On Writing: The Importance of Critique Partners

Bad Girlz Write: Part Two

writing with critique partnersWeek before last (May 15), the talented ladies over at the Bad Girlz Write blog hosted a J to tha M chat about critique partners. You can read the final version here, but, as you may have noticed, we can be wordy bitches–or, at least, M can. We had so much fun with the subject and subsequent chat, we decided to share all the crap we cut on the FFYW blog. Lucky you guys, right?

Outtakes and Deleted Scenes

J: Jesus. how long has it been?

sometimes it doesn’t feel like long at all

and sometimes I feel like I’ve known you forever

when was that contest I asked you to judge?

M: Early 2010?

J: I read one of your stories and stalked you

I mean, asked you to judge a contest

I don’t even remember the contest

but I do remember getting all heart-clenchy when I read your stuff and wishing I could do that

make people get all heart-clenchy, I mean

and when I put that call out on twitter for a WC and you popped up, I kind of fangirled. a little. I mean, a tiny bit

M: I love to hear heart-clenchy

and, man, that was a long time ago

J: we’ve been pretty together on a lot of things

M: except that fluffcloud thing

J: you love my fluffcloud

M: the whole licorice and cotton candy

J: I keep you smiling through your gross licorice

you also love knocking me off of my cotton candy fluffcloud on occasion

I oblige you

that’s what friends do

M: keep it balanced

J: How did we get to the point where we wouldn’t write anything without the other seeing it?

M: I think it was during the WC chats where we both were kind of eyeing each other

J: and we gradually moved to private chats

from pasting bits and pieces to sending the whole chapter

we were sponges, ready to grab whatever we could from each other

soak up

M: and we were not only open to learning, but wanted it desperately

J: I loved that you were willing to make changes

instead of thinking you had it down because you had so many readers

and also that you were willing to give me a shot in spite of the few readers I had

M: honestly, I didn’t write to get readers. I wrote to get it out of my head and share. Part of that has always been wanting to make it better

J: that was so easy for me to see, too

M: make it better to satisfy myself and hopefully anyone who happens to read it along with it

J: we did go through a pretty short “getting to know you” period

if someone were to ask me why I trust you so much–well, we’ve covered a lot of it. Definitely your willingness to keep learning. I know if you don’t know, you’ll look it up. I never worry that you’ll tell me something without knowing for sure

then there’s your ability, which I saw firsthand. I already respected your writing before we met

M: it’s the being able to admit and understand that we might be wrong and willing to learn if we are or not

honestly, attitude is the most important thing

J: it’s hard to have a partnership when one believes she/he is better than the other

M: and it’s being able to question, too

not take everything the other says for granted

being able to argue a point

being able to accept when we’re wrong – and when we’re right

and know there are no hard feelings, that we can have a healthy debate

be honest but kind, not hurt each other’s feelings

J: some of your “no effing way” choices make me giggle sometimes, too

You with cooing. Me with flesh.

I just made myself shudder with that one

M: only babies and old ladies coo

not hunky heroes

just no

J: I never had a hunky hero coo

for the record

M: thank baby jesus

J: who would definitely coo

M: Only as as a baby

J: We just kind of fell in each other’s laps (or not. still working on that one.)

M: you’re going to be working a long time

J: I’m determined. Another thing you love about me

M: As far as finding a good CP, get to know people, who you fit with

J: it really is hit or miss. it’s just a matter of sticking it out

M: like meeting friends

J: and actually don’t be quick to trust

M: some people you like and click with, some you don’t

J: however our story might contradict that

M: everyone has different strength and weaknesses, and it’s great when you find someone who complements, balances

but the most important thing is comfort and attitude, I think

J: I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for your patience when I’m going through your stuff

when I feel like someone’s tapping their watch, I make mistakes. I miss things.

M: yes, it’s a lot of understanding and being considerate on all kinds of levels, while being honest, too

honest about the editing issues, as well as time, and knowledge

when you have that level of trust, you both feel comfortable in asking and doing

M: writing is a lot of stress

and emotion

J: I just realized (again) how special you are

M: we have a pretty special relationship

J: what’s really telling of the comfort and trust in our partnership is our decision to write a whole book together

and then, because we’re either geniuses or fucking idiots, a whole series

M: and those two things together can be a fuck-all mess

J: I usually sway toward geniuses

M: oh, absolutely 🙂

J: I also think it’s going to be obvious to anyone reading this chat that I’m definitely the cotton candy


M: good critique partners are all about support – all different kinds

I’m the whippy licorice, for sure.

