Hello gentle reader,
It’s Sunday, and it’s time for my third ROW80 Check-In of this round. My goal this round is to write every day and this week I managed 5/7 days. I’m getting more organized as weeks go by and I’ve almost settled into a routine, which means I’m hoping for a 7/7 next week.
The reason I didn’t hit my 7 writing days this week is that I had to give priority to my critique partners in their hour of need…
Back in July 2012 I wrote a blog post about The Importance of Feedback and Beta Readers. I explained why it is essential for writers to have their work read and critiqued before they send it to an agent or a publisher. But there’s another side to this process: the part where you, the writer, give feedback on someone else’s Work In Progress.
As it happens this week, I spent a good amount of time thinking about how and why we should thrive to give helpful feedback to other writers. First I beta-read the full manuscript of the very talented Rachel. Later in the week I helped out the ever-awesome Jessica revise her first chapter then deal with negative feedback from another writer on her first pages. I also read this Conversation between Critique Partners on the Publishing Crawl blog and this blog post about How To Break Up With Your CP by Kat Ellis.
And I shall try to summarise the outcome of my little brainstorm below:
- Nothing and no one forces you to beta-read or critique other writer’s WIP if you don’t want to. Although it’s customary to swap WIPs, there’s no rule saying you should always reciprocate the favour. The way I see it, it’s more of a “pay-it-forward” process. I read Rachel’s novel but didn’t ask her to read anything for me. However I asked Juliana to read a short story for me and I have never beta-read any of her work.
- If you accept to beta-read or critique someone’s work, make sure you have the time and right frame of mind to do it. Comments should be honest but presented with a positive spin. The last thing you want to do is discourage the writer, even if her WIP needs tons of work. When commenting, you should always follow the THINK rule: is your comment True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind?
- Make sure you’re clear on what the other writer wants from you. Prior to reading the WIP, agree on a timeframe, and on the type of feedback you’ll give (line-editing, overall feelings, etc.). An experienced writer and a newbie will be likely to have very different needs, be sure to understand what they are.
- Don’t try to make the story your own. Don’t try to change the writer’s voice or to tell her how her characters and her plot should be. She wrote the story, it’s hers. You’re just here to help her make it stellar, not turn it into your work.
- Keep the conversation going. When beta-reading or critiquing for someone, communication is key. And if it takes 5 emails or a 1-hour phone call to make sure the writer understands what you mean, it’s worth taking the time to avoid confusion.
- Last but not least, use the time you spend reading other people’s work to ponder on your own writing. See what works, see what doesn’t, marvel at other writers’ talent. Learn from them, from their mistakes but also from their achievements.
What is being a good Critique Partner to you? How did you build a productive relatonship with other writers? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!
And don’t forget this is a blog hop! Here is the Linky for the other check-in posts. How are you other ROW80 writers doing?
Snowy UK this week, by my friend M.LIN