If you've been following along with Writing 101 & Writing 102 you're in good shape. This lesson should come when you are 50% done with your first draft.It's time for critique partners!



Put that gun down! You'll need it for when you get the critiques back.


  
 

If you just groaned then you remember this from school. Yes, it's still that bad. Yes, it can work. No, I don't do this really. It's up to you, but the very first time you write fiction I recommend this. If you have any parts of your work you are not certain of, this is a valuable step. If you prefer to wait until after the first draft is finished, you may do so.

First up, what is a critique partner and how do they differ from an editor? There are 3 kinds of people who will crush your ego before you publish: line editors, content editors, and critique partners. Editors come later (we'll cover them in Writing 103) but for now know the definitions: a line editor edits grammar, spelling, and punctuation only. This is an editor worth paying for. A content editor is a person who knows the genre and can tell you what scenes don't fit, what changes should be made to plot or characters or conflict. A critique partner is someone who gives general impressions from a reader's perspective.



Choose carefully, finding new critique partners is always a gamble


  
 

So what do you look to get from a critique partner? A general emotional reaction to the story. Did it feel slow or too fast? Are the character names jarring? Do they like the subplots and conflict? Do they want more or less action, dialogue, or narrative? Do they find anything confusing? Do they find anything laborious?

Who makes a good critique partner? Well, fellow writers who are bookworms, and bookworms. Try to find someone well-read who knows lots of genres. Pick someone who is responsible, timely, and not afraid to hurt your feelings. These should be friends who you will thank, or fellow writers who you will critique. Never pay for this!

A word of warning: check your ego at the door. This is by no means easy. When you write, every single character is a reflection of you, the protagonist, the love interest, the antagonist. On those pages is a piece of your soul and when someone says it's crap, it hurts. There's no getting around it, it hurts. But you can be a baby and lash out or ignore them, or realize they are helping. Would you rather hear negative criticism now, or from the readers who bought the book and are trying to get their money back? Or worse, from professional critics who can tank your sales?



Critics like this do exist...let's not piss them off


  

The first step of the process is to find at least 2 and no more than 4 critique partners. At this point they will be reading passages, not the entire thing. You want at least 2 people to read the same passages.

Once you have critique partners lined up, select the passages for them to read. Key passages are the beginning and anything showing the points of the 12 step hero cycle, or anything showing key conflict of sub-plots. It can even be a passage you feel is too much dialogue or not enough, anything you are unsure of. Give them background information and ask them specific questions. 

Create a form if you like. Create a time schedule and check to make sure they are comfortable with it. Next, send it off. Be available to ask questions, but otherwise keep writing. while this is going on you may wish to go over the next Writing 102 lesson.

When the comments come back, read them and take a deep breath. Your ego may be hurt. DO NOT SEND AN IMMEDIATE REPLY! It will come from a a place of anger and it won't help. Set it aside for a day and hit the bottle, chain smoke, eat your own weight in M&Ms, or engage in compulsive sexual behavior. You know, the things all writers do. I recommend doing them all at the same time, just use xHamster.com.



In other words, let this man be your God for 24 hours


  
 

Once you're calm, re-read the criticism. Look over your piece. Do you agree? Then change it. Do you disagree? Why?Start a dialogue with the critique partner to discuss,you may both gain valuable insight from a discussion. If their confusion/questions are things that will be resolved by the second half of the manuscript, put it aside, file it away with your other important papers. Be sure to bring out their concerns when your critique partners read the finished manuscript.

Once again, you may skip this step. If your writing feels strong and cohesive so far, this is not necessary. If you haven't written anything before, you might not know if it is strong or cohesive, so first timers should follow this step. One final method: of my more erotic stories I will post the first draft on a site like literotica. All the comments/votes function as in media res critiquing, so you can go that route if you choose.

There are 2 more lessons to go through before you finish your manuscript. They should follow this step immediately. In fact, in our next lesson we'll review updating research & placeholders, which is something you can do while you're waiting for your critique partners to get back to you. After that is how to resist the urge to make too many changes while writing a first draft, and then you'll be done! Er, for the moment. Remember, real writing is in the editing.



All these steps combined are what I call "The hunter S. Thompson" method


  
 

Until then, happy writing!