Friday, January 29, 2010

Critically Speaking

Since you can find many posts wherein I extoll the virtues of good writing partners (really, really really, I cannot overemphasize the importance of good readers), I've had a lot of people ask me where I found my critique partners and where they can find theirs.

And here's where it gets tricky. I found Natalie and Renee randomly through blogs. We evolved a friendship and began sharing manuscripts. I found Stephanie through her agent's blog, and then lurved Steph so so so much from her own ridiculously charming and interesting blog that we became friends and then critique partners. I found Carrie in exactly the same way (in fact, I'm pretty sure I once left a love note in her comments. She's probably done her best to forget that memory). And finally, I found Andrea through the online debut authors' group I'm a member of, The Tenners. And I liked her so very very much that I asked her to read a new manuscript of mine and she was freaking awesome and obliged.

So, umm, see the pattern? Yeah, me neither. Other than the fact that I found them all online, there really wasn't much rhyme or reason to it. All of the friendships/critiquingships developed quite naturally out of a mutual admiration for each other's writing. Each of my critique partners brings something different to a reading, and I like that although we all write YA we write quite different YA. And finally, these girls are invaluable because, while they are always positive and kind and enthusiastic, they are also insightful and intelligent and good writers. They push me to be better, which in the end is all you can ask from critique partners.

As far as the mechanics, I read Natalie's stuff as she's writing and vice versa, but with all of my other betas we usually only send manuscripts that have been finished and edited at least once or twice (or in my case three times because I'm very vain and would die if anyone other than Natalie saw my initial efforts).

I don't really know where to tell you to look for betas. Maybe you'll find someone in the comments here and click with each other (which would make me ridiculously happy, by the way). Other than that, please, readers, sound off in the comments. I know there are a lot of writers' websites and groups out there in the big www; have any of them been particularly helpful to you in connecting with other writers? How else have you found critique partners?

And finally, how happy are you that it's Friday?

43 comments:

maybe genius said...

I actually found a writer's group in my area through meetup.com. It's not a focused group - it welcomes all, from poetry to prose to musicians and visual artists - so it's still finding a comfortable place. But it's something! Because it's so new (only about 5 months old), we're just now starting to generate more members, and I think eventually there might be some people that we can connect with individually (poets for poets, novelists for novelists, etc.).

I'd recommend meetup.com to see if there are any similar groups in your area. Or start one!

Krista G. said...

Very happy it's Friday (especially since my hubby's been out of town for a few days and gets back this afternoon!).

As for critique partners, I think you just have to participate on other writer and agent blogs, forums, and anywhere else writers might lurk. But the most important thing is, you've gotta be real. Be yourself. And give as much as (or more than) you take.

Candyland said...

I use sites like yalitchat and Inkpop. I'm also lucky enough to have a couple of friends who just LOVE to read (and are English majors-double score!) who go through and give me feedback.

inthewritemind said...

I've got good writer friends online but the only ones I have critique my work are the members of my local critique group. I met them through a NaNoWriMo kick-off party. But I agree with the other comments; you have to be looking out online and make sure you are willing to work hard; you don't want to take, take, take!

Kayeleen said...

I'm still trying to get to the stage where Betas are going to be necessary. Hopefully at the end of February. The people who actually have read my manuscript are people I know and have been friends with for a long time in real life. (Gasp! There are people interested in my writing that aren't online! Gives a soul some hope, that.) Any advice people can give about finding betas, crit groups, etc. is awesome!

Kristi said...

I found both of my crit groups through the SCBWI message boards. Both groups are amazing and include published, unpublished, agented and unagented writers. I'm the newbie in the double "un" category but hope to change that soon!

Samantha Bennett said...

I met my writing partner at a bridal shower. Even though we shared a mutual friend (a.k.a. bride-to-be), we'd never met. Within two minutes we'd discovered our mutual obsession with stories. Within five minutes we were planning our first Starbucks writing date. :)

Kristan said...

Ditto what maybe genius said about finding a local writing group via Meetup.com.

In addition to that, I have friends that go way back and I trust them to read my stuff, and I have a fellow aspiring writer friend from college whose stuff I read.

