Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Little Help Please?

I have a question about critique partners.

The sequel to CassaStar is currently with my test readers (and likely being torn apart even as I write this) but they are not writers. They are science fiction readers. Now, they’re really good at spotting little grammar things – and really good at spotting things like crappy dialogue! But a writer would see the bigger grammar and plot point issues.

Do you guys have a critique partner? Is it scary letting that person read your crappy rough draft?

I’d like to find a critique partner. I didn’t have one for CassaStar, just test readers. Think I need one for this book, though. It didn’t come together as easily as the first. In my attempts to amp up the world building and tension, I threw in every idea plus the kitchen sink. (Yes, Byron blasts sinks out of the sky – it’s rather cool!)

So, if anyone’s interested, let me know. Probably would help if it’s someone who read CassaStar. Not because you need it to understand the story, but you’ll understand my writing style better. Those of you who’ve read it know that while it’s science fiction, it is not high tech, and the aspects that everyone seemed to enjoy are in this story as well. And the other main character is a woman! Did I mention that? A WOMAN!

All right, anyone interested? Want to tell me about your critique partner? Care to throw Hot Tamales?


Li said...

You mean Hot Tamales, the candy? My favorite! Throw all you want. As for critique, I'd love to help but a) I don't feel qualified and b) I'm embarrassed to admit I've read maybe 3 sci-fi books in my life :(
But I'm sure you'll find some great critique partner possibilities around here. Good luck!


Hope you fond the person you're looking for,
I am absolutely shell shocked 588 entries for A to Z surely it can't go much higher???????

Have a good day

Christine Danek said...

I do have chapter by chapter CPs, which have helped me. It seems that it makes the process longer, but helpful in the long run. I haven't read Cassastar, yet. **holds head down in shame** Sorry to say, I'm maxed out with work. I hope you get some great CPs. Good luck!

JournoMich said...

I don't have a critique partner yet either...but I can't say I've been looking. I kind of figured it would come about when the time came.

I would be happy and honored to read and critique your work. I have read SciFy but, as you know, don't write it. This could be a bonus, however. Let me know what you need.

Congrats on getting this far with your second book!


The Happy Whisk said...

No, not scary. It's just words. Glad you found a partner. Go Michele. Very cool.

Anne Gallagher said...

Well Alex, as you know I have read CassaStar. And I write romance. Put the two together and you have me. I have nothing on my plate at the moment so if you'd like me to take a stab at it, feel free. I do have beta and crit references if you need them. (This is said seriously -- some people want them.)

Vicki Rocho said...

I've got a couple who have read bits and pieces, but haven't really put them through the paces yet.

Lisa said...

I hope you'll find your partner. It is certainly a great idea,

Ellie Garratt said...

I don't have a crit partner yet because I haven't reached that stage with my WIP yet. Also, i've not had a book published so i'm not sure i'd be the best to advise.

However I have read CassaStar and do love the direction the sequel is taking. So, I would be happy to read and offer constructive criticism if you feel I am qualified enough.

I won't be offended if you don't.

Melissa said...

My post today is about critique partners! haha. I think having CP's are essential. It IS hard at first to let them in but I promise you will be GLAD you did. I've been working with my group for about 2 months now and I couldn't be happier!

Anonymous said...

I have a few close friends who are crit partners. My main on is my editor Marvin Wilson. He is hinishing a read through of my next two books right now. This before any editing takes place. I wish I could offer to be your critique partner but I'm so darn busy at the moment I would not be able to do a very good job. But by the time the day is over you'll probably have a couple dozen competent offers! Good luck with everything.

Summer Frey said...

I have a critique group--4 other folks who act as cheerleaders, rough draft readers, final draft readers--pretty much any and every stage, and they're really great. I think finding the right fit can be difficult, and you might have to gently tread on a few toes to get there, but once you're there, you're there! Good luck. :)

Stephanie Lorée said...

Last fall I formed a critique group with fellow blogger-writers, Elena Solodow, Jodi Henry, and Justin Parente. It was the best decision ever. Their perspective as writers and avid readers has been invaluable. My craft has improved ten-fold, and so has my motivation to write and editing skills.

