What Stace had to say on Monday, July 20th, 2009
Summer Series: On Critiques

So this is the first post in this summer’s series, which is a bit late, I know, thanks to moving and deadlines and one thing and another.

Anyway. I anticipate it will last through mid-August or so, and I’m hoping to get a few guest posts in.

Oh, and. The series isn’t really going to be about finding a critique partner per se, although we will touch on it several times throughout. In fact, if you’re looking for a CP, why not go ahead and mention it in comments? What you write, what you’re looking for? Who knows, maybe someone will match up.

But I’m going to do a little bit of an unorthodox start to this, one, I think, and we’ll try to have fun along the way (as I always do.) First, I’d love it if someone would send me something to crit. BUT. Hold on. Wait until you hear what I want to do first, okay? (And if nobody sends me anything I’ll pull something out of my files.)

I want to do a Bad Crit on it, before I do a good one. So seriously. I’m going to be mean. I’m going to be odd and nitpicky and dumb about it. It’s all in fun; I will probably make useless comments that nobody in their right minds would make. But I suppose the possibility is there that the Bad Crit could be hurtful. So seriously, if you wouldn’t be amused by such a thing, don’t send in an excerpt for critique, okay?

Hopefully it’ll be mitigated by the Good Crit, in which I will do my very best to show, um, what a Good Crit should be. But still.

So if you’re up for it, send me, oh, 1200 words or so. Enough for us to really get a feel for the scene and writing and everything. I’m going to do these at the end, and I’m only going to do a couple of them, so if you want in, do it fast. And just like last year, please include a note saying it’s okay for me to post it for critique; and just like last year, I’ll change the character names.

Sound fun?

Here’s my other slightly unorthodox thing, which actually isn’t, because it occurred to me this is how I started the Strumpet series last year. Ask me some questions. What would you like to see this series cover? What are your particular issues or questions?

Let me tell you how I met my CPs. Well. One of them isn’t technically a critique partner. She’s my BFF Cori–whose name will be familiar to any of you who’ve been around for a while–and she’s not a writer. Which is awesome, because I don’t have to crit in return, ha ha. No, seriously. Readers as readers aren’t always the best for critiques, for various reasons we’ll discuss, but Cori is amazing. She’s astute. She’s intelligent. She’s willing to spend–literally–hours discussing plot or character issues with me. She asks awesome questions. She makes great comments. Honestly? When Cori likes something I know it’s worthwhile. (UNHOLY GHOSTS is actually dedicated to her, because I sent her the first four or five pages or something, and I was really excited but unsure, and she was SO enthusiastic I knew I had to keep going.) Anyway, Cori and I used to work together, oh, almost ten years ago now.

And of course, again, if you’ve been around for a while you know about Anna J. Evans, who was and is the only benefit I ever got out of my RWA membership. She alone makes the $450 or whatever I paid for my membership (not just National, but the Passionate Ink erotic romance chapter) worth it. Passionate Ink is where we met; I was looking for a CP and so was she.

We exchanged, I believe, the first three chapters. No strings attached, let’s just see what we have here. I loved her work. I thought–and still do–that she was very talented. Her work was fun. It was similar enough to mine that I understood it but different enough, and with strengths in different areas, that I felt I could learn from her and teach her something. So I made my comments and sent it to her, biting my nails that she would like my comments and that she would like my work, because I really wanted to work with her.

Lucky me, her comments–this was an early draft of BLOOD WILL TELL, actually–were awesome. Things I hadn’t even thought of; she put her finger right on the problem I was having, and improved the book about a million percent.

She liked the funny bits, and the sexy bits. She didn’t nitpick or project (which we’ll discuss in detail later). And, she liked my comments on her work and claimed I’d helped her. So we decided to work together. And we still do. What we require from each other has changed as we’ve improved–again, to be discussed–but I still look forward to her comments and to reading her stuff.

I met Caitlin Kittredge online, basically, but a couple of years ago she came out to England, and we made plans to spend the day together. And just hit it off. I adore Caitlin, as you know. We realized we had the same sensibilities about a lot of things, especially work; she gave me an early draft of STREET MAGIC and I was blown away. I in turn sent her PERSONAL DEMONS and then UNHOLY GHOSTS. And it sort of went from there. I don’t feel I can actually teach Caitlin a damned thing, but I am happy to read and help brainstorm, and she does the same for me.

