Today I have the honour of hosting the mighty Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. He's going to talk about something all writers should have - critique partners.
Critique partners – does that scare you?
I was nervous just letting my wife read my work. Letting someone else read and critique it was terrifying.
I finally allowed two friends read the manuscript for my first book and it wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. Neither friend was a writer. They just read science fiction. But it let me know if my target audience would enjoy the story. (And to this day I still let them read my manuscripts. One is my go-to guy for dialogue, as I tend to suck in that area.)
After CassaStar’s release, I was prompted by both fans and my publisher to write another book. That’s when panic set in. Write another book? One that’s better than the first? Oh, the pressure! I knew I’d need more help than my two test readers and put out a call for critique partners on my blog.
Smartest move I ever made. (One of them, anyway.) Those three critique partners made such a difference in the quality of my work. They saw all the crap I missed and made suggestions for improvement. The result? CassaFire was a much better story and certainly better written.
If you’re worried critique partners will tear your work to shreds, don’t be. (Save those concerns for editors, publishers, and agents!) If you’ve chosen your critique partners wisely, the feedback will be all positive. All positive? Even when they point out your grammar mistakes, crappy dialogue, and plot holes? Yes, because that feedback will make your manuscript stronger. You don’t have to adopt every suggestion. It is YOUR story. But take each idea and weigh the merits. You might even come up with something better.
Another benefit is being able to bounce ideas off your critique partners. You can let them review the outline for your next project and let them suggest changes and new directions. I let two of my critique partners read the outline for CassaStorm, and it resulted in the addition of an awesome character who tied the story together and gave an extra punch to the ending.
Still worried? Let me share with you some of the comments I’ve received from my critique partners:
The sweet taste of sugar and fruit began to ooze across his tongue. - This made my mouth water. Thanks for that, now I’m craving jolly ranchers! Lol.
“…a common ancestry will never be accepted by the general population of either race.” - Dammit. I forgot you wrote that part. I’m not deleting all those words above. It took me a while to write them.
You never smell bad, he thought, entering the room. - Haha! Yeah right. I went on a weeklong camping trip, and we had showers, and I still came home smelling like a hot piece of poo.
Bassan nudged his friend. I have lots of good ideas. - That was amazingly well done too. Weaving info like that into a scene and making it so compelling is hard to do. You nailed it. That calls for another drink! Reward yourself!
He wants to be with his father. That’s all the reason that matters. - Listen to wifey. She’s smart.
“We’ll have to play when you’re not rusty then.” – Hey! That’s my name! Woo hoo! I’m in your book.
Think you could survive critique comments like that? I bet you can!
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.
Thank you for a fascinating insight into critique partners, Alex. Anyone feeling brave enough to share a critique comment they've received?