They are the best.

Also, email me, and I'd be happy to give your MS a look-see.

Luanne G. Smith said...

Critique is such a necessary part of the process. Personally, I prefer to work one on one with another writer rather than participate in a large group. I'm greedy and like to have the entire novel critiqued at once rather than ten pages at a time. And it is scary sending that work out. Ego bruising at times. But so, so important. Best of luck finding a good partner.

Matthew MacNish said...

I would highly recommend having CPs who are writers. CPs and beta readers are two very different things. Both have great value, and both can help improve your novel, but in different ways.

I'm in a critique group with three other writers of varying levels of experience. It has made a huge difference in the quality of my writing, and each of them is skilled at spotting different things.

Unfortunately we don't have room to expand right now, but I will definitely let you know if that changes.

Unknown said...

I do have a critique group, and several people I can hit up as beta readers. It is definately scary to hand over 'your baby' into someone else's arms...but really worth it, mostly.

Beta readers tend to pick up where the plot sags, where it's getting crowdy, where characters need more development and where the grammar fairy needs some help. You just need to keep in mind that tastes vary and some comments will just be a matter of taste. You can ignore those, or not (if everyone picks up on the same thing you might want to listen).

If you still need a beta, let me know. I don't know if I'll be the kind of beta reader / critique partner you're looking for, but I can give it a go if you like. You can always just send me a chapter, I'll comment and you see if you like my commenty style, lol.

My email addy is tessaconte (at) gmail (dot) com

Carol Kilgore said...

Good critique partners are worth more than gold. It's not always easy to find the right ones.

It's like dating. Try some on for size with an open-ended type of arrangement. Be upfront and ask them to be, too.

When you find someone, maybe go for a three-chapter, no-strings-attached deal so each of you can get comfortable with the other to see if it will work. You may end up with one partner or two.

Ideally you'll find the perfect partner with someone who writes science fiction. But don't limit yourself to the genre. In my view, it's more important to have a strong writer first and genre specific partner second. Others may disagree.

Be sure you have time to critique their work with the same care you expect them to give yours. You will learn more from critiquing their work than you will from their critiques of yours.

Sorry this ran so long. Good luck!

LTM said...

You must have other writers crit your work--their feedback is invaluable, and they know what to look for. Even if it's not someone in your genre, they'll catch things b/c they're studying the craft with you.

My vote's for Ellie! Ellie, Ellie, Ellie... :D

Bossy Betty said...

I think a critique partner would be a great idea. It's like marriage though--you gotta find the right one and then be prepared for the adventure!

Cherie Reich said...

I have a few critique partners, although it is scariest with them the first few times, since you don't know their style or what they might say. They are good to have around. Good luck finding one!

PK HREZO said...

Would offer but I haven't finished my present partners story yet!! I'm so behind.
But yes, I let them rip mine to shreds because that's what I want. No holds barred honesty.. sprinkled with just a dash of positive reinforcement somewhere. I'm sure you have nothing to worry about--if so, no biggie... that's what CPs are there for.

Good luck!

Ciara said...

I have some AMAZING CP's. I started on loops, I don't recommend that for your stage of career. Then, I met some amazing people via loop, blogs, etc... You may have to exchange work with a few people before you find the perfect fit. Sometimes it can be a process.
I LOVE Sci-Fi and all of my CP's that I crit for are now published. Yeah! (I know you are already pubbed, but had to mention it, because I'm so proud of them)If I'm able to read CassaStar soon, I will let you know *bows head in shame* I bought it, and it is next on my list!
If not, it sounds like you have a few volunteers above. Good luck!!

Chris Phillips said...

I've had a hard time finding a good CP. I use teachers for test readers since I write for a young age group and they actually read the kind of things I write. I also used a fantasy writer for my last MS, but she even said she didn't know what to look for. Good luck!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

li, yes I do!

Christine, that's all right.

Thanks, Michele!

Anne, I think you'd be a big help!

Ellie, I'm sure you're qualified.

That's all right, Stephen - besides, I need someone who's read the first book.

Stephanie, thanks!

Tessa and Carol, thanks!

