I was originally scheduled to participate in the Blog Chain on Monday, but since I had some exciting news to share, Kate agreed to switch dates with me. This round, Sarah asked,
Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals, and what influence have they had on your work?
Yes, I do work with critique partners. I feel it's vital to have someone--preferably several someones--look over your work before you submit it. Since the whole point of writing is to communicate with others, it's important to make sure your words are saying what you think they're saying. Crit partners can catch errors, inconsistencies, plot holes, and other "big picture" problems, but sometimes it's also useful to have someone look at your story on a line-by-line basis.
Over the years, I've found many crit partners in many different ways. I found one of my first crit partners (I think his first name was Richard) through a snail-mail science fiction/fantasy group for writers. (I can't even remember which one this was, but it was well over a decade ago.) I've met others as part of writing workshops held at conventions; I'm still friends with some of them (Hi, Margie and David!) even if we no longer exchange drafts. I met Heather through Broad Universe, and we still review each other's work occasionally.
These days, I mostly find crit partners on the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. It's a paid workshop, though you get a trial month for free when you start. It works by requiring members to earn points by critiquing others' chapters and stories. (My lifetime review count stands at 875.) After you've earned four points, you can spend them by posting your own work for critique. Although anyone can review any story, in practice, most members form crit groups with people who post on the same schedule or write stories they like. My current group of crit partners consists of Susan Elizabeth Curnow, Heidi Garrett, Elizabeth Hull, Ann Winter, and Zvi Zaks. You might recognize those names from the Acknowledgements page of Lyon's Legacy I posted last week.
What influence do my crit partners have on my work? In brief, a lot. I use most of their comments when I revise; sometimes I go in a different direction than what they may have suggested, but I do that when I feel their advice has merit but doesn't fit with my vision of the story. These situations may be the most valuable, since they make me stop and think about my story. I feel that critiquing and being critiqued has really improved my writing ability. In particular, sometimes my main characters come across as unlikeable in the beginning, so my crit partners have made me focus on that and work to overcome that problem.
I can't resist adding a little tribute to my crit partners:
To follow the rest of the chain, see what Matt said yesterday, and check out Cole's blog tomorrow.