That said, I haven't previously used anyone as Alphas -- I was always kind of a do-it-myself girl. Now, after reading yours and Natalie's blogs, I think an Alpha (or 6) would really help keep me motivated through the hard parts of writing a first draft. So I'm trying to divvy up the people that I trust into Alphas and Betas (based on whether I think they're more cheerleader-y or more nitpicky) and see if that makes my first draft process a better one.

Check with me again in like 6 months and I'll let you know, lol.

But thanks for this. I actually really liked finding out how many people serve as your Alphas vs. your Betas.

Falen said...

my writing group formed from co-workers back when we all worked at a book store.

And yes, Friday is so so awesome

Andrea Cremer said...

Woo-hoo! Thanks for the link Kiersten. I was thrilled to comment on your totally awesome WIP :) And I'm just itching to send you my own stuff...soon, soon.

Carrie Harris said...

You did leave me a love note. It was one of those check-yes-or-no thingies, and I knew from that moment we were destined to be friends. I have an irrational love of check-yes-or-no notes. I sent one to my college boyfriend once. Should have known it wasn't meant to be when he didn't send it back.

Goober.

Him, not you.

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent journey to your crit buddies. I've found mine in much the same way. And holy cow, this week has been at least 70 days long instead of only 5.

Whirlochre said...

It's a case of looking to see who's out there (and it was always like this, though now we have the internet to help us), who you like, who writes good stuff, makes reasoned (and fair) comments, and rings the small bell inside your head that signals PROBABLY NOT A YETI, PHEW.

That's how I found my crit group. All of them are stars.

Hardygirl said...

Yeah, those betas can be tough to fine--especially when you think about what you're ASKING of them. I mean, wow. Read an entire novel that I know needs work and help me out with it.

Congrats on finding such a great group!

sf

Marsha Sigman said...

I recently joined RWA, the local chapter said it didn't matter if I wrote YA as long as there was romance in it.lol

Great group and close to home so I am hoping to find crit partners there. There are a few people who write im my genre.

Kelly Bryson said...

Sometimes it helps to be bold and lurk around blogs, sighing heavily and hinting, "If only I could find a beta reader for my 95,000 word urban fantasy about an empath, Lara, who leaves a perfect world and discovers that love (in the form of FBI Agent David Hatton) is the only thing strong enough to make the suffering in this world bearable. It's like the X-files meets 'The Giver' by Lois Lowry."

Any takers? It's highly polished, a clean read (they kiss, no sex, light swearing-like that place of burning for sinners), and available in two weeks when I expect to be done with my edits. I'd be happy to exchange queries and sample chapters to see if anybody is a good fit. I like all kinds of clean fiction, YA and MG too.

Myrna Foster said...

I've found mine through blogging, except for one; she lives in my neighborhood.

By the way, you are three people away from 500 followers. That's a lot of people hitting your follow button in the last week.

Kelly Bryson said...

And PS- I love 'Online writing workshop for science fiction fantasy and horror'. There's a free month trial period and tons of great writers. After the free month you pay 49 bucks a year.

rissawrites said...

Kelly - I'll be your huckleberry! (Always wanted to use that line from Tombstone). I would love to trade books with you. Shoot me an email at Rissa at RissaWatkins dot com.

I met my crit group through meetup.com but my Betas, who I called my Alphas in a blog post a few months ago, I knew from other writing boards.

Larissa said...

I met my alphas through the SCBWI boards, and I have a couple of betas I've met through Verla Kay's blueboards, but I'm looking for more (I like Natalie's system of beta rounds).

:)

Matt said...

I've been in a in critique group in real life for a few years now. But it's mostly old ladies writing memoirs I have no interest in. I've been wondering where I can find others writing the same as me - MG. I need to stalk the blogoshpere a bit more, methinks.

Jessica said...

I haven't found any writing partners yet. To be honest I'm kind of scared to send out my work to people that I've meet over the internet. I do have one friend that reads my stuff but she doesn't really help me other than say 'yeah I like or not I don't'.