Ciara, hope you enjoy it.

Angela said...

I'm working on my cousin's manuscript now. But if you're willing to wait a couple weeks, I'd be happy to look at yours too.

Unknown said...

CPs are essential and I have three of the very best that I have been working with for the last four years now. We all had varying degrees of experience when we started and I was the unpubbed one. I've gone on to publish 5 works. We help each other not only with writing, but sharing industry knowledge as well.

Sarah Ahiers said...

how quick would you need it read? Because i fit all your criteria and i read a lot of sci-fi. BUT, i don't think it'd be able to get it to you in, say, like a week.
Let me know.
And yes, i do have CPs and because they're also my best friends, it's not scary at all. Also, once they've seen your crapiest writing, well there's nothing to be worried about anymore. They've seen you at your worst, so now they can help you get to your best

M.J. Fifield said...

I find myself in need of a CP or a CG too. I was thinking about checking eBay and seeing if I could find one there...

N. R. Williams said...

I have been a member of a critique group for 16 years. In the beginning, it was scary to share. But my skin got thicker. You absolutely should have two critique partners and I'm sure that there are writers that would be willing to do that for you and you for them.

Since publishing my book, I have found two online friends to exchange future work with. I needed that since I can't wait for months or years to go through my books in the face to face group. One chapter a month. After critique, I will submit to my editor, and after that, I found someone else willing to give it a read through to dot the 'i's' so to speak.

If you can't find anyone, I have a link in a blog roll on the right hand side titled critique and readers.
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

Michael Di Gesu said...

I have a few wonderful crit partners... and yes, you should find someone to work with you.

They have been invaluable to me.

I wish I could help Alex, but I haven't read CASSASTAR and I am sooo busy editing my two novels.

Good luck. I wish you all the best.


Arlee Bird said...

I need a good critiquer myself, but I don't know how good of a critique partner I would be. Unless the writer is really bad and has really poor spelling, I tend not to catch things very well and just get caught up in the story. Maybe with practice. I'd like to get involved with a good critique group to get better attuned to this process. If all else fails let me know, but I don't think you'll get that desparate.

Tossing It Out
Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

mshatch said...

I'd be happy to read your sequel, Alex :)

Rachna Chhabria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachna Chhabria said...

I am looking around for a good crit partner myself. Though few writers have volunteered, I am scared of sending them my work as I fear they may find it crappy. For my earlier books, my editor doubled as my crit partner. In India we have yet to form writer's groups and the idea of crit partners hasn't picked up yet.

Hope you find the perfect crit partner soon.

Glynis Peters said...

Do it! I plucked up the courage last month and it is the best thing that I ever did.

I am too busy reading for others and editing my own at the moment. Sorry, I would have loved to help. :( I am sure you will find someone with no problems, Alex.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I give my manuscript to my mom and my agent. My mom gets the manuscript, frequently, before I've even put my chapter breaks in (she puts up with a lot.) :)

Abby Minard said...

Beta readers are a great asset because they love the genre and will tell you if it's sci fi fan worthy.

Crit partners are great for the grammar, the plot holes, the encouragement, and offer great questions you wouldn't have thought of.

I think the biggest thing for you would be to find someone who writes the same genre. I have 4 crit partners that write YA fantasy, and one that writes adult and YA fantasy. It is SO much better when your CP reads and writes the same genre. They understand it better and know the ins and outs of it.

So if you can find someone that writes (and reads) Adult sci fi, you're golden.

Sheila Deeth said...

I'm in a writers' group. Getting good critique is hard in a group though--always "shared" with everyone else's needs. But finding one member who'll work with you, who won't always say it's good, or read it from your point of view--invaluable!

Abby Minard said...

Oops, I mean I have 3 crit partners in my group, and then one outside the group.


Save me for last. I love to edit. Making sure you used words correctly and cleaning up anything that you didn't catch. Anyway that's what my writing friends say about my editing.
If you get in a pinch and need someone else, let me know.
I didn't read CassaStar. I know - I need to be punished. But I'm still going to. My life isn't over yet.
Blessings, Barb

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

I'm in the same boat. I am terrified of crit partners, I don't have one. I know that I am too close to my work now and I need different eyes. I'd suggest us switching with each other, but I don't know if you'd be into fantasy romance ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

I share much of my writing with a writing group but do not have a critque partner per se.

