This is a guest post by Laura Pepper Wu
We all know that the infamous “does my butt look big in this?” inquiry requires a diplomatic answer.
Let’s say Cynthia is shopping for jeans and asks the close friends and family that are accompanying her how the Levis she is trying on look. Her husband tells her that she looks fantastic. Her girl friend tells her that they accentuate her best feature. Her mom tells her that they make her look pear shaped and that she should stop eating so much cake. Cynthia throws off the jeans, runs home and no progress is made.
As Emlyn put it so well in her article on beta readers, handing over our baby, our manuscript, is a terrifying endeavor: “Nothing is scarier than sharing the products of our adventures with others…To ease into the transformation of private to public, we often turn to those who are closest to ourselves. Our spouses, parents, best friends.”
This is something I experienced when I wrote my bridal non-fiction, Wow! Glowing Bride in 30 Days. In the beginning, I asked my closest girl friends to read some chapters. I got some great comments from these beta readers, and they gave me confidence when I was having doubts about my writing and the book. This eased the anxiety I had about sharing my work.
Once the confidence in my writing was established, what I needed next was constructive critique and feedback from my target reader, with whom I had no prior relationship to help me improve what I already had.
Finding good, solid critique partners made a massive impact on my book and writing. Working with two fellow writers, I handed over the book chapter by chapter and received invaluable advice on what was working and what wasn’t: where the holes in the writing were, what the reader wanted more of, and any glaring errors that I was consistently making.
Particularly if you are considering self-publishing, partaking in a critique exchange is something that can better your writing dramatically. On review sites such as Amazon.com and Goodreads, readers are repeatedly pointing out plot holes, inconsistencies, spelling errors and general problems with manuscripts that make a book look obviously ‘self-published’. One bad review like this can unfortunately harm sales of a book or eBook for a very long time. As Indie authors, it is imperative that we keep the standard of our manuscripts high so that self-publishing can overcome the stigma that is sometimes associated with it.
Critique partners shouldn’t replace a professional line-by-line editor, but they will do the work long before an editor even looks at your manuscript. They can shape the direction of the story, open your mind to new possibilities, strengthen your characters, and take your writing to the next level. Critiquing is a very different task than editing, and having a group of critique partners – as well as a professional editor – is a crucial part of polishing your manuscript.
In case I haven’t convinced you to find a critiquing buddy yet, here are 7 things having a positive, constructive critique partner can do for you and your writing. (If I’ve missed anything, I’d love to hear your experiences working with a critique partner in the comments below!)
1. Hold you accountable. CPs give you a reason to write regularly and keep you on a consistent schedule as someone is waiting and looking forward to reading your work!
2. Raise your spirits. Writing has its fair share of tough moments. There is nothing nicer than someone complimenting your last chapter to cheer you up though.
3. Help you find “your voice.” CPs will help point out where you are going wrong and, more importantly, where you are going right.
4. Give a different point of view. If you are stuck or unsure about a phrase, character or storyline, having a second opinion can help you overcome the problem areas. After all, two brains are better than one!
5. Make the writing process less lonely. Connecting with your CP on a daily or weekly basis is like taking a virtual coffee break or lunch date. You’ll feel refreshed and raring to write afterwards.
6. Look at your work with a fresh pair of eyes. You have no doubt been too close for too long to your own work, but a good CP will spot inconsistencies, plot-holes or lack of description, or vital information that you can’t see, well in advance of the editing stage.
7. Give you a preview of what your readers will say later. As a writer you are going to receive feedback whether you ask for it or not – from agents, publishers, editors and eventually reviewers. Let your CP catch the holes first.
About this author: Laura Pepper Wu is the founder of LadiesWhoCritique.com, a place for writers to find their perfect critique partner. Writers of all levels are welcome – published, unpublished, aspiring, hobbyists, even closet writers or complete newbies. Men are more than welcome too!