we need to be continuously growing, and there are very, very few of us who really “don’t need to change a thing.”
I say all this now, but I’d have to be the first to raise my hand if someone asked “But don’t you just feel bad sometimes when people say they don’t like something about your story?” I think I’m thick skinned, but there’s always that twinge in my heart when someone points out what needs to be fixed in one of my works.
Writers, I think, often tend to be more sensitive than the average person. We need to be in order to throw ourselves into other people’s lives and capture them onto paper. But the same sensitivity that allows us to write can make it hard to take critique.
So whenever I find myself getting depressed or even hurt by something a reader has said, I remind myself of the following.
It is much, much easier to bang out a “Great story! I loved everything. Can’t wait to see what happens next!” than it is to type out a list of things that didn’t quite work out. Your reader put effort into expressing his or her thoughts. They gave up their time to help you—and you know what that means? It means they like you, they really like you!
Just kidding. Well, no, I mean—they probably do like you, but—okay, getting back on track. The point is, your critique partner is not saying these things to make you feel bad, or because they secretly hate you. Quite the opposite! We all know this logically, but sometimes the best of us are insensible when it comes to taking feedback.
Of course, there will be times when you and your critique partner may simply disagree. I wouldn’t say either of you are “right,” since so much of writing is subjective (a good reason to have more than one critique partner!), but if you’ve really thought about a suggest a CP has made, and in the end, you just can’t see where they’re coming from, it may just be a case of differing opinions. Your critique partner’s job is to tell you what they think, and your job is to put aside your prejudices and consider each one of their comments. If, after careful consideration, you still find yourself disagreeing, then it’s perfectly fine to leave your story the way you like it.
Finally, I would like to mention that being a critique partner usually means giving as good as you get. The best way to say thank you for a good, well thought out critique is to write one in return. But don’t think that reviewing your CP’s work is just “paying your dues.” I have learned so much through critiquing other’s work. By forcing yourself to analyze a story, picking out its strengths and weaknesses, you start to see these same factors in your own story.
I’ve heard people say that writing is a lonely profession. Well, it may be true that we spend more time than most isolated at our desks, tap-tap-tapping away. But few people truly write a book totally alone, and you certainly don’t have to! As someone who never had a true critique partner until recently, I can tell you—they rock my world.
Kat Zhang is an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing. She spends most of her free time either preparing to query HYBRID or pounding out the first draft of THE FINEST OF LINES. Both are YA novels. You can read about her writing process and thoughts at her blog.