Listen to Your Inner Critique Partner (CP)

If you’re a writer, you probably spent a lot of time and energy trying to connect with a Critique Partner who understands you and your work, and who writes things you want to read and can critique. When you find that person – listen to him/her.

I had a couple of CP misfires at first. One person invited me into a CP group that never really took off. Most of the people who expressed interest didn’t write my genre, which is fine, but it made the group less useful for me. Another person sent back my chapter with a “This is boring.” I’m a grown adult, I can handle that, but I got no suggestions on fixing it, and never heard from that person again. So, we’ll call that “Strike 2.”

Then, with the third one, I hit the CP lottery. She’s funny. She’s quirky. She’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She’s incredibly talented and writes books I love to read. She makes a lot of really good suggestions on things that have improved my work a thousandfold. Implementing her suggestions took me from “Oh, god, I have to revise this again!” to “I absolutely love this work.” That’s huge. She is a big part of the reason my work was ready for my agent when it landed in her lap, and I can never thank her again.

Back in February, my CP was well into MS2 when I received a R&R request on MS1.  I dove into the revisions on my own before asking for advice. But, it was like I could hear my CP reading over my shoulder and making suggestions. (She argues with me far more in my head than in reality.)
“This scene would really work better as dialogue…”
Maybe, but it’s OK the way it is, and that would be so much work.

And for the most part, I tried to listen. The revision on that manuscript wound up much better than what it was. I was about ready to send it to the agent when my CP offered to look at it for me (because she’s a freaking rock star). Before sending it to her, I read the whole thing again, with Imaginary Carey sitting on my shoulder.
“That scene really needs to be dialogue.”
It’s not really an important scene. It’s okay to tell real quick what happened.
“It shows a lot about the characters and their relationship. Or it would, if you wrote it out.”
But it would take forever! (Yes, I’m whining to myself, in my own head)
“The scene will work better.”
I’ll look at it again later. Happy?
“I’ll be happy when you rewrite it.”

So, then, in a huff, after an imaginary argument with my CP, I walked away from the MS for about seven hours. And I came back to it.
“No, really, show what happened instead of summarizing.”

Finally, I did it. And the scene works much better. And Imaginary Carey was absolutely right, even though real Carey doesn’t even know about the conversation (well, she didn’t).

Side note: Do not base revision choices on the amount of work involved. Base them on how to make the work better.

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