I’ve just been out for lunch with my critique partner, to celebrate a positive response from the very first agent she contacted about her manuscript (and yes, she did follow all the advice I gave in my last post!)
The whole notion of a critique partner was new to me until a few years ago, when I started hearing other HM&B authors talking about them on the loops. I remember thinking to myself that I would never let anyone read a draft of mine. Even my plotting team don’t get to read the stories until they’re published.
Isn’t there some saying about how it’s better not to know exactly how sausages and the law are made? I feel the same about writing a novel. One of my recurring nightmares is being knocked over by a bus while a story is still at draft stage. I can see that the quality of my writing would probably be the least of my executors’ concerns, but I have made them promise to destroy any manuscript pages hanging around in my study without reading in that eventuality. I can’t bear the idea of anyone not realising just what a change there is between shitty first draft, shitty second draft and the draft that I eventually submit, and have no intention of the last response to any words of mine being ‘oh, dear, oh, dear …!’
Anyway, I told myself I would rather stick pins in my eyes than let a fellow writer read my stuff before my editor, but it just so happened that someone I met at a conference came out of the closet about the book she was writing just as I was embarking on my ‘time slip’, and I was so far out of my comfort zone that none of my usual hang ups applied.
We’ve been meeting for lunch every couple of months or so ever since, and I have to say it’s been much more useful than I’d imagined - once I’d got over all the apologising and self-justification and defensive explanations about how ‘it’s just a draft, honestly’, of course. It’s been fascinating to see her story taking shape and I am quite unjustifiably proud that she’s had such a good response already.
It’s not easy giving or getting feedback. There’s something very exposing about letting someone read what you’ve written before polishing, and I can’t imagine doing it with anyone I didn’t respect and trust. I still write my romances on my own (apart from brainstorming with my plotting team, of course!) but I’ve found it really helpful to have constructive criticism while trying to break into a new genre.
How do all you other writers out there feel about critique partners?