J: but man, I love you

M: aw, I love you, too

we need that balance

otherwise, we’d be flaily messes

J: and I can’t thank you enough every day for the support you’ve given and still give. The knowledge, the patience, the learning, the understanding, the firm line in the sand once in a while…

M: it goes both ways, it really does.

I couldn’t do this without you

J: and I feel the same

M: if you weren’t there to talk me down from my ledge…

J: it’s also important to mention that we weren’t the only person there for each other. What lonely lives that would be

we’ve always been smart enough to know someone outside needs to see it first, too

M: absolutely

J: I had Tiff; you had Sarah

and sometimes even more eyes beyond that

M: oh, yes

M: no manuscript is ever perfect. someone will always find something

fresh eyes

that understanding there makes us even stronger

J: and you and I have never had a problem with sharing

M: if we did, we wouldn’t have the relationship we do

J: because we’re lucky bitches.

On Editing: Prepping Your Manuscript for Editing

Don’t Make Your Editor’s Job Harder

Guest post by Tiff Nichols

preparing your manuscript for editing

© Igorabond | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

As a freelancer, I edit all types of writing, but my work consists mainly of editing novels. It’s a lengthy process. In fact, I wish all authors understood just how much work goes into editing their manuscripts.

I will admit that one of my pet peeves is receiving a manuscript that has obviously not seen any part of the editing process.

“But the editing part is YOUR job,” you might say.

Yes, that’s true. Editing is my job. But quality is important to me, and if you want the highest quality from me, you need to do your part as well.

My husband asked me yesterday, “Why don’t you just run a spellcheck? Wouldn’t that be faster?” He’s an engineer. Of course he looks for the quickest, most efficient way to do something. Alas, that’s not how the editing process works.

I don’t just run a spellcheck and then scan the manuscript for errors. I do a thorough reading of the novel, keeping an eye out for technical errors as well as issues with content. If I just did a quick read-through, I might not process the fact that Sally was wearing a blue shirt in paragraph two and a red shirt in paragraph five. It’s important to pick up on minor errors like this. Readers do, and they are extremely quick to point them out.

So what can you do to ensure that your manuscript is ready to be placed in your editor’s capable hands?

First, be absolutely sure that your book is finished. Please don’t send it to your editor mere minutes after typing the final sentence of your first draft. Let it sit for a while. Let it stew. Then go back to it and read it from page one. You’re going to want to make changes. Do it now. Your editor doesn’t want to see a slew of emails that say things like, “Oh, I forgot I wanted to add this paragraph on page nine!”  The pages you send out for editing should be your final draft. That said, no editor is going to say you’re not allowed to add something in if you’re hit by a stroke of genius later on down the road.

Once you’re satisfied with what you have, please—please—USE SPELLCHECK. That will take care of the simple typos and misspelled words that build up and take away from the time I spend with your novel.

Before you send your manuscript, make sure to format it correctly. This means that the font should be something simple like Times New Roman, usually around 12 point. It seems to be easiest on the eyes. Flashy fonts are a pain. Double-spacing your draft can help as well. Editing may be done electronically these days, but it can still make it easier to see what errors have been marked and corrected without things getting too crowded. Save your word as a .doc in Word to make things easy. If you don’t have Word, other writing programs (such as Pages for Mac) have the ability to export your document into a Word document.

Lastly, you should provide some basic information for your editor. Include a short summary and a word count. It’s also important to notify the editor of any special information. For instance, maybe Billy explains string theory on page thirty-four, but he gets it wrong on purpose.

All in all, a freelance editor like me is happy to see new clients. I’m not going to turn you away because you didn’t double-space your manuscript or didn’t give me a summary. If I have questions, I’ll ask; however, prepping your manuscript before sending it really helps move the process along faster.

About the Author

Tiffany is a freelance editor and writer in Charleston, South Carolina. Her vices include coffee, wine, Turner Classic Movies, and being lazy. Sometimes she brings home stray dogs. Her husband humors her whims, bless his soul. Check out her website, Write Edit Repeat, for information on her editing and writing services.