Good Writing and Critique Partners Go Hand-in-Hand By Brooke Jackson

Perhaps the very best thing about being an independent author is the freedom. If you’ve chosen the self-publishing route, you’ve retained the right to write whatever, whenever and however you please.

That means you could write an epic poem about penguins this month, a trio of novellas about basket weaving next year, and nothing for two years after that. You don’t have to worry about a literary agent or editor nagging for new pages or forcing you to write under a pseudonym.

Glorious, glorious freedom.

But do our flexible boundaries mean that we can throw out all of the rules of traditional publishing? If I can write something in a couple of hours and publish it on the internet with just the click of the button, should I?

One of the most frequently mentioned criticisms of self-publishing is the lack of standards. I’ve heard it said many times that indy authors have “lowered the bar.”

Unfortunately I’ve also talked with authors who don’t mind this accusation. Some feel that it’s okay if their writing is fraught with grammar and spelling errors because, they argue, people who read self-published stories don’t have high expectations.

Thankfully, the evidence doesn’t support this claim. While some readers might be willing to overlook a flawed novel, the overwhelming majority still prefer quality material. Just check out the sales rank of a novel. The books that top the charts – both traditionally and self published – are well written.

Books that don’t follow the rules of modern language are punished with bad reviews and low sales. (Usually. Although there are rare exceptions.)

The good news in all of this is that the indy authors who work hard on editing their stories stand a better chance of being successful than those banking on readers with low expectations. Yes, it’s still worthwhile to enlist an editor and critique partner and beta readers to help iron out the shortcomings of our WIPs.

I’m blessed to have an amazing critique partner. She’s my work-spouse for my author-job. She simultaneously fills the roles of cheerleader, co-conspirator, confidant, consultant, and copyeditor.

If you don’t have someone like this in your life, consider trying to find a partner right here through ROW-80. Alternatively, if you already have a CP, maybe it’s time to check in on the relationship and see if there’s something that could be going better.

Either way, here are three things to think about with your current or future critique partner relationship:

1) Writing style. Do you want someone with a similar style, or someone who is different? My partner and I are complete opposites in this regard – she writes brief, action-packed stories. My work is longer and slower. For us, this opposites-attract relationship has proved mutually beneficial.

2) Cheerleading. Most of us need a boost from time to time. What form of encouragement works best for you? How often do you need support? Are you comfortable asking for kind words, or do you need someone who will see that you’re down and just jump in with a compliment?

3) Honesty. This one is tough because, as writers, we are very close to our work. We love it. We don’t want anyone to say unkind things about it. But if a story is going to be the best it can be, you need a CP who will be honest about the problems in your story.

While there are a lot of other characteristics that could be mentioned, these are arguably the most important. Grammar and spelling checks can be handled by a third party, if necessary. Good use of Google can lead you to information about how to price, format, and publish your book. An understanding pat on the back and an honest review, however, are harder to come by. And it’s nice when they come from the same person.

So, indy authors, let’s spread our wings and enjoy our freedom! But please, let’s also work together to support each other and keep our standards high.

~*~

Brooke Jackson

5 comments

  1. Great suggestions here! I agree that a wonderful CP is worth his/her weight in gold. Also, I’ve never understood a lack of interest in grammar and punctuation. If an author spends so much effort writing a novel, why not make sure the sentences are crafted in such a way that they don’t take the reader out of the story? That’s all good grammar is — well-oiling your writing so that you get your meaning across and the story flows well for the reader.

    Wonderful post, Brooke!

  2. While I have yet to complete my WIP, I am lucky to have a cheerleader & CP in my wonderful husband. And during NaNoWriMo {which I “failed” with regard to word count, but “won” with regard to plotting and figuring out what works}, I had the great fortune to pick up a writing partner who also happens to live nearby. With these two fabulous individuals at my side, along with my newborn motivation and continued dedication, I have not doubt that when I do eventually type those mystical words {“The End”}, not only will they be there applauding my accomplishment, but complimenting the work that only came as a result of their contributions. Like you said, you just can’t buy that sort of support. Loved this post, as it reminded me just how fortunate I am!

  3. I used to have a wonderful critique-r… and because I didn’t have the sense to know what a gift I’d had, I let things slide and fade and then vanish between us.

    Yes! A critique partner who matches you, strengthens your weaknesses and supports you during the dark moments is one of the rarest and best gifts the Universe can give you. And care and nurturing of said partner is vital!

  4. I have yet to find one solid CP😦 I’ve had a few one-off’s who offered interesting insights, but I want to learn from a CP. I know from winning a few ‘first five page critiques’ recently just how incredible the CP relationship could be.

    shahwharton.com

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