Sunday, August 14, 2011

Guest Post: The Critecta

In the spirit of critique group collaboration, today's post is by my crit partner Caroline (Skyval on AQC).

Finding the special someone(s) who can complete your writing life is a lot like finding the special someone in your love life—damn hard. Where can you find these excellent people? How do you know when it's a good fit? What should you look for in a critique buddy? And what do you have to offer?

Our little trio met when we serendipitously crossed paths over at AgentQuery Connect, and we quickly discovered that ours was the kind of chemical balance you only find in a room full of professionals wearing white coats. We may all three end up in a room very much like that one day, but that's besides the point. Together, we're going to triple-team the concept of our Critecta—you can see RC's post at Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire, and Mindy's at From the Write Angle.

I started writing in September of 2009—much later than Mindy and at about the same time as Rachel. After completing my first draft in thirty days, declaring myself a genius, and receiving the usual “This is amazing”’s from my friends and family, I screwed up my courage and showed my MS to a brilliant writer friend. After three nail-biting days, her verdict. “You’ve got something here, but this needs A LOT OF WORK.”

So while I rewrote under my mentor’s watchful eye, I googled around, found AgentQuery, and started my new career as a lurking wannabe writer spying on the grown-up table. I’ve made many friends at AQ, but was drawn to BBC (Mindy) right off by her sense of humor, spot-on posts, and general devotion to her own craft as well as the time she spends helping others.

It’s been a long time since I had a first date. Okay, okay, a VERY LONG TIME, but finding my perfect Critecta followed that same heart-thumping, palm-sweating course. The from-afar admiring. A judgement call on compatibility. The dance of who will make the first move. The simultaneous reading hoping she doesn’t think I suck and wondering how she got into this. Then, “Does she LIKE me?” “Is she just being nice?” “How honest can I be here?” “Will she hate me if I point out this inconsistency?” “Can I really be myself?” I discovered that Mindy is refreshingly honest, down to earth, and her crit comments are like having a conversation while being doused with cold water and bleach over a cup of my favorite cappuccino. With chocolate.

Rachel came next. We both had entered the WEbook Page2Fame contest and although we had exchanged a few PM’s on AQ, we hadn’t talked about critiquing each other because our sub-genres were so different. Then in the course of the WEbook contest, we each had to rate the other’s first fifty, liked what we read, and decided to give each other a whirl around the dance floor. And what a compatibility it was! I told Mindy about Rachel and our Critecta was born.

Rachel’s technical skills are unparalleled. Mindy’s overall story-telling ability and superior voice and dialog skills are priceless. And me? I’m not sure what I contribute besides being a willing cold reader. We use Buzzword (a great tool by Adobe that allows highlighting and notes) and sometimes when reading Mindy’s work, I leave an occasional comment just to let her know I’m still reading but have been too engrossed to comment. We all contribute to the teen-speak—Mindy and Rachel both work with teens every day while I’ve actually SURVIVED raising two of ’em.

I do recall one bit of commentary of which I’m proud. In Rachel’s FINGERPRINTS, her MC is a brilliant science/techno geek (Hah! Much like Rachel herself...) and in one scene, Lareina and her equally brilliant boyfriend are working on a problem that flew over my head. But I understood it well enough to get that the characters understood it which is exactly the way it should have come off. A genius piece of writing on Rachel’s part and a scene I will never forget.

The other thing that makes our Critecta special is that we drop everything when the others need something read RIGHT NOW. When my girls ring me on email, I’m there. Mindy’s latest was so good and she was pumped late one night to get her query out. Sometimes you are just feeling it RIGHT THEN, ya know? Rachel and I critiqued her query for hours, Mindy sent it out that night, and voila, she got an agent. If I had any small part in making that happen for her, that’s all I need. I can’t speak enough about how much I’ve learned from my beloved crit partners, and although we’ve never heard each other’s voices in reality, we know each other’s voices through our writing. Priceless.

Do have your own Critecta? (Or duo, or quartet, or whatever...) How did you find them? What’s your process, and why does it work for you?


Krista said...

I guess you could say I have two critique groups. One is with my good friends Jen and Rosanne who live in my neighborhood. We are all part of the same local writers group and joined up to be critique partners.

Also, one of the guys I work with found me on Twitter and was excited to learn I was writing a fantasy novel. Now we are critiquing each others work.

Jemi Fraser said...

Awesome! It's interesting to see that all 3 posts have their own tones/flavours/styles. I can see why you all mesh so well :)

R.C. Lewis said...

Krista, you're lucky to have fellow writers in the same zip code. The closest I come is the English teachers at my school.

Jemi, the three of us noticed the same thing when we exchanged rough drafts. This post has Caroline written all over it!

Anonymous said...

I loved getting all three perspectives of your Critecta.

Thanks so much for sharing!