Being a Critique Partner

Do you know how difficult it is to post a comment to a Blogger blog using a WordPress blog as your identity? Really freaking difficult is the answer. But regardless of what blogging platform you prefer, you should most definitely check out L.G. Kelso’s guest blog on Rebecca Hamilton’s blog:

Ego or Gut: Sorting Out Critique by L.G. Kelso

And then you should battle the Comment Monsters (here, I have extra sporks if you require them), and leave both women a little piece of your mind. Both are great bloggers (in the case of L., when she has the time), and at least in the case of L., I know she’s a great writer. I don’t mean to brag, but that critique partner she mentions? That’s me. But that critique partner she mentions giving both good and bad advice? Yeah, that’s still me.

L. usually blogs about the inner-workings of a writer’s mind, how to think about and go about the millions of ways the writing activity (or process, but I prefer the word ‘activity’ for a myriad of rhetorical reasons I could tell you, but only if someone asks because it’s kind of my soap box). A huge chunk of that writing activity involves sharing early and late drafts of your writing with a critique partner, and you know, I thougth maybe it was time to do a blog from the other side: from the critique partner’s side.

It should be mentioned, in the interest of full-disclosure and background here, that I am also a writer. Both creatively and, I suppose I can say now, professionally. Ish. Where L. is a novelist and an ER nurse, I am a novelist and a Master’s student in literature & rhetoric. I have basically made it my entire life to write, where L. has made it her life to write AND save lives. (If you didn’t already gather, that makes her the super hero in the relationship, and me the sidekick.) Another important distinction in our critique relationship is that we’ve been critique partners since we were paired up in our high school creative writing class. We’ve been doing this (together) a long time now.

And finally, we write, primarily, different genres. L. writes YA and adult paranormal, urban fantasy. I write, well honestly, whatever the heck I feel like writing on any particular day. Usually about death, and whatever genre I feel like shoving that particular Life Changing Event into for a new story.

So with all this out in the open, what does this mean for our critique partnership? For the last eight or nine months, now, our critique has been going one way. L. is working on a great YA novel, and I’ve been critiquing (a little slow, truth be told, but L. is indefinitely patient with me) for her. In the middle of L. working very furiously on the edits of her first novel, and the zero draft of her second novel, I occasionally send her the first five or ten pages of whatever new story I’m working.

But that’s an important thing about being a good critique partner, I think: it’s not about staying even.

L. is having a brilliant breakthrough with her first novel (part of her first series), she’s really on a roll with it, and my job as her critique partner is to critique and edit what she sends me. Sure, I’m a little slow, but I’m also excessively thorough. Reading a 300-page MS takes time, and then going back and editing it scene by scene takes more time. But this novel is L.’s baby, so that makes it like my neice. It deserves all the attention I can give it, even if that means instead of spending a few hours of my free time writing and working on my own project, I’m focused completely on her’s.

Good critique requires treating your partner’s work as important as your own.

At this moment in time, I’ve got nothing really to send to L., but I do know that if I did, she’s divide up  her time to include my work with hers.

Of course, L. is especially good at the 4 p.m. random GChat message asking if my current ghost-memory plot point works within the confines of my project. Because some days, she’s got a better grasp on the governing rules of my story than I do.

– B

Check out L.G. Kelso's blog on Blogger, Redhead Ramblings.
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3 Comments

  1. You are way too nice my dear. First, I want to say that you by no means are a sidekick. I think we both can wear the ass kicking hero hat. I’m not sure why I’m using the hat analogy, but there you go. And someday I hope that I can devote my entire life to writing.
    Second, I think you made some great points. Part of being crit partners is putting each others work first. And you know, that whenever you are ready, I am always here ready and willing to edit. You’re right, it does take time, but that is part of the partnership and being thorough.
    Third, I like this idea of my book being your neice.
    And now I am going to stop numbering things.
    I also want to point out that bad advice is a relative and subjective term. I’m sure there is really bad writing advice out there, but that doesn’t mean that was what yours was. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what fit for me. Sometimes we have different styles, and that can be a great asset when writing, but sometimes it just means we have to do the whole gut verse ego thing at times.
    I think we are awesome crit partners and I love you B!
    And I have to ask…why activities over process?

    🙂 L

    • In regards to the bad advice thing: I plan on expounding on that in another post (I was going to go there in this one, as is obvious by that statement being included), but it went this direction first and I thought it was a good place to start. I realize “bad” advice is relative. 🙂

      And I’ll give my rant on activity over process in the near future. Or rather, I might just take the excerpt out of my paper that I wrote on it. Heh.

  2. I look forward to this rant in whatever form.
    I just wanted to make sure you knew I wasn’t saying you had given bad advice 🙂

    And I want to add that part of being crit partners is also having fun. And being able to be silly about ones own work.

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