As an aspiring novelist— No, strike that. As a novelist who is aspiring to be published, I’m beginning to see how reaching my goal is something like achieving the speed of light. As one approaches success, one finds it becomes exponentially harder to keep moving forward.
Of course, for writers, the answer to the question of how to continually improve one’s craft is simