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Wednesday
Apr282010

Ingredients of a Great Crit Partner and a Matchmaking Session

 

Memory Game Tiles
Photo by PoppyPrint (click pic for link)


Looking for a crit partner?  Then, you're in luck, I'm doing matchmaking today (see bottom of post).  And if you already have a terrific group, what do you look for in a beta reader?

 

So as most of you know, my group is currently holding a contest to find our new member.  Today is the last day to enter, so if you're interested, be sure to apply on Lynnette's blog.  We're going to have a serious challenge picking the winner(s) because the entries have been strong, but we're excited.

But as I started going through entries, I got to thinking--what exactly am I looking for most?  First, I'm obviously examining the person's skill level.  I think it's important that the members of a group are all around the same stage because if you mix beginners with the more advanced--everyone ends up frustrated.

But beyond that, what other things?  If the writing talent is equal, what other things make someone a better fit?

Here is what I came up with.  I'd love to hear what you look for as well.

Voice
--I'm a bit voice-obsessed.  If I'm not feeling your voice (or there is a lack of voice), then I'm going to dread spending months critting the story.  That's one of those things that's hard to help someone fix.

Concept/Genre
--Just like anyone else, I have my subject and genre preferences.  My group only accepts those who write romance or have romantic elements in their stories.  However, even within those parameters, there are subgenres I'm more drawn to than others.  For instance, if you story is a high fantasy with romantic elements, it's probably not going to be my cuppa.

Humor
--You don't necessarily have to write funny, but if the person seems to have a good sense of humor, that's a plus.  This writing thing can be tough at times and nothing makes me feel better than sharing a laugh with my group.  I have trouble connecting with people who take themselves and life too seriously.

Honest
--Critting is about honesty (delivered with respect and tact).  I expect my partners to hold my feet to the fire if something isn't working for them.  On that same note, I want someone who will take the time to point out what they liked because, hell, I've got a tough skin, but I crave positive feedback just like anyone else.  So if I made you laugh--tell me--if I made you groan--tell me that, too.

Professional
--Now I don't mean the person needs to be formal.  God knows some of the conversations we have on our chat loop are far from professional.  But what I mean is someone who is serious about their writing and commitments--they turn their crits in on time (or send a note saying why they couldn't that week), they don't share my work with others, etc.

Insightful
--This may differ for some people, but I appreciate a critter who doesn't just say what's wrong, but offers suggestions.  Sometimes it's hard to see things because we're so close to our own work.  So I love it when one of my buddies says, "Hey, the pacing is a little slow here, maybe move this scene over here" or "this seems to start too late, maybe back up and start from this point instead."  Those are my smack forehead moments--like, wow, why didn't I think of that?  That makes so much sense.

So those are my wish list items, I'm looking forward to hearing what yours are.  But first, I've had a few people reach out to me who are looking for critique groups or beta readers (but didn't write romance to apply for my contest), so I thought I would do a little crit matchmaking again.  I've done this in the past with some success, so hopefully this helps a few of you out again.

 

CRIT GROUP MATCHMAKING


If you are looking to form/join a crit group or are looking for beta readers, please put your information in the linky box below.  Include your NAME AND GENRE in the name section AND leave your contact info in the comments section so people know how to reach you.  Then if you see others pop up in your genre, you'll be able to click on their name and contact them through their blog or look for their email address in the comments.

 

I'll leave this open for as long as needed so people can sign up in the future as well

Alright, so what do you look for most in a crit partner?  Do you think it's important to match up genre and skill level?  What lessons have you learned from crit relationships that didn't work out?  


And remember, if you sign up above, leave your contact info in the comments.

**Today's Theme Song**
"Somebody to Love" - Glee Cast Version
(player in sidebar, go ahead, you know you want to listen)


 

Reader Comments (20)

Ditto on your post. Those are basically the same things I'm looking for. No wonder we make a good match! ;)

Lynnette Labelle
http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLynnette Labelle

I adore my crit. partners. They are so good at noticing the "little" details (that aren't really so little) as well as the major stuff. I appreciate brutal honesty paired with positive encouragement.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon O'Donnell

Awesome idea!

I agree with all the things you mentioned -- they all add up to a great critique partner.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeika

What an awesome idea, Roni! Beta Club is amazing, but I'm sure we all could use more comprehensive feedback.

Fabulous post!

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTere Kirkland

Wonderful post. I have been desperately looking for a crit group, but feared I was being too picky. After reading what you look for I see that I am right on with my expectations.

Question, when finding an online crit group, how do you decide to trust strangers with your wip?

I write light science fantasy with a touch of romance. You can email me at charity.bradford@gmail.com

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharity Bradford

Charity, that is a concern, but the best I can tell you it to get a feel for the person via their blog or however you can. Ninety-nine percent of the people out there are genuine and aren't out to steal your stuff.

And in this situation, what i would recommend is exchanging maybe the first chapter initially to get an idea of the other person's writing and critting style so that you can both decide if it's a good match.

Also, you listed your info in the comments, but don't forget to sign up in the linky above because that's where everyone will be checking first. Thanks!

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRoni @ FictionGroupie

This is great! I'm going to be looking for some more beta readers soon (soon, as in another month). :D

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStina Lindenblatt

Now to answer you questions. I did have a crit group that I enjoyed working with, but we decided to break up for various personal reasons (like going to nursing school). And some individuals weren't putting in the same level of critting as they were getting. That was really frustrating for a number of individuals. You have to make sure everyone is on the same page (sorry for the pun and cliche) as to expectations and skill level. Fortunately I have a new crit partner who is great. :D

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStina Lindenblatt

Yes! Everything you said, plus I want a CP who is brave enough and cares enough to point out the flaws in my work and who expects the same in return.


