I'm a big fan of critiques. I belong to a local RWA chapter that puts a lot of emphasis on critiquing. We have three critiques each month. During a critique, the reader can bring part of a mss (usually the first chapter), an outline, a synopsis, or even a query in order to get feedback from the rest of the group. The usual procedure is to have the reader read aloud, and then afterwards, there is time given for the listeners to write comments on the pages before the verbal critiquing session begins.
I swear by these sessions. Every full-length novel I've had published has gone up in front of my chapter before I even think about submitting it somewhere. Most of the time I get just as much out of listening and participating in other people's critiques as well.
About a week and a half ago I had an impromptu critique opportunity. The girl signed up to read at the meeting had to back out at the last minute and the Manuscript Chair sent out an e-mail Sunday night - our meetings are on Mondays - asking if anyone could jump in at the last minute. I had the first few chapters and some tidbits of a mss on file. I hadn't looked at in a while. I'd been caught up in revisions for "This Feels Like Home" and writing The Vampire and the Vixen. But I thought, what the heck? If there's a spot open, I can make some copies and bring it in to read. She gave me the spot, so I made my copies and brought the mss in to the meeting. I told everyone it was pretty 'raw' and that I hadn't looked at it in quite a while, but I didn't want to pass up the opportunity for a critique.
Once again, I'm so glad I volunteered to read. The mss was met with a lot of positive feedback...everyone really loved the premise and the characters...and I got some helpful suggestions for tweaking a few parts to make things even stronger. Of course since then I haven't had a chance to look to much further at it, but I've pretty much decided it will be my next project and I need to keep going with the project. FYI, the story is called "One Great Night". The opening line is, "I want you to be my sex tutor." The basic storyline is the heroine wants her brother's best friend to 'tutor' her in the bedroom. Right now I'm thinking novella length, but based on some of the suggestions made during the critique, I may decide to dig a lot deeper and bring it to a full-length. Only time will tell.
I'd love to have a regular critique partner, but to be honest, I don't have the time. I barely have enough time to get my own writing done, let alone give someone else proper due. Maybe I'll make it a summer thing. That's when I get most of my writing done anyway. I know some of you work with critique partners. How do you work it? Do you meet on a regular basis? Is it a face-to-face thing or via e-mail? Do you critique individual chapters? The entire mss? There are so many ways to work it. I think when you find what works for you, you stick with it and go from there.
Until next time,