Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Little Help From My Friends

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

So are you humming that old Beatles tune yet? I know I am. But this blog isn't about Lennon/McCartney tunes, or the great Beatle Tribute band I saw on my last cruise (They were called the Beatle Maniacs and they were... FAB! Sorry, couldn't resist.).

I'm writing this to say a BIG THANK YOU to my critique partners.

I currently have three critique partners and I honestly don't think I could write my books without them. At least not the books I ultimately write. I have been working with all of them for four or five years.

Not all writers use critique partners, but mine are a necessity for me. I find it very challenging to sit in front of a keyboard and monitor day after day and create words that other people will read and find at least mildly entertaining. I tend to lose my perspective rather rapidly sometimes. On any given day, I might think my words aren't bad, or are even pretty good. OR, I think they absolutely suck ditchwater! Somedays, I think all three things, usually in quick sucsession.

ACK!


This is where my CPs come in. They read my chapter(s) and tell me what is working and what isn't. Sometimes they have suggestions on how to fix things, or alternative techniques I might consider. Sometimes it's enough for one of them to say, "This just isn't right." But ultimately it is MY story and MY decision...

Have I mentioned in the last five seconds how much I LURVE my CPs?!?!

Confession time, it wasn't always so. That's because I've had a lot of different critique partners and critique groups over the years. Some have been online and some face-to-face. Some were just what I needed at that point in my writing life, but alas, didn't continue to meet my needs and interests. Others... well, let's just say we weren't a 'good fit.' If only finding compatible CPs was as easy as going to the shoe store, but I digress...

My current CPs are all wonderfully supportive and each contributes something unique in her critiques. One of them is a retired English teacher, so I never have to worry about my participles dangling or my modifiers being misplaced. Another of my CPs is a retired deputy sheriff who is a wonderful resource for weapons and the like. She's also a diligent plotter who forces me to plan in advance way more than I would otherwise. And my third CP, who is only a few years older than my son, has completely different reading tastes and can always come up with a unique spin on a scene or character.

We all may be at different points in our writing and our lives, but I trust my CPs to give me their honest and constructive opinions, and I do the same for them. One of our favorite sayings is, "I cared enough to bleed all over your manuscript." (Meaning there were lots of red ink marks.) Ya gotta love a CP who will do that!

Sorry about getting that song stuck in your head, but feel free to hum along with me now (I'll be the one slightly out of tune), as I give a salute to my CPs: Jo, Cathy, and Aimee! YOU ARE THE GREATEST!

"...I get by with a little help from my, a little help from my friiieends, FRIENDS!"

What about you? If you are a writer, do you have critique partners or a critique group? If you are a reader, do you have friends who help you out at home or work? Go ahead, give 'em a shout out!

21 comments:

  1. Hi Aunty Cindy

    I am not a writer so I don't have critique partners but I do have great friends who listen to me moan and laugh with me when all is good, one of them is Barbara who has always been there for me and I am for her she is a fabulous sewer and does lovely crafty things and I have great friends at work who understand all that goes on there and we can have our winge about bosses together.

    CPs, friends what would we do without them and I love that song.
    Friends are like pockets everyone needs them
    Have Fun
    Helen

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  2. I'm not a writer either, well not much of one. Most of my stuff is blogging on sites like this one. I do have a friend that has been there to listen, or read an e-mail when I needed and ear/eye...Mary Jo, even though we live in different states, she always there for me. So thanks MJ, God bless you and keep you and yours safe. The world would be a lonelier place with out you.

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  3. Hey, AC, I've had the Rebel Romance Writers critique partners for years and even though some don't critique any longer, we're always there through the thick and thin of it--the successes, the failures, the family illnesses and deaths. They're more than critique partners for me. They're family.

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  4. I don't have an official CP, but Marie Force and I trade chapters and manuscripts now and then. If it weren't for Marie, I'd have heard about head hopping much too late to do anything about it--even though I still do it just a bit...

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  5. I'll tell you the truth, A.C.

    You know how some autobiographies and memoirs say By Ima Movie Star as told to Competent Writer?

    Well, I have thought many times that mIne should say: by Mary Margret Daughtridge as critiqued by [CP's Names] It would have been a different book without their help--and it might not have existed at all

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  6. Hi, Aunty Cindy! I used to have crit partners (we had an online chat group), but when they all started getting published, the crit group kind of fell by the wayside, so I don't have one any more.
    Margay

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  7. Hi Helen,
    What a GREAT saying! Friends are indeed like pockets, and I NEVER wear clothes that don't have at least one pocket. I'm totally lost without both! :-)

    I've met many good friends at my various jobs over the years, including both my BFFs.

    You and Barbara are very lucky to be BFFs. And I can attest to her fabulous sewing ability! ;-)

    AC

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  8. Jessica,
    It is difficult to have a BFF in a different state. My BFF Whit lives in North Carolina but I know she is only a phone call or email away! HOORAY for technology!

    AC

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  9. Morning Terry!
    Hope you are staying warm.

    I know what you mean about CPs becoming more like family. That is definitely the case with me and mine! :-)

    AC

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  10. Hey Cheryl,
    Head-hopping can happen to just about any of us. :-P But isn't it nice to have a sharp-eyed CP who can point things out to you and share their wisdom? I'd much rather hear it from one of my CPs than farther down the line!

    AC

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  11. I feel the same way, MM!

    I know my books would not exist in their current forms without the help of my faithful CPs. They always have great ideas and pertinent suggestions, and sometimes, I even take them! :-P

    AC

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  12. Morning Margay!

    I've been in a couple of situations like you describe. After some of the members became published they couldn't (or wouldn't in at least one case) participate fully any more. Nothing worse than a one-sided CP relationship! :-(

    I like to think finding CPs is the same as that old proverb: When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

    AC

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  13. That is an awesome saying! So what advice would you have for me in my search for a new crit partner? I have so many things brewing and it would be nice to get some feedback from another writer.
    Margay

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  14. Margay,
    Have you just asked around? I know you belong to lots of groups and have a lot of online places where you participate. You might try asking writers you "know" if they or someone they know is interested in doing critiques. I've joined a couple of online groups that way.

    I've seen requests on several different boards (eHarlequin and Dorchester are two) for critique partners.

    AC

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  15. Hi Cindy~ I've had a few critique partners, I loved them all but in different stages of my career, I found I needed different things. One group was lovely but would only critique one chapter a month, that doesn't do me any good when I'm on deadline. Another group were busy with jobs and family and we all living pretty far apart so getting together at all was impossible, even instant messaging.

    The group I have now is very devoted to all of our careers and are willing to put in the time. We spent a 4-day weekend working non-stop on their GH entries, reading them aloud and making changes, now we're getting ready to do a read through on my book. They're wonderful friends, great roommates and the best CPs. I absolutely adore them.

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  16. I hadn't thought about that. Thanks, Aunty!

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  17. Robin,
    Sounds like you've got a GREAT group there! I absolutely agree that at different stages, we need different things from our CPs. It's nice when the group can change to accommodate, but I've found that's not usually the case.

    AC

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  18. Other than a few swaps here and there with Cheryl, I've never had a critique partner. I've just never gone that route. Not even sure why! LOL. Although, I do know with the full-time day job, I really don't have time to give to anyone else, so that probably has something to do with it. :-)

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  19. Similar to CPs, I have a few friends that I know I can always turn to for anything; even if we haven't spoken in a while. Great post!!

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  20. I'm very grateful for my cp's as well, AC! One is a guy who writes horror and is really good at pointing out any weaknesses in plot. Gotta love him!

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