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

heh

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.

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On Editing: You May Be Doing It Wrong

Why Your English Degree Might Not Make You an Editor

Guest post by TC Slonaker

on editing

freedigitalphotos.net/scottchan

I am a writer.

Even with my first novel in publication, and a second on its way, I have trouble bringing myself to actually use that title. When I am reading the likes of C.S. Lewis and Harper Lee, I hardly feel worthy to share the same occupation. But I didn’t always boast this humility.

Here’s my background. In school, I was caught in the beginning of that “Let’s boost every kids’ self-esteem” movement. I won awards for my poetry and even found myself holding a pen set designated for Writer of Year, both in 8th and 12 grades. Obviously, I must have known what I was doing. I mean, hey, I placed out of having to take any composition classes in college. Even they thought I knew it all, right?

Ha.

Once I had written my first novel, I began to send it to publishers and agents in hopes of finding someone to take on my project. I expected some rejections, having heard the stories of all the greats. No one is accepted on their first query. After 19 rejections, I thought perhaps all the appropriate niches for this book were full. If I wanted to see this work in print, I might have to do it myself.

When I made the decision to self-publish, I knew my work needed to be looked over.  You know.  For the little things I may have missed like missing commas or forgotten capitals.  Because nothing is more frustrating than reading a book and finding a typo, right?

After all, how bad could it be? Remember all those writing awards I had won? In high school? Of course, high school is not my recent past.  That means it had been 20 years since I was a student of English. But the language hadn’t changed any, so I was sure I was fine.

I had even been a teacher of English – as high as 6th grade, mind you.  And all that stuff was still pretty familiar. I have to correct my own kids’ work regularly too. Many people even hate me for constantly reminding them of which “your” is needed.

So I formed a group of my friends to be “betas” and tasked them with finding my little typos. They hadn’t gone very far when, I am convinced, God sat upon His throne, shaking His head, saying, “Oh no.  She’s really going to do it.  She is going to try to represent me with a book that looks like that.”

Harsh, you say? I wish I could show you the compilation of edits made to the very first chapter of my “masterpiece.” The work I had pored over.  And over. And over again.  I’m telling you, I read that book so much, I was even getting sick of it myself.

I wasn’t going to catch my mistakes, because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong.

So, God set the wheels in motion, stopping me from my adventure into self-publication and finding a publisher willing to work with me. Since I had been nervous diving into publishing my book with no knowledge of the publishing world whatsoever, I jumped at the chance to have a professional do it for me.

After all the contract signing, copyrighting, and other business about which I was clueless, was finished, I leaped into the next phase of editing.

O. M. Gosh. I felt like a first grader, who just learned to read, being taught (patiently) all the rules of composition that I either never knew or was choosing to ignore for the sake of voice. (I learned later that voice didn’t have to break rules and look ugly.  There were better ways to achieve it.)

My editor taught me what felt like years’ worth of proper grammar, syntax, style, and story-telling. I wish I could list it all! Actually, I have been compiling a list of my biggest mistakes.  I use it as a check-off list as I proofread my other novels. It is an on-going list, because sadly, I know there is plenty more to learn.

The result was a book that I was not embarrassed to sell. I probably wouldn’t have been embarrassed to sell it before the editing, but I should have been!

Okay, fellow writers, what are you taking away from this? I’m not putting you down if you have selected the self-publishing route, especially if that was the way you wanted to go in the first place.  However, if you are only self-publishing because your work has been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers and agents, I would suggest looking into finding a professional editor.  A publisher might be too busy to tell you that his pet peeve is when someone starts a sentence off with the word, “But,” but an editor will fix it so you can experience a valued look from the publisher.

I haven’t made it as an author, if “making it” counts as selling more than 13 books. So, my opinion might not matter all that much. But as a reader, I will tell you that I do not want to waste my time on a book that is not well-written.  Please give it your best.

Tracy enjoys her life as a wife and mother of three in just outside Reading, PA. She still has a soft spot for kids and an eagerness to use her degrees in Elementary Education by using them as Director of Christian Education at her non-denominational Christian church. She has also learned to love running, and has not given up her childhood fondness of sports (playing softball and watching football). She gives thanks to the Lord for all His good gifts. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and connect with her on Goodreads. You can find her book for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the Martin Sisters Publishing website.