Writer Wednesday: Putting It All Together

Welcome to Part 6 of my Critique Series. If you haven’t yet, check out the earlier posts of the series: Fresh Eyes, 10 Qualities Of The Perfect Critique Partner, Where, Oh Where, Has My Little CP Gone?, Match Made In Heaven, Or Hell?, and How On Earth?

Later today, stop back by and check out Part 1 of my entry in the Rule of Three Blogfest. The post will go live about 1130am EST.

So, you’ve found someone you’d like to try as a CP, decided on what you want critted, and exchanged work. What’s next? How are you and your potential CP going to communicate your feedback, and what format will the crit be in?

We have several options today for discussing crits with a CP. Azure and I use a combination – we email our crits to each other so we have time to look them over before discussing them, then use IM for when we need the other to see short passages, and we’re normally also on the phone so we can cover more ground quickly, and save some typing.

We’ve just discovered another option that looks promising, particularly if the two of us are working with someone else. VYEW.com “allows you to meet and share content in real-time or anytime. Upload images, files, documents and videos into a room. Users can access and contribute at anytime.” (from their website) We haven’t had time to try it out yet, but it seems as if it would provide everything we need. I believe Google Docs also has some similar properties, and there are probably others out there that do as much, or more.

I’ve also simply exchanged emails for the entire crit. Whichever way you choose depends on the wordcount of the exchanged works, the kind and depth of crit, whether you’re revising and exchanging again, whether you prefer things more or less formal, and how much personal information you want to share. At first, it might be wise to set up an email account to use exclusively for exchanging crits with potential partners. If things work out and the relationship turns long-term, you might decide to share a bit more, even eventually home phone numbers.

What format should you use for crits? I normally turn on Track Changes for the document, and add Comments if the person uses MS Word. That way, I can make suggestions/changes right in the line, which the writer can either accept or reject as is, and I can explain myself in the Comments.

If the other person isn’t using Word, I like to type my suggestions/changes/comments right into the line of text, using a different font color. Some people prefer to just have notes typed at the end of the document, or even in a new doc. Others prefer something more substantial, like a bullet list of in-depth comments and suggestions. I’ve even done crits in real-time, IMing my thoughts to the writer as I read, though this is my least preferred way to crit. It doesn’t allow time to absorb the words, form an impression, understand more than the surface meaning, or make well-thought out suggestions.

Big, in-depth crits are sometimes easier for the writer to grasp if they have time to look over the crit, then a time to discuss it all with the critter. If they don’t understand something, they can ask questions, as well as point out misunderstandings by the critter. When writer and critter discuss the crit, what started as a sort of skimming-the-surface crit may grow into something more in-depth. If you’re going to revise and have the critter look at it again, discussion will also prove helpful, as you play with different word choices and sentence structures, etc.

It all boils down to finding what works best for you and your potential CP. If it all works out, and the two of you decide to continue, you’ll probably find that everything evolves as you both grow as writers and critiquers, and as you become more familiar with each other’s writing.

Some CPs keep everything strictly on a professional footing, while others are more casual. Still others, like Azure and I, become close friends. In addition to sharing our writing lives, we share our personal lives.

But, if things don’t work out, let the other person know right away. Dodging emails, or refusing to reply, is immature and inconsiderate. Keep it tactful, but straightforward. If the other person decides not to continue, take it gracefully. Hopefully, they’ll inform you it isn’t working for them, instead of just not answering emails. But if they stop replying, after a couple of attempts, drop it and move on.

Next week will be the final post in the Critique Series, at least for now. I’ll just list links for information and resources, crit sites, etc.

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