Talli Roland said...

I have a fantastic crit partner - I really trust her judgment. It helps if you find one in the same genre as you.

Jules said...

Can I just say, "I hope it works out" and still have some candy? You are the one throwing candy, right?! :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Unknown said...

I think critique partners are so important. I hope you find one. It's important to find one in the genre you write as well.

Kittie Howard said...

I see you've got volunteers. I'm careful about volunteering because I'm a grammar freak and quick at what doesn't work (I know, an odd combo.) This isn't for everyone. If you like, I'll read the first chapters for you.

Pat Tillett said...

I'd love to do it, but I'm all about the story and not so much about the "technical" issues.

I'm sure that doesn't bode well for my future as an author...

Jai Joshi said...

I belong to a critique group and I adore them. I don't show them everything I write or listen to everything they say but it's always a valuable experience to hear what other writers have to say about my work. It's like looking at it with fresh unbiased eyes that are trained in writing just like I am.


M Pax said...

Yes, I have critique partners. It's scary at first, but then you realize they're there to help you and if you listen you only improve.

If we move, I'll probably lose one of my groups. My friend Paty just started a site to match folks up with crit partners. Or there's Critters which is a sci fi critique site.

If you're having trouble finding somebody, send me an email.

Sand Castles and Snow Forts said...

I have 4 that walk through the process with me. One is my mom. She was an excutive secretary for over 30 years and she'll mark out an entire page at a time! She does love her little red pen! I have one that asks the hard question and gives the hard facts like, "I have no idea what this sentence means." I have the cheerleader who loves every page, and the encourager... she can broaden my character with one simple idea. It is nice to have someone to walk through a story with you.

Michelle in a shell said...

If I knew what I was doing I would offer my services. But alas... Best of luck finding one!

Mara Nash said...

After 50+ comments you probably have all the critique partners you need, but I'll throw my hat in the ring just in case. I haven't read Cassastar, but of course am willing and interested to do so.

I like sci-fi and I am writing a "soft" sci-fi novel myself (not high-tech) the first draft of which is nearly complete, so feedback from another sci-fi writer would be awesome, if you're willing to trade. (and - gasp - one of my MCs is a woman too. lol.)

Good luck and let me know if you're interested.

Unknown said...

Don't have a critique partner, either.

I get what you mean. I have people to read my things, but no writer-reader.

Of course, writer's should also always be readers in the first place.. . I haven't read your first book yet, sorry.
But we did have a lecture on sci-fi and speculative fiction (there is a difference). Sci-fi shouldn't be conceived as just technology. It's the little things of humankind that could be important in future paths, curves or dissections.
Nahno ∗ McLein

Old Kitty said...

Woman is good!! Women even better! Women in leather and looking gorgeous is beyond better. Ahem.

Byron 20 years older is even scrummier.

Sorry, getting side-tracked!!

GOOD LUCK finding a critique partner!!!!! I'm rubbish at critiquing esp if it's Cassastar mark 2 as I'd not stop drooling.

Right, cold shower time! Take care

Sherri Lackey said...

It looks like you found some critique partners, but I thought I would chime in anyway since I write scifi too.

I had four people who read, critiqued, and edited my second book. They are all members of my family and two of them (my twin sons)write scifi as well.

I'm currently reading/editing my oldest (by five minutes) son's manuscript. It's his first attempt at writing a novel and he's already better at it than me. I'm trying not to be envious, but when you start reading someone's first manuscript and the name Terry Brooks pops into your head, well... At least I know when I should or should not use a comma. My son needs some work on that.

Maybe sometime in the future I can be one of your test readers. Happy writing!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I used to have a critique partner. She did lots for me when I first started writing. I highly recommend them though I don't have one right now.

Jemi Fraser said...

Crit partners are invaluable - I have 2 who are amazing. Sounds like you have some great offers already!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Initially crit partners are scary. It's not always easy to find a good match too. They are worth their weight in gold when you do though.

