Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Value of Critique Partners by Vonnie Davis



I've been blessed with awesome Critique Partners (CP). My first writing buddy lived on the other side of the country. We were paired-up through a CP service at From the Heart Romance Writers. Kind of like match dot com for writers. Our relationship flourished as emails zipped back and forth. She was so much help. I will always have a deep fondness for this talented lady. Then she became ill and for a long while could not do much online. Even so, we kept in touch via emails and facebook posts--and still do.
 
Meanwhile, I kept on writing without my second pair of eyes, my writing conscience. I missed my CP's warm wit, her goofy, snarky remarks and her blasting my "odd use of commas." Hey, what can I say...if I want my reader to stop and take a breath, I put in a comma. Lawd, I love a good comma.
 
 
Recently another writer and I were approached by an author in England. Did we want to be CP's with her? Did I???? I nearly broke a nail clicking on the REPLY icon. I was thrilled.
 
 
The three of us are a great match. Although I feel I take more than I give, especially these last 3 weeks when I've been writing a story with a March 15th deadline. My CP's knew how stressed I was and never failed to give me prompt and "spot on" critiques. Bless their hawk-eyed expertise.
 
But what do critique partners do? First off they point out grammatical errors, like misuse of commas. (Drats!!!) They make remarks about your hero not acting very "hero worthy." They ask questions like, "Would your heroine really behave this way?" Or bring you up short with "I don't get this." (Yikes!!! Rewrites required.) They stick in exclamation points and smiley faces when you've done something right. And they point out holes in your plot.
 
In short, Critique Partners are invaluable.
 
I get too emotionally wrapped up in my story. I don't see the inconsistencies. They do. I miss things like putting my reactions ahead of the action. Or that dratted "telling" issue instead of "showing." Some things I can do well. Other areas I'm weak. Slowly they're teaching me. And for that, I'm grateful.
 
Critique Partners should never try to change your voice, but strive to help you enhance it.
 
Not all CP's are a good fit. CP's need to praise as equally as they criticize. CP's should pull the best out of you, not make you feel as if you can do nothing right. The three of us write in very different styles, yet each respects the other's way of writing. That's why mine are the best. They let me be me.
 
So, to Sue, AJ and Rachel, love and hugs for all your help on my journey through Author Land. I love ya all to pieces. Mwaaaa!

22 comments:

Jannine Gallant said...

So very, very true, Vonnie. All of it! For a long time I resisted getting a critique partner. No time for all that reading and editing, blah, blah, blah. I think the real problem was finding someone who was the right fit. Once I did, I realized the value of a second set of eyes and the camaraderie you build together. Thanks to my CP, Margo! And thanks for the great post!

Vonnie Davis said...

You're quite right, Jannine. Finding the right fit is imperative. Their benefit to your writing is priceless.

AJ Nuest said...

LOL! Love that fingers picture and I'm kissin ya right back! I'm soooo blessed that I've been able to pair up with two of the greatest CPs EVER! Not only that...MY CP actually got me agented! How's THAT for a double blessing! XOXO Hugs and I can't wait to hear the good news about your upcoming contract offer, Vonnie!

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks, AJ! I think you've finally drummed into my head to be careful of repeative words. I do like to repeat things don't I?

Maddy said...

I meet my CP's face to face and now I know them all well both as writers and as individuals, but it took a long time to find a good fit.

You're right about the balance between highlighting the hiccups and praise for what works [and hopefully, why.]

So glad you reached across the pond.

Calisa Rhose said...

How true and what a lovely tribute to your CPs, Vonnie. AJ is a treasure no one should live without! I'm sure Rachel and Sue are too. You? You're the best at whatever you do!

Thanks for the smile. :D

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks, Maddy. I find an English author has a very different take on things--and I'm growing because of it.

Vonnie Davis said...

Awwl, Calisa, don't make me tear up. I'm eating at Bob Evans. My waitress will think there's something wrong with my food. LOL You're right, though; I'm very blessed to have these ladies rip apart my work.

Georgie Tyler said...

What a lovely post, Vonnie. Being a writer/author can be lonely work but having a CP or two that you can turn to is great. I need me CP or two I think! :)

Rolynn Anderson said...

You are so lucky, Vonnie! My CP network is much less formal. You're lucky you can give back in kind to your CP's. I have beta readers, for the most part, and they are invaluable, but since they aren't writer, I can't return the favor. I give them free books...but I better take them out to lunch as well! Great post!

Charlotte Copper said...

Food for thought, Vonnie, thank you. For my first novella, I actually paid a writer acquaintance to do a review. It was somewhere between and edit and what I think a CP would do. I've joined the local RWA group, and I'm hoping to maybe find somewhere there. I'm concerned about how to find the right fit, and about making sure I can give back as much as I hope to get.

Vonnie said...

Totally agree with you, Vonnie No. 1. Without my critique partners, I doubt I'd be published in Regency. We are a group of five (the others are in USA, I'm in Oz) and we are all published NOW. Years ago when we met online (I answered a query like you did, Vonnie) we were all unpubbed.

But we stand off and can see the wood for the trees since an author gets bogged down in what she has written, and in our genre of Regency, we slap down each other's anachronisms.

Of course often we decline their advice since it's what we have decided is right for that story. The others are much more 'qualified' than I am with very high falutin' college degrees, (never finished my two) but I've had more writing experience so it all evens out.

You can bitch to critters and you can crow to them, because nobody understands better than they do that that hard-won chapter you send out each week has finally become a book.

Angela Adams said...

I second everything you said, Vonnie. My first two CPs may not be my CPs any longer -- family and careers have changed -- but, I'm lucky to be able to refer to them as my "two very good, supportive friends."

Vonnie Davis said...

Georgie, a CP will help your writing just as it's helped mine.

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks for your input, Rolynn. Having beta readers is valubale, too. And I imagine they love doing this for you. What a lovely arrangement.

Vonnie Davis said...

Finding a CP is not as hard as it seems. But I suggest it be someone who writes romance. Those who write in our genre usually read and study it and are up on all the nuances our genre entails.

Vonnie Davis said...

Vonnie, what a remarkable and vibrant history you and your CP's must have. You've traveled quite a journey together. Thanks for sharing!!!

Vonnie Davis said...

That's why I love about being CP's. Over our written word, there is a bonding, a writerly sisterhood that evolves. Thanks for stopping by!

Rachel Brimble said...

Sorry for stopping by a day late...I've been busy critiquing, LOL!! Joking!! I was so worried about pushing myself on you and AJ, but it was the best thing I did. Not only do I hope I give you guys something back to work on, I enjoy your company so much! I love we can chat, joke and support as well as look at each other's work. You and AJ have been invaluable and so damn generous with your time!!

I love you, Mrs D - long may our friendship and working relationship flourish!!

Rachel x

Vonnie Davis said...

I love you, too, Rachel. And I'm equally as pleased you wrote the initial email. I was humbled and so very excited. Woot!!! I hope we continue on, as well.

Leah St. James said...

Just have to say, I'm with you on the commas. Take a breath, insert comma! :-)

Vonnie Davis said...

Oh, bless you, Leah. I thought I was the only one. LOL Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.