Monday, May 16, 2011

Guest Post: What's in a critique partner?

Haha, so you don't know this about me, but I live super close to Yellowstone National Park. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed when I went on a day trip last Thursday because I was spamming you all with river otters, grizzly bears, and Old Faithful.

Well, then I found out on pretty short notice that I'm going back for a week. Yay! I also sent out this desperate plea for guest bloggers. Amazingly, someone answered. Yay again! So we're gonna start this week out with a guest post and then I'll follow it up with some posts I scheduled in advance. Unfortunately I'm going to be on an internet down low, so don't look out for too much activity on my part.

I'll see you guys next week though, when I may or may not be throwing pictures of wildlife and thermal hotspot goodness at you. Until then, enjoy Brenna's hot guest post on critique partners.

Hello again, people of Sarah’s blog. I hope you don’t mind me barging in again. Especially because I’m going to be talking about Sarah today. (Don’t worry, she totally read this before posting, so it’s nothing bad.)

Actually, we’re talking about critique partners. I know Sarah has dabbled a little about this post about editing and this post about talking to other writers. But I’m here to talk a little bit about what specifically Sarah does for me that no one else can. So, รก la Sarah, five things I love and adore about her.
  1. Trust: She is interested in the same genres as me (primarily YA sci-fi and fantasy, with a few contemporaries thrown in there for good measure). So when we talk about books, we talk about what we liked and didn’t like. I appreciate her opinions on my reading material because I trust her judgment. When she says something about my story, I listen and don’t automatically dismiss it. (Not that I ever do that with anyone else… *coughcough*)

  2. An Opinion: Just because we’re similar in those ways doesn’t mean we don’t have different opinions. She’s not into pithy romance like I am. I don’t share her obsession for The Lord of the Rings. We like and notice different things in stories as well, which makes us fantastic critique partners. We push each other to do better in our different ways. She has a better usable vocabulary than I do. We plot differently, and look at things differently. She gives me a varied opinion that I don’t have myself.

  3. Needed Competition: Yeah, we compete. Kind of. Sarah, as you well know, is in editing land with a finished manuscript. I’m currently reading it. Knowing that makes me want to finish my own draft sooner to catch up to her. Maybe she doesn’t know that we’re in a race, but we totally are. It’s the who-can-get-what-done-first race--or at least in my mind. She’s won the first round by finishing her manuscript, but there are many more to come. Having her in the lead pushes me to go farther. Having me closing the distance between us is (maybe subconsciously) giving her a kick in the butt to stay ahead of me.

  4. A Spaghetti Wall: You know that saying, throw something at a wall and see what sticks? That’s her (no actual objects are thrown--usually--though I do admit slamming her with a wallet once in college). When I’m having problems and come up with a possible solution (I’m world building right now, and coming up with character back-stories; i.e.--I’m in hell) I call her immediately and give her my idea. She tells me if it’s good or not. She'll rework it or offer suggestions to make it better. She indulges me when I’m calling everyday about some new plot point.

  5. A Rock: Not a rock like something to beat me with, although I’m sure sometimes she considers it. A rock like, “She’s my rock.” She’s my support. She’s there when I need her to be and can never be replaced. I get excited when she likes an idea of mine. I feel proud when she says I’ve done good (like when I started drafting again). She’s there to be a champion when I need one, a drill sergeant when I need a kick in the butt, and an ear when I need to talk. She’s what I need her to be when I need her to be it, and I couldn’t do this without her.
So, those are my reasons for loving my critique partner. They are more important than you’d think. They don’t just read your manuscript, edit, and go. They’re in it for the long haul, the ups and the downs, and Sarah has always been there for me. I return the favor by trying to be there for her. We both want the other to succeed, and believe that we can.

Today, for me, if you have a critique partner, or even just a friend who does these kinds of things for you, do something for them. Give them a hug or a phone call. Take them to lunch. I don’t care how big or small it is, just say thank you (hey Sarah: thank you).

So what are your CPs like? What’s the best thing they’ve done for you? Let me know in the comments!

Brenna has been a story maker-upper since she was very little and a writer since she was twelve. She is currently the city reporter for the Cody Enterprise in Cody, WY and trying to break into the publishing industry. You can stalk her at her blog, Brenna's Bookish Blog, or on Twitter as @brennabraaten.