This week, I want to give you some pointers on the different places good CPs often lurk. Of course, they’re quite elusive creatures, and great care must be taking while stalking them… Oh, wait. Wrong critter. OK, OK, I get it. No more stupid jokes. For a while, anyway.
When it first occurred to me that there might be writing forums and resources online (I’m not the brightest crayon, OK?), I stumbled across a tee-tiny little writing forum, with roughly a dozen or so regular posters. Over the next few weeks, I learned a great deal, met some wonderful writers, and made a couple of friends that I figure will be my friends for a long time to come. The little community had a sub-forum for sharing work and receiving feedback. There, I read work of all levels, and learned to crit, and receive crits. One of the members had posted passages from an incredible story, and immediately hooked me. I messaged her and asked to see more of it. That writer was Azure Boone.
When she sent me more of her work, Azure asked to see mine as well, and we ended up exchanging chapters. We liked each other’s writing, and were at similar skill levels, and we gave each other useful feedback. We continued to crit each other’s work, and grew and learned together. We became close friends, and still are, nearly two years later, and we still work very closely together. We’ve worked together with other writers short-term, and we both seek other feedback on our work.
So, writing forums, especially those with Share Your Work sections, can be a good place to look. There are also many writing communities where the central focus of critiquing each other’s work. Book Country is a relatively new one, Critique Circle has been around a while. There are tons more out there. Just explore and find one that suits you, then start your search. Another site, Ladies Who Critique, helps female writers find CPs.
Don’t overlook social networking either. Facebook has more writing groups than I’ve been able to even read the entire list. LinkedIn also has a LOT of writing groups. You might even find a CP on Twitter. If someone writes your genre, and you like their updates and the links they post, see if they have sample material up on a blog, etc. If they do, and you like it, contact them and start talking. If you post on a social network that you’re looking for a CP, be prepared to either be bombarded, or ignored, depending on who sees it.
If you’re like me, and make a habit of surfing writers’ blogs, and you land on one where the writing appeals to you, start a conversation with the blogger. You might luck out. If you post on a blog, whether yours or someone else’s, that you’re looking for a CP, be prepared to turn down anyone who doesn’t seem like they will work out at first glance. A local writing group could offer up a potential CP, or a chance meeting at the library, bookstore, or coffeeshop might be where you get lucky.
Wherever you look, have a plan. This could be one of the most important decisions of your writing career, and you don’t want to go in unprepared. When you meet a potential CP, online or in person, remember – Safety First! Use the same precautions you would when interacting with with anyone else you don’t know. Also, protect your work by only sharing small portions until you’re more familiar with the person. Make it clear up front that you don’t want your work shared with anyone else, online or IRL, and that you aren’t giving them permission to use it in any way. Also, let the person know that if either of you don’t wish to continue, there’s no obligation. Go slowly – don’t just jump in without looking.
When you receive the other person’s first crit of your work, look it over carefully, and objectively evaluate it. Does the crit reveal qualities that tell you the person might make a good CP? Is it useful? Objective? Knowledgeable? If both of you agree, revise based on each other’s crits, and have another look. On the other hand, if you don’t want to continue, be tactful – you don’t want to make an enemy of a writer who might be a valuable asset to your career one day.
Don’t just accept the first person willing to work with you. Be patient and selective and make sure you’re compatible. A bad CP can be *much* worse than no CP. Your writing could be derailed, you could be discouraged to the point of quitting, you could acquire an enemy motivated to ruin your career. And those are the nicer things that could happen.
Do you know of other places to find potential CPs? Other things to look out for?
Next week, a bit about the art of critiquing another writer’s work.