by Carrie Fancett Pagels
I’ve posted elsewhere about not despising the day of small beginnings, as the Bible also tells us. One of the blessings of working on three “smaller” publications in the past several months is what I’ve learned about my writing life. For example, how can I best work with a Critique Partner (will abbreviate as CP henceforth.) At this stage of my writing career I’ve worked with multiple levels of CPers and all taught me something different. I had to learn the hard way how to manage when there was no CPer on board. I had that happen at the end of a novel I’d been completing with two other CPers. That was when God sent me two editor friends to save me! But let’s say you, like me, have learned you do best with having some CPers in your life. And you’ve moved on to the new stage where what you are writing will be published and you are under a deadline. I’m going to share my suggestions as will Kathy Maher, my CPer for “Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance.”
1. Get clear on your boundaries and decide what tactic you will take if you have to divert your path because of noncompliance. Some suggestions: I will get you x amount of my manuscript (MS) by this date of the week. In return, I’ll expect your MS to me that date and I will return it by (agreed upon date) as will you. We’ll try to not deviate by more than a day or two (stuff happens but deadlines are hard to move…) Kathy puts it this way: “Do unto your CP as you would have them do unto you.” If you want quick turnaround, give it. If you want brainstorming, raise your antennae for your CP as much as for yourself.
2. Accept that you can no longer expect anyone to look at your first, second, or any draft that is not in its final form. You simply don’t have time. You need to self-edit and complete your best draft within the agreed upon time and get it to your CPer. No second crits. Period. You won’t see that section again until you’ve got the final MS in your hands. Kathy prefers multiple CPs on a project while I prefer one CP and beta readers. With multiple CPs you can run that revised copy by the next CP. However, in return you’ll have more critiquing to do.
3. Decide how much of the MS you will exchange. Will it be the first 3 chapters for a proposal? A complete novella or short story? An entire MS that is novel length? Remember-what you expect critiqued you will need to plan to do in exchange. Some authors simply choose to have no CPers and to hire an editor.
4. What if your CPer fails to deliver? I’ve had this happen more than once. Like I mentioned, God sent me editors. In another situation I pretty quickly saw that the CPer didn’t remotely critique like I did. And she didn’t respect boundaries even with reminders. So I had to move on and one of my BFFs, an ABA editor, helped me out. Bottom line is God will provide!
How about you? What are you doing at this stage of your writing career as far as CPs?
Carrie Fancett Pagels‘ Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance, is an Amazon top-rated Civil War book. Carrie contributed to God’s Provision in Tough Times (July, 2013). Her short story, “Snowed In: A Northwoods Christmas,” will appear in Guidepost Books’ A Christmas Cup of Cheer (October, 2013).