Kimberly Franklin said...

I found my critique partners by doing what I do best....procrastinating (or through blogging, but really isn't it just a fancy word for procrastination?).

: )

Peggy said...

I live in the land where we breed writers, so I live by several, which is incredibly handy when I need betas.

I found my group, though, (the ones I send stuff to chapter-by-chapter) in a writing class. We worked in a bigger group for three months, and when the class was over, those of us that seemed to really work well together continued on.

Kristi Faith said...

I have a blog dedicated to trying to help writers connect. Critter Corner, because I have always found great writing partners online. :0)

http://critter-corner.blogspot.com

Have a fab weekend!

lora96 said...

Hey Kelly! I wanna read it! It sounds fantastic and I have read and taught the Giver. I'm finishing (pre-revision) a YA fantasy (clean, one kiss, yearning-style romance) if you have time to read it in, oh, say a month or so?

lora96@hotmail.com

you can also look at my blog at litdiva.blogspot.com to see if my writing is appealing to you before committing lol

lora96 said...

PS
my current readers of the WIP were all In-My-Wedding-Last-Spring (husband, best man, maid of honor). a fresh perspective from a reader who hasn't known me since jr. high would be useful. :)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Kelly, I'd like to read yours. Sounds fun! My blog is http://www.alsonnichsen.blogspot.com if you want to "check me out" before sending your ms. My email's there too.

Lora96, I sent you an email, so I hope you get it. :)

Adam Heine said...

I found mine with mostly blogging too. And one via critters.org. No, I don't know a sure-fire way to find the right kind of people.

Dangerous With a Pen said...

I'm dangerously (no pun intended) behind the rest of you as far as having something ready to share, but I am committed to working on it, because it is my dream. :) (Darn job and lovely children taking up all my time!) Kiersten, I love all of the info that you share and so appreciate it. You are my hero!

Lora - I am also an elem teacher and aspiring writer - I emailed you!

Liam said...

I am so happy it's Friday; there's no freaking way I could have survived another day of...life in general. Ick.
Happy Friday!
(Also: if they have TGI Friday's, shouldn't there be a TGIM/T/W/Th/S/Su Restaurant?)

Kelly Bryson said...

Wow! How cool is this? And Kristi- I like your blog. I thought about starting a crit network blog and decided I wasn't the right person to do that, so I'm glad you did!
Thanks for the forum, Kiersten.

Kiersten White said...

Andrea--Thank YOU. And writer faster : )

Carrie--Clearly our love was written in the stars. And by love, I mean friendship and critique partnerdom. And by stars I mean blog comments.

Everyone Else--This has been really interesting/informative, and I hope it was helpful to those of you who are looking. And it totally makes my heart happy that a few of you connected!

Liam, I heard they petitioned for their own restaurants, but everyone yelled at them. Poor other days.

Heidi said...

Abby Stevens messaged me because of a comment I left in the blog and we've been emailing for a while now! Turns out we are pretty similar. What an awesome surprise :)

If anyone else wants to chat about their book with me and possibly become crit buddies, here's what I'm writing: it's a YA series involving angels who've lived on earth for as long as humans have (and not the typical angels you read about in all the YA books out there at the moment), and has lots of twists and turns and time travel, flying; characters are all about 15-16 first book and actually act like kids, not 10000 year old "angels", and it's about a boy searching for his parents and where he comes from. Im 20,000 words in and heavily outline. --> eatingbuttons[at]gmail[dot]com if you're interested! :)

- Heidi

A.B. Fenner said...

Kiersten -- So here's a question: how did you decide you had enough of a connection with these online friends to trust them with your work? Because the internet is full of wonderful people, but there are a few unscrupulous and/or truly nutty surfers out there.

Did you stalk your (now) betas online (in a non-creepy way, I mean; check out their blog and follow their comments on other peoples' blogs, etc)? Try emailing for a while and decide they weren't psycho because their emails were grammatically correct?

When did you decide you were a good match with your betas, in terms of writing ability/seriousness? How did you get to the point that you felt comfortable sending your "baby" to them?

