At some point, every writer serious about publication must get feedback on their writing.
Let’s face it, we’re too enmeshed in the fibers of our stories to be able to see the whole thing as it’s meant to be seen. We’re underneath the tapestry, weaving threads together, sewing a beautiful picture. From below, our view is distorted. We see the lose threads, knots, and the fuzzy images. But we need someone to take a look at the tapestry from above, someone who can see the big picture clearly, point out the gaps, notice the misshapes, and see where we need more color.
Although writing is a solitary endeavor, the path to publication is NOT. An essential part of the process is learning to find and accept feedback on our writing, getting someone to stand at the top of our masterpiece and give us a big picture view. We’ll have to take our publisher's feedback at some point, so we need to get used to having others critique our work.
Yes, I know. I’m probably stating the obvious—most writers realize how critical feedback is. But many of us struggle to find someone who is not only willing to help us, but who is also qualified and objective. Our mothers, sisters, and best friends might be willing, but are they knowledgeable enough to help and can they share honestly? On the other hand, we may know people who are qualified (published author friends, etc.), but they aren’t willing to (and logistically can’t) give feedback to everyone.
Where, then, do we look for the critical feedback that will take our stories to the next level?
There are many ways to go about getting feedback. One of the most popular is in linking up with another writer (or group of writers) and forming a critique partnership.
Jill Domschot recently asked: If you've found your critique partners online, how did you go about finding good matches?
I’ve been involved in a number of critique partnerships over the past couple of years. So I can share what’s worked for me. But I’d also love for others to chime in and share how they’ve found their critique partners.
1. Join a writer’s organization.
Aside from the resources, industry news, and the professionalism such groups can bring to our writing careers, we can often connect to other like-minded writers. Many of the organizations have online critique groups. And if they don’t have formal critique groups, they often have message boards or forums for posting critique needs.
2. Join or start a local writer’s group.
I didn’t know there were any local writing groups in my isolated central Michigan area until I went to my library and asked. Much to my surprise, several groups were already meeting at the library on a regular basis. Usually, in those kinds of groups writers bring a sample of writing to share and have critiqued. When groups aren't available, I’ve known writers who’ve started their own.
3. Put a notice on Twitter, Facebook, or a blog.
Once we jump into the online writing community and start to rub shoulders with other writers, we’ll find that many are in the same situation as us. From time to time, I see writers post needs on Twitter, asking for someone to proof a query, or read their synopsis, or whatever. The writing community (especially on twitter) is incredibly helpful. But we have to remember if we ask for help, we need to be willing to give it too.
4. Approach another trusted writer.
I personally like this approach and think it works well. As we get involved with other writers and begin to make deeper friendships, we eventually find those we trust, who are at our skill level, and who even write our genre. We can approach them for a reciprocal critique partnership, ask for a trial period, with the understanding that we can part ways anytime and still remain friends.
The bottom line for finding a good match is becoming a part of a writing community of some kind. As I said, we may write in solitude, but once we start heading toward publication, we have to begin the process of going public. The first step is putting our work in front of trusted writers.
Critique partnerships, like any relationship, involve risk. But with effort and wisdom, and even some trial and error, we can eventually find workable partnerships.
Your turn! How did you find your critique partner? And what other advice do you have for someone looking for a critique relationship?