Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Your Critique Partners May Be Holding You Back

Writers need external readers. This is a pretty much accepted thought in the publishing world for the simple fact that when we write, we do so with blinders on. We can only see things one way and that outside perspective is often what it takes to get you on the right track. But, could it be that your critique partners, those people there to get you on the right track, might be steering you in the wrong directions? If you are finding that you are doing everything that they think is good, and yet your career is constantly hitting a brick wall, the odds are you are not getting the help you need.

One of the things I have found after visiting a lot of different writing chapters around the nation is how the chapters with great authors continue to produce great authors. On the other hand, the chapters with new authors or those still struggling to get that first call, continue to grow the same type of author. This has to do with the group and the help the group is providing to one another. What we are dealing with here are "closed systems." Even though the definition is often associated with thermodynamics, I think you can see the problem. A closed system is defined as:

a region that is isolated from its surroundings by a boundary that admits no transfer of matter or energy across it.

One issue I see a lot with submissions is an extensive amount of back story to "justify" the behaviors or the actions of the characters. In other words, to provide the rationale for why the hero acts the way he does, or why the heroine isn't getting involved with a relationship, the author has added this complex, and often cumbersome story line. What is interesting, is when I do talk to the authors as to why they did this, the answer is the same the majority of the time. "My critique partners told me I had to have a reason for him doing this."

If you are picking critique partners, or assessing the critique partners you are working with, you need to think about why you are putting these people in charge of your "prized manuscript." Are you doing this because they are part of your writing chapter and also in need of a critique partner, or are you doing this because you each have something to provide to the working relationship.

Think of it this way... If your car is broken, do you take it to a plumber? Do you take it to Uncle Billy Bob with the car on the blocks who says he can fix anything? Probably not. You take it to the mechanic who has a reputation for good work and who knows what the heck he is doing.

You should be doing the same thing when it comes to finding a critique partner. Your friends, or the people in your writing chapter might have great intentions and really want to help you, but if they are only going to lead you down the wrong path, or keep you at the level you are at right now, this is not going to help you.

Don't get me wrong here. These are good people and there is nothing wrong with getting some feedback from them, but when it comes to the in-depth critiques you are looking for, find people who know what the heck they are doing.

This will take time so don't rush the process. You might find people within those online groups. You might find people in other genres. That's fine. Just start digging.

1 comment:

  1. I recently had to make a change in critique partners due to their inability to get mss back to me. At all. If I ever received them back, there would only be one or two comments. So I'd submit the work. And get rejected. Now I have a new critique partner, one who's published in the same imprint as I am with Entangled. And my work has only gotten better because of her. I'm sad it took me so long to realize the change was needed.