I think there is some flexibility in genre match up so long as the parties involved are familiar with and interested in one another's genres. Genres come with certain requirements that must be respected.

Skill level… sigh ... is not so flexible. I've belonged to several groups over the years and spent a lot of time copy editing when I should have been critiquing. I'd like to say skill level doesn't matter, but to some extent it does.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVR Barkowski

I've been enjoying your blog. Indeed, getting the right mix of skills and interest in a critique group has proven challenging and rewarding. I'm in a very small group now of writers who've become friends - one does cozy mystery, one's literary fiction, I'm all over the map (with some humor, I think), and we have a poet. Believe me, the poet adds SO much in regards to word usage and "color". Everyone benefits and I know I've grown from working with this group.

Thanks Joanne
http://wordsplash-joannefaries.blogspot.com

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

Yup! You pretty much nailed it! I feel blessed to have the CPs I have and the betas I have, too. Awesome, awesome peeps! Plus, I love being able to brainstorm if I get stuck. I always wrangle Melissa in for that stuff. She's awesome to bounce ideas off of:)

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTina Lynn

I think you pretty much covered the basics of a good crit partner.

I don't think a match of genre is a must, because I've gotten some great suggestions and feedback from people outside my genre. But for a serious long term partner - someone who will help you through various re-writes, for instance, the same genre is a help.

Skill is another issue entirely. How are beginning writers going to improve if someone more experienced doesn't point out the flaws? Just reading books on writing craft isn't enough, you need someone more experienced to point these things out. While an experienced writer/critter shouldn't commit to a beginning writer for the long term, I think those with experience should still take the time once in a while to help out someone - remembering that they used to be a beginner, too.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMargo Berendsen

Margo, I agree with you on the skill level thing in a sense. That is why I do things like the Beta Club (tues/thurs) where anyone can get feedback from myself and commenters from all stages of writing. I also occasionally will beta read a chapter for someone (skill level unknown) and I volunteer to judge RWA contests to give feedback as well.

However, in a regular, long-term crit group relationship, having people that are too far apart in their writing journey can be very difficult. The experienced person becomes frustrated and spends way too much time critting (and then gets not as much back.) And the beginner feels overwhelmed and gets discouraged.

I think it's a decision whether you want to be a mentor or a crit partner--there is a big difference between the two. We all need both at different points in our careers.

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRoni @ FictionGroupie

Great idea to have this so people can sign up for crit partners!! I've been blessed with great groups early on in my writing...career??? (Uhh...can I call it that if I'm not getting paid? Probably not. lol) They've helped me grow so much.

I look for someone who knows my genre - what's popular what works in it. Also, someone who is willing to push me and offer genuine criticism. Sure, I like it to be optimistic and have fun comments thrown in, but I ultimately am looking for help and insight, not a "This sounds great!" I know it doesn't sound great. How can I make it sound great? So I guess honesty is one of the biggest things to me.

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKM

Someone who doesn't merely criticize for the sake of it.

http://e6n1.blogspot.com/

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEe Leen Lee

I agree with you Roni about skill level. I once spent five hours criting someone's 5 pages. It was a mess. He sent to me again after he had edited it. It was still a mess. The sad thing was I wasn't the first one to crit it, but everyone else critted it for plot. Never mind that. The guy couldn't write. Period. :(

That's why I think your beta club idea is brilliant. :)

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStina Lindenblatt

However, in a regular, long-term crit group relationship, having people that are too far apart in their writing journey can be very difficult. The experienced person becomes frustrated and spends way too much time critting (and then gets not as much back.) And the beginner feels overwhelmed and gets discouraged.

Unfortunately, it's so true. I've been on both sides (as a beginner when a comic artist friend wanted feedback on his art style) and neither position is very much fun.

I'm sure this sounds totally selfish, but I've actually been avoiding giving criticism just because I'm still suffering burnout from being the experienced one in a few situations. (And aside from a few contests, such as Miss Snark's, I haven't submitted anything for criticism for karmic reasons — if I'm not giving, I don't feel I should take.)

But I really like your crit partner matchmaking idea, so I've signed up for that!

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMoira Young

I totally forgot to leave my contact info after I signed up on the linky thing.

I'm working on a paranormal romance trilogy (it teeters on the edge between adult and YA). I've got a small crit group now but we're all working at different paces, and I'm on the faster end. I really want to get this thing agent ready soon. That's why I'm looking for another crit partner.

If anyone's interested you can contact me at mkdbail@gmail.com

May 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmbee

Not sure if people are still coming here or not but thought I would add my info just in case! :)

I've been writing for years and finally decided to be serious about it. I'm working on one novel and one other...thing, not sure what it is yet lol
Both are fantasy genre. The novel is kind of magic fantasy and the other is paranormal/werewolves urban fantasy.

Looking for some writers who want to help each other crit, talk shop and just be friends as well. I don't have enough writer friends!

contact me: kendrakantor@gmail.com

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkendrajkphotography

I'm looking for beta readers/crit friends. I'm working on a fantasy novel right now.

e-mail: WantedSchmedOrAlive (at) gmail (dot) com

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBabydoll

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