I think it is safe to say that most writers are introverts and like to keep our stories close, but in order for writers to become authors, we need to have a good critique group. I have three critique partners and I usually break my critique sessions into three groups. One critique partner is strictly for the beta reading. Another partner helps me with the “I’m stuck in the middle” talk sessions and with the beta reading and last partner is for all three parts. I couldn’t do it without my critique partners! If I have a question about a scene or if I am worried that a chapter doesn’t sound right, my critique partners are just a phone call away! This is how I usually break up my critique sessions:
The Outline. When I first sit down to begin a new novel, I take out my notebook and pen and just start writing what I think the story should be about. Then, I transfer those notes to the laptop and refine them as I divide them up into potential chapters. Before I begin the hard work of actually writing the piece, I ask my critique partner what he thinks of the overall plot and if he thinks it is a good idea. If he does, awesome! If not, we brainstorm until we come up with a solution and then, I re-work the outline.
In the Middle. Every writer experiences getting stuck and critique partners are an invaluable means of escape from the mud of lack of inspiration. Just talk with them about your plot and walk them through the story; oftentimes, through just telling them about the story, we are able to find a solution and viola! Unstuck and the muse has once again been conquered.
The “Final” Product. I’m the type of writer who doesn’t want my writing to see the light of day until I have done at least 10 drafts, but after those drafts are done, I know that it is time to get feedback on the cohesiveness of the storyline, detail (Did I accidentally change the hero’s eye color? Oops. Good spot critique partner Kenna!), grammar and if they enjoyed reading it.
Where to find critique partners:
1. Friends and family. While it’s nice to receive positive feedback, constructive criticism is a must when it comes to finding a critique partner. Find a friend and a family member that reads your genre and that you trust to give you a truthful answer.
2. Go to a writer’s conference.
3. Become a member of the ACFW. While this is a conference that you can attend, it is also a great place to connect year-round with critique partners online.
4. Book club. If you have a reading group, see if they want to read your book! If they can’t due to time, see if maybe at least one person is willing to take the time to read it on their own.
5. If you need advice, find a good blog community. I love to read The Steve Laube Agency’s and Books & Such’s blogs. The comment section is a great place for any writer to ask questions and receive excellent advice from other writers, authors and agents.
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