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.