Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The other kind of partner...

Weekend before last, my Critique Partner and I met in Nashville for a weekend of plotting and planning. Nashville is about half-way for both of us—not so far that it’s a nightmare drive, but not so close that I feel the need to run home mid-day to feed the family. :-)

The purpose of the plotting weekend is just that—plotting books. We spent half the time on my books, making sure the plot I had was working, and plotting out the endings in ways that made sense. The other half of the time we spent plotting her newest book. By the time we broke for dinner Saturday night, we had three books sketched out in notebooks. We also spent time discussing our careers—which agents to query, where we hoped to go next, the ins and outs of website design. Seven pm on Friday night to eleven am Sunday morning—thirty-six hours of books, books, and more books. I went home energized and ready to write. I think we should make this a twice-a-year event—a standing date to plan books and careers without the distractions of everyday life.

Critique Partner relationships can be odd animals. A good CP relationship is like a marriage—you need trust and caring. You have to want the best for the other person and have that person bring out the best in you. Your CP needs to challenge you, respect you, and most of all, “get” you. Good CPs are as hard to come by as good husbands and the relationship should be nurtured like your marriage.

Yet getting a CP is nothing like how you met and dated your Darling. At least I hope not. It’s like meeting someone you think you might like and then sleeping with them on the first date to see if you’re compatible. I placed a personal ad on a writers’ loop to find my CP. She responded, we introduced ourselves online and then we sent chapters to each other to see if we clicked. Sending work to a complete stranger and asking her to tell you what she thinks—honestly—is scary and felt a lot like jumping into bed with a complete stranger.

Much like in those arranged marriages we all love to read about in romance novels, CPs start with the intimacy and then move to the getting to know and trust each other. Heck, we’d been critting each other for over a year before we ever actually met in person. By then, we’d already been through the joy of requests and contest wins and the agony of rejections. How do you meet an old friend for the first time?

I know of lots of people who have multiple CPs. CP relationships don’t have to be exclusive. Not me. I don’t have the time to critique more than one person. Yes, the Playfriends are known to circulate chapters or synopses, but that usually only happens right before something goes off in the mail—the last (or next-to-last) read mainly for fresh eyes on the story (and the typos). I don’t normally give them raw stuff. My poor CP gets the raw drafts—sometimes they are barely saved before they’re in her mailbox awaiting judgment and advice. Sometimes we rewrite the same scene over and over again. I’m invested in her books, and she’s invested in mine. CPs get the tough jobs.

My CP has made me a stronger and better writer. Ask other writers about their CPs and you’ll hear similar stories. Check out the dedications of books; that writer’s CP is most likely in that list of names. Because good CPs are hard to come by.

So, tell me about the person who challenges, inspires, and “gets” you. DH? BFF? I’ll let my CP judge the comments and I'll send a giftie for the comment she likes best.

16 comments:

KimW said...

The person who inspires and challenges me most is my husband. Twenty one years of warmth and positive thoughts have taken the "brat" out of me and made me a better person today.

Rhonda said...

Thankfully, I've got lots of people who "get" me. I don't have a CP anymore--though the one I had was fabulous--but instead do plotting sessions with a couple of really close writer friends. We get together a couple of times a year and set goals, plot books, discuss market changes and whatnot. It's *wonderful*. I'm also very lucky to have an editor who gets me. Thank God. :-)

Jen said...

Well, ditto what Rhonda said. I don't have a CP per se. I did for a while and it worked for me at that point in time. We wrote two totally different types of book and were very different stylistically. But I've found I don't do well with turning over a chapter to be read, processign the feedback and then going back to "fix it". It bogs me down. What I do now is two plotting sessions twice a year with two really great writing buddies that I trust implicitly, Rhonda Nelson and Vicki Lewis Thompson, the three of us known as the BentQuillPosse. The synergy between us is almost magical. Not only are they great friends, but we accomplish great things when we get together.

Playground Monitor said...