Mark Henry and I exchange beta reads. Where this differs from straight critique, I think–or rather, my CPs really are beta readers now, but it’s the timing–is that we send each other completed mss, and the comments are strictly story-and/or-character based. Perhaps a bit about pacing, too. With CPs we trade chunks of mss. Mark and I trade whole books, and we met online as well; after PD sold, Mark was the one who encouraged me to join Fangs Fur Fey on livejournal, and invited me to join the as-yet-unlaunched League of Reluctant Adults.

That’s basically it. What I find interesting, and the point, really, of me going into this detail about my CP/betas and how it works, is how the requirements etc. changed as my work progressed and I gained confidence. And that’s what we’re going to start analyzing Thursday: what you need from a CP, and what to look for.

So, ask away! Oh, and if you’re sending me an excerpt (remember, I’m only doing a couple, so you may not get picked, but I’ll let you know either way) go ahead and send it as a .doc or .docx to staciakane AT gmail.

Oh, and one last thing! Did you see my wonderful editor, Shauna Summers, mentioned on Dear Author? And she talked about UNHOLY GHOSTS a bit, too. She’s going to be doing a regular feature over there, which rocks, and I can’t wait to read those because Shauna is so fun to work with and such a great editor and person. So go check it out!

15 comments to “Summer Series: On Critiques”

  1. Kait Nolan
    · July 20th, 2009 at 1:46 pm · Link

    Hey Stacia,

    Really looking forward to this series! Wanted to throw this resource out for those looking for CPs as another place to check out: http://critpartnermatch.ning.com It’s sort of like a cross between Match.com and personals ads–except entirely for writers looking for CPs. Someone might find it useful.

    • Stace
      · July 20th, 2009 at 2:12 pm · Link

      Hey, thanks Kait! That looks great. I may put it in my post on Thursday.

  2. Anna J. Evans
    · July 20th, 2009 at 1:51 pm · Link

    Thanks, girl. I can’t believe it’s been almost five years. I feel damned lucky to have snagged you!


    • Stace
      · July 20th, 2009 at 2:13 pm · Link

      Me too! {{{hugs}}} It makes me all smiley.

  3. writtenwyrdd
    · July 20th, 2009 at 1:51 pm · Link

    That link from Kait looks like a great resource!

    Stacia, if you want to be mean to me I’ll send you something from a project I abandoned a while back. I haven’t looked at it in so long anything you say will likely help. Do you want from teh beginning or middle?

    • Stace
      · July 20th, 2009 at 2:14 pm · Link

      Wherever you think best, really. Beginning, or a scene you’re unsure about or has a big character or plot moment…anything’s fine with me. :-)

      • writtenwyrdd
        · July 20th, 2009 at 5:37 pm · Link

        Ok I’ll send you something from a fantasy I had to abandon when i couldn’t decide what to do with it structurally. I’m thinking two books. If you want to not use the bit, that’s fine!

  4. synde
    · July 20th, 2009 at 2:04 pm · Link

    I would love to send you a piece from current..maybe let others go instead..I tend to be greedy as you know. 😳

    • Stace
      · July 20th, 2009 at 2:15 pm · Link

      Lol. You know I’m happy to crit for you, privately. :smile:

  5. Mark Henry
    · July 20th, 2009 at 2:39 pm · Link

    Speak of the devil. You’ll be getting my notes v. v. soon Madame!

  6. Tyhitia
    · July 20th, 2009 at 3:55 pm · Link

    Well, I was supposed to send you something, but that got put on hold due to my wedding and another project that’s better. πŸ˜€ So, I’ll be sending that privately when I’m done. πŸ˜€

    I’ve just gotten my mojo back and I think this new project will actually get me an agent! We’ll see. πŸ’‘

  7. Tom Gallier
    · July 20th, 2009 at 6:09 pm · Link

    Good start to the series. I look for to future posts. I sent a little something something. Whether you use mine or another’s, I look forward to seeing how you critique it (both good and bad).

  8. Caitlin Kittredge
    · July 21st, 2009 at 1:27 am · Link

    You are gonna make me blush. Stop it.

    Seriously, you’re an awesome CP and I’m lucky to have ya. Looking forward to the rest of this series. πŸ˜€

  9. Rob Charron
    · July 21st, 2009 at 5:05 am · Link

    Hi :)
    Thank you for a terrific post. I just started critiquing a novel for someone I met online via Twitter. I am nervous that I am not doing it right. This series on critiquing is SO valuable to me.
    It sounds as if a Critique Partner (the right one) makes the book a lot better.
    Thank you very much for sharing.
    Love and gratitude from Canada

  10. BernardL
    · July 21st, 2009 at 7:30 am · Link

    I’m sure your summer series will be very good. I learned a lot from your past series’.

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