This might be more specificity than you want to get into, which I would understand. I thought it was worth asking, though!

Kelly Bryson said...

A.B.- If I may, I'll respond to your question. I treat finding a beta as a screening process. I want to spend a lot of time editing something that I like, that doesn't make me uncomfortable and with someone that can give good feedback on my WIP. So I ask to trade query blurbs and first chapters. Then we both critique each others' samples before we go any farther. A test drive, if you will. I haven't sent my whole MS to anybody on one or two emails and who hasn't likewise entrusted me with their baby. If they want to rip off my book, I have theirs in my possession, too. I would get a commitment that they will not let anyone else read your book. Most people won't break that commitment if you make a point of it. (I see this as the real danger. Not someone stealing your book, but making your book available for free, thus making it unsalable. See Stephenie Meyer's draft of Midnight Sun).

But, I don't think it's likely that someone will steal your idea wholesale, because even if you steal someone's middle draft, you still face this huge obstacle to getting published. It's hard to care enough about somebody else's work to go through rejection for months. And I think most of us have our own great idea we'd rather be bringing to life.

Regardless, I have documentation through file save info on the computer proving that my book is my intellectual property. Plus I have other readers that know I wrote it.

Ultimately, there's no guarantee. But the goal is to get better and crit partners are amazingly helpful, so it's worth the uncertainty to me. If you're still nervous, you might stick to people you know personally. Whew! I'm done. Sorry for being so longwinded.

Kiersten White said...

Kelly, thanks! That was a fabulous answer.

I knew Natalie and Renee for several months before sharing work with them. Natalie I even knew in real life, even though we didn't know it initially. Long story.

Carrie and Stephanie were coming from an agent I respect, and I knew I could trust them to respect other writers' work. (They both now have book deals, as well.) And finally, Andrea is also being published this fall, so I know as a fellow professional (and all-around awesome person, AND Buffy fan) she's not going to do anything I wouldn't do.

Plus, I was familiar enough with all of them and their writing blog-wise to be confident I would enjoy their manuscripts.

However, I have had to back down a bit from sending my stuff to people now that I do have a book deal. And when I do, it is always with very explicit instructions a) not to email to anyone else, and b) to delete both the file and the email that contained the file once they finish. If I don't trust someone to do that, I don't send it to them, family, friend, or whoever.

A.B. Fenner said...

Kelly and Kiersten --

Thanks for your answers! I have several great alpha readers and it's about time I find some betas, but the idea of doing so in cyberspace is a a little freaky. It's helpful to hear such concrete advice!

A.B.

Sharon Mayhew said...

I think I'm follower #500. :)

I found one of my critique partners at my daughter's best friends house. I had known her for years, but had no idea she was a writer. I saw the mess on her dinning room table and asked if she wrote. And Wallah, my first critique buddy. My critique group was formed at a Highlights workshop in Chautauqua NY. So far almost all of us have een published in one way or another. :)

Kiersten White said...

Yay Sharon!

: )

Kristi said...

I actually found this post on Monday which is not nearly as exciting as Friday...

Loved this subject...thanks so much for sharing with us. I'm always curious where everyone finds their CP's!

I found one group through meetup.com (when I found the nerve to meet up with perfect strangers) and yet another through the blogosphere when I "clicked" with a few other bloggers. Both situations have been helpful but I find I'm much more excited about my bloggy friends! Such cool people around here!

Happy Monday...if there is such a thing!

EA Hirsch said...

Like many others, I have found critique groups through meetup.com, but I'm woefully dissatisfied with them. There is a level of disorganization, and I rarely see the same people on a regular basis. Add to that this kind of free for all aspect, wherein you get people with memoirs, romance, sci-fi, etc. Makes it harder to connect.

But, luckily (I guess) I'm not quite at the stage for even an Alpha reader, and I am just starting to get more involved with the online community through blogging, reading blogs, and comments like these!

Christine Danek said...

O.k. I am behind on this post. I found my critique partner at SCBWI Conference. Poor gal has seen my first draft and is critiquing it with grace. I will look into some of the other info that was provided. Thanks!