I don't have a CP. I've had a couple in the past but they didn't work out for various reasons -- one wrote way faster than me and I felt I was holding her back, another had the grammar skills of a two-year-old and I didn't have time to critique content and grammar.

Now I do some informal critting with a couple folks who also write short stories.

As for inspiring me -- everyone who plops their fanny in the chair daily and writes inspires me. It's a solitary job and not always filled with joy.

And as for getting me -- the Playfriends all get each other in different ways. We were sitting around the bookstore Saturday night talking about how each of us would handle a subject differently. One would have the H/h in bed several times by page 40, another would have them engaging in lots of introspection before they went to bed, the third would have them joking a lot before they warmed the sheets, the fourth would throw in the paranormal element and I could have them in bed and raising the next generation in 40 pages. *g*

PM

Rhonda said...

PM, and *every* story would be fabulous. Isn't that the coolest thing? :-)

Maven LJ said...

I'm lucky enough to have several people in my life who get me. My DH - and he'd better, since we've been married 35 years. My brother. We just think too much alike. Scary. A few friends -- including a couple who know me TOO well. Some days there are just NO secrets. :-)

LJ

principessa said...

After 37 years my husband imbues me with his determination and creativity. He understands what is important in life and has influenced my choices and future.

Pat said...

My daughter inspires me. She works with retarded people. Is so patient with them. They love her and it takes a special type of person to do the work she does.

There is one client in need of clothes and other things and she has bought things for him out of her own pocket as well as asking others for donations. She is truly a special young woman. And I love her very much.

Pat said...

What is CP?

Problem Child said...

Pat:
CP is short for Critque Partner.

PC

Smarty Pants said...

It depends. My mom and DB "get me" as a person. They probably know me the best. My mom, of course, can read my expressionless face like a book. DB is getting better at it.

As a writer, though, the Playfriends and the Mavens have that distinction. I think its a part of my life that others, especially DB, has trouble grasping. He always gets that glazed look that I get when he starts talking about dirt bikes. He knows its important, but the nuances of it - like the importance of a full request or a contest win - just rank a "that's nice, Baby."

SP

catslady said...

It has to be my 84 year old mother. She was married for 50 years, worked outside the home for most of it, and took care of my father who was extremely sick. She takes care of her own home and does mostly everything herself. In fact she still helps out her daughters and grandkids and great grandkids. She is the one who keeps us all together as a family.

pearl said...

My husband has the most drive and grit which always astounds me. I have always been awamxed at his work ethic and his integrity. He has become a mentor in may ways and I am fortunate to have met him.

Lois said...

Well, right now, I'm in between colleges, not sure *precisely* where I'm going next, although have a pretty good idea. . . so the only individual here who truly gets me and challenges me is my Kitty. I mean, she stares are me for hours before lunchtime to get her dry food and treats. But I won't give them to her! :)

Now, hopefully once I make it back to school, I'll gain someone else to be something along a CP. ;)

Lois

ellie said...

I have a good friend who lost her husband this past year and he was exceptional in every way. To be able to measure up to this individual would be wonderful. She has shown me courage and the utmost in a wonderful attitude. This has affected me in a positive manner.

robynl said...

The person who challenges and inspires me is my late Mom who passed away 3+ years ago from breast cancer. She kept a happy face throughout life and no matter what was thrown at her she could find a happy moment or two. Her faith kept her going and she was always concerned for others(especially her family) no matter her own circumstances. After raising 5 kids and milking cows most of her life she went to work in the big city. Up at 4:00 each morning and in to work by 6:00 having driven 30 miles she was there with a smile on her face and ready to face the day(working in the OR as a housekeeper). One time they moved her to another department and the OR nurses said if she moved they would quit because they liked her so much. I try to be like her as much as my person will allow and when I think of her it keeps me going to some degree.

The one who gets me is dh. He let's me be 'me'. He keeps quiet until I get over whatever is bothering me and then offers his opinion. He does not interfere very much but at times I wish he was more active.