Monday, September 26, 2005

More Precious Than Rubies

The Internet has made the writer's life less lonely. Now we can interact with fellow writers anywhere in the world at pretty much any time of the day. I have on-line critique partners in California, Arizona, South Carolina and Connecticut. In addition, I belong to an in-person writers' group here in Texas.

I cannot over-emphasize the value of having good critique partners. A good CP is a lot like a good sexual partner. You need trust, at least some history together and an attitude of wanting to make your partner's experience the best it can be. Like sex, when the relationship devolves into game-playing and power struggles, the quality of the experience goes down. Then, your best bet is to get out of Dodge as fast as you can and don't look back.

A good CP will learn your foibles and weaknesses and bring them to your attention lovingly and with humor. I had no idea how often I slipped into passive "to be" language until my CPs pointed it out to me. In turn, I've helped one CP to see how frequently she depends on an "A but, B" sentence structure. Another very creative CP sometimes goes over-the-top with her metaphors.

It's not easy having someone criticize your baby. No one wants to hear that their child has big ears, crooked teeth or split infinitives. Doing critiques is a good way to condition yourself for rejection from agents and editors. My in-person group meets in a Barnes and Noble store. If you want to develop a tough hide, try reading your stuff out loud while customers pause to listen.

I didn't find them immediately. I went through a bunch of CPs and CP groups to find the ones I have today. If your CPs aren't working for you, fire them. Keep looking. Don't give up. You'll find the right combination someday and, when you do, you'll know it.

When I offer a chapter to my CPs, I know it will come back to me stronger and more interesting than when it left. These people are my friends, my support network and my anchors. I wouldn't trade them for gold.

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