Writing is so solitary. That’s part of what I like about it. Although I consider myself friendly and outgoing, I also adore alone time. I crave it. I cling to it like a remora on a shark.* And after the wonderfully fantastic shmoozefest known as NESCBWI last weekend (see last blog post), I needed to be . . . alone.**
The risk is when you spend too much time in your writing world. You can become isolated working in a vacuum, and words can lose their meaning. Writers need other writers. Yes, even you, little Ms. Shy Writer over there. We need to commiserate, bounce ideas off of each other, and analyze each others’ work.
It seems like writers don’t always realize that by critiquing someone else’s writing, they can get better at it themselves. First of all, by exchanging critique, a good critique partner or critique group will help point out flaws in your story. Second of all, closely examining someone else’s writing will ultimately help you be more objectively critical of your own.
Not to mention, a good critique partner/group provides all of that support we sorely need. Even the most supportive friends or partners don’t exactly understand the trials and tribulations of writing, revising, querying, and critiquing.
Be diligent when seeking critique partners. I found my two lovely CPs through Ladies Who Critique, which is a fabulous resource. The three of us jumped into it blindly, which lots of blogs tell you not to do. They say to look at samples of each others’ writing, evaluate your shared goals in critiquing, blah blah blah. Yes, all that’s significant. But what I found most important is that we shared a level of enthusiasm for writing and were similarly (in)experienced in the field. So no one of us is carrying the others along.
During the NESCBWI conference, I talked to a lot of people about my CPs and the fact that we do all of our critique online. A few were incredulous that it could work, but I argued that sometimes it’s easier to write critique in an email than to say it to someone’s face.
“But I can take honest critique–it’s not a problem!” I heard several times. I explained that for me, at least, it’s not a question of whether or not I can take it–I sure as heck can–but whether or not I could give good (honest, though never brutal!) critique to someone’s face.
I’m not maligning in-person critique groups, either. In fact, I might look for one just to get an additional experience beyond my current fabulous critique group. There’s value to both. We shouldn’t always write alone.
The idea is to partner with other like-minded people and work towards a common goal of improving everyone’s writing. You’ll be glad you did.
*Look it up! It’s cool.
**I feel like Greta Garbo.