Monday, March 30, 2015

Lynn Lovegreen: In Praise of Critique Partners

Lynn Lovegreen
I have been blessed with many critique groups/partners in my writing life. I am working with some now to revise my current work in progress, so it’s a good time to acknowledge them and those who fulfill that role for others.

A critique partner (or member of a critique group) provides feedback in a constructive way and gives a writer opportunity to provide feedback as well. Depending on your routine, this might happen on a regular basis or for a short-term project. Either way, writers gain much from the process.

The most obvious benefit for a writer is the reader’s view of what you’ve been slaving over. When you’ve practically memorized a piece of writing, you can’t see it with fresh eyes, and a critique partner can. She can point out what works and what doesn’t, where you’ve left gaps or odd bits from past drafts. For example, one partner saw where I changed a character’s name in all but one line and wondered who that was. Another found where I repeated myself in one too many cases of cut and paste. But more importantly, a critique partner can tell you where the reader will want more information and where she has too much, or where she has questions. My current WIP is set in 1942, so I need to know what about the time period is intriguing to a reader, and where I can cut details.  And a critique partner might have ideas of how to fix problems—some of my best lines came from other people’s mouths! But even if she doesn’t have the solution, just the knowledge that the line or scene doesn’t work is valuable. Sometimes she points out a part that doesn’t work and you realize the broken part is earlier in the story, and that’s simply where the weakness shows.

And providing feedback for another writer helps the writer’s skills too. It helps me to read like a writer and pick up on revision items. When I point out a point of view problem and articulate how it might be fixed, I can fix my own point of view issues more easily. When I observe someone else’s tendency to repeat certain words, I notice if I do the same. So reading and giving feedback improves my writing.

Another benefit to critiquing is sharing the writing process with another writer. During critique meetings, we often drift into discussions of the writing process and the writing life. It is comforting to talk to someone who doesn’t think it weird when you spend a day hearing fictional people in your head, or do other things that might make another person say you’re crazy. And sharing the peaks and valleys of writing with other writers is a privilege I cherish. Every time I hold someone’s hand when she doubts herself or cheer someone on at a book signing, it enriches my life.

Thanks to all the critique partners I’ve had, especially the members of AKRWA and SCBWI-Alaska whose guidance led me to become an published author. Here’s a shoutout to my current partners Jae Awkins, Christie Cowee, Tricia DePue, Telaina Muir, and Stefanie Tatalias. You have made me a better writer, and a better person. I am proud to call you my colleagues.


Telaina Muir said...
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Telaina Muir said...

Thanks Cheryl! You totally echoed my thoughts! I love our critique group, and the feed back has been invaluable!

Tele said...

Beautifully said, Lynn, and so, so true. I've also been blessed with amazing critique partners, and they make all the difference.

C.G. Williams said...

Yay! So grateful for critiques too.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Thank you, Telaina, Tele and C.G.! Maybe this will encourage others to form critique groups. :-)