Rusty Carl said...

I think I've pretty much struck out for critique partners. Could be I suck so bad no one has the guts to let me know.

That said, I keep plugging away and figure it'll work itself out.

Anyway, I'd offer my services as a critique partner for you if you so desire. I did read CassaStar and am a sci fi reader and writer. Looks like you've had several offers already though. So, I'm there if you need me, but no big deal either way.

Good luck.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sarah, I don't need it that quick.

Nancy, I have lots of offers! I have two test readers - just wanted to add another.

Lee, that's how I feel.

Barb, that's all right!

Jules, I am!

Pat, I'm sure you'd do great.

Mara, thanks!

Kitty, a laugh as always!

Rusty, thanks - will get with you!

Copyboy said...

sadly as a copywriter I'm good at 28-30 second copy. Been doing that for years.

Kal said...

I find it's best to have someone you respect critique your work. We are fickle creatures who need our ego stroked and validated. That can always be a fine line. I used to have a guy who visited my web site take me to task early over my love of Selena. I never thought I was over the line with my comments but maybe that was because of him. When she turned 18 he mysteriously went away. Go figure.

I can't believe you are already at that stage with your second book. YOU SIR, are a going concern. Good luck.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Hey, you've got lots a love here going on your blog! I'm glad you have an array of critters to help!

I don't mind reading first drafts, I enjoy them. I look at it as a 'fun' part of writing.

I wish you the best on your journey ;)

♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥

dolorah said...

Your writing style has a momentum to it Alex. Easy enough to relate to, and works well with the pacing of your story.

I haven't finished Cassastar yet - I'm slow reader, and got a little distracted by a submission deadline (ALH3).

I meet 2x a month with my ftf crit group; we're at 7 members now, I think. A variety of writers, which means a variety of critiquing voices. Good input and exchange of ideas.

I'd partner with you, if you don't mind my rough-around-the-edges style. Looks like you have a lot of partners to choose from. Good luck making your choices - I'd recommend two or three.


The Words Crafter said...

I would love to offer my services, but alas, I am never able to focus on the technical stuff. I always, ALWAYS, get lost in the story. Which is good, I suppose. It means the story has captured me.

There you go. I would be able to tell you if the story was good, that's all :)

I hope you find one, good luck!

Rusty Carl said...

Alex - I've recently added an about me page to my blog. It has contact info at the bottom if you decide to send me a message.

Otherwise, happy writing.

Ella said...

This is a great idea; I want one, too. I need to write something besides poems and blog posts. I had one critiqued on another side, I now know what pain feels like...ouch!

Excepted about the Woman and pass the Hot Tamales and the War Heads...Thanxs!

Karen M. Peterson said...

Sounds like you've gotten lots of offers, which is great!

Digging through the writing of a story and helping make it better happens to be an area of expertise for me. I spend some of my working hours helping in the Writing Center.

You know, if you're still looking.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Kal, thanks dude!

Thank you. Elizabeth.

Thanks Donna - I appreciate that!

Thanks, Words.

Ella, you always make me smile!

Thanks, Karen - I appreciate the offer.

Jeff Beesler said...

Dude, I find myself a bit lacking in the critique partners area right now and would be mightily humbled if you were to consider adding me to your army of critique partners. You know how much I enjoyed reading CassaStar and am looking forward to the sequel! I've been a slush pile reader for a small press publisher for a while now and just got done critiquing a horror novella for an author.

Let me know if you could use my assist, Alex. You know I won't say no to you.

Huntress said...

Why not begin a critique group? Sort them into several branches according to preferred genre and skill.

I mean, you're not busy or anything, right?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Jeffrey, thanks so much! And I'd say you are more qualified than I am.

Huntress, no, not busy at all!!

Julie Dao said...

I love my critique group, but it's totally scary to send off drafts to them. I think it's terrifying to send off drafts to anyone, actually, but in the end it's usually more than worth it! It's good if you have people who know how to critique and be kind at the same time. Hope you find the right CPs, Alex!

Hart Johnson said...

Alex-I've found different readers spot different things, even as WRITERS. I STRONGLY recommend not just one, but a couple. I have my writer's group, but I also have done a lot of one-on-one swaps and they help a lot.

I'm happy to give a read, if you'd like. My strengths tend to be big picture and characterization stuff (that psych background).

Susan Fields said...

Sounds like you've got some great crit partner possibilities here! I'm actually thinking about starting to look for CPs for a resurrected and revamped novel, but it's epic fantasy so probably not what you're looking for.

Donea Lee said...

Hi Alex - looks like you've got some great choices here! I'd also be happy to read through your sequel.

I haven't read Cassastar yet, but heck! I'll go download it right now. Honestly, I don't read a lot of sci-fi (awful, I know), BUT I do watch a lot of sci-fi. Not sure I'm the perfect critiquer out there either (really selling myself here, right?) but, I always give my honest opinion. Best of luck in your search for the perfect CP! :)

Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

Hey Man, I hope ya find the perfect match for a critique partner 'cause it sounds like a grand idea to me. Ya gotta find one who you can play well with though or it just won't work.

God bless ya Man and have a marvelous day!!! :o)

SpacerGuy said...

A Science Fiction friend of mine read my cosmic trek story 4 years ago. Its unfinished and still a rough draft but at least its totally unique... Analysis: I've written a fun story with my writing going from strength to strength! Result: Still no book. I still get a really good chuckle every time I read it. Where did I go wrong? Good luck with the hunting Alex.

Libby said...

I did a blog post on critique groups recently and would have to say I am a fan. Is it scary, you betcha. Is it worth it, without a doubt. Getting lots of different views helps a good bit. I truly believe that.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Alex,

I belong to a face-to-face critique group with a total of six members, and a small online group as well. I also start new critique groups for Northern Colorado Writers. I have no fear of critiques -- the feedback I receive and the critiquing I do for others help make me a better writer, and that's what it's all about.

Missed Periods said...

My critique group is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Then my husband.

A Beer for the Shower said...

The two of us are each other's critique partners, and it works out really well. We've gotten past the point of, "Oh, that was really good, I loved all of it" to "this part was rough, and needs some work."

We like to use the comment feature in Word and attach comments everywhere -- what we liked, what we didn't like. What worked, what didn't work.

Don't forget, critiquing isn't just about the bad. I like to point out what stands out as being really good, as well, so the author knows what they're doing right just as much as they know what to improve upon.

If either of us can be of help, our e-mail is on our profile page.

Julie Musil said...

Alex, I do have critique partners and they are the best thing. They point out all kinds of problems, from small to big. Not only that, they're cheerleaders for the things I do right.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Julie, I need some with a kind touch!

Hart, I appreciate that.

Donea, you are honest though! And I've found science fiction readers aren't my core audience.

Spacerguy, that's a bummer.

Sounds like a big plus, Patricia.

Thanks, Beer. Really hoping there's SOME good...

Julie, I need a cheerleader as well.

Univarn said...

*grabs critical looking mustache - no not that one that's so Snidley Whiplash you're imagining... the one that makes me look smart. Wait You went for Hercule Poirot didn't you. Gah, I'll never win.*

Oh, sorry, am I interrupting. I just came from solving war tribe crimes in foreign lands where that sort of stuff is still going down.

I think this is a good idea Alex, and an especially good one if you can avoid the pitfall of handing out the sequel to your book to half your fanbase :P

Colene Murphy said...

Holy smokes that's a lot of advice and offers! I agree, you need more than one partner. People look for different things as they read, and miss different things. I have 3 in a group and have had 2 other people read it before them. All have spotted different things, yes. But another cool bit about having more than one is that when someone suggests an addition or subtraction to your work that you're unsure of listening to/want to ignore because it's your work and you don't have to change that damnit, you can always fall back on others. If more than one person suggests the change, then you know it's too obvious to ignore.

Good luck on your quest! I would be so freaking fan-girl thrilled to help but I feel highly unqualified!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Colene, definitely aiming for two critique partners.

Suzanne said...

I don't know, why wouldn't a science fiction reader notice a plot issue? I think they certainly would. Although I think your critique would be more well-rounded if you did find a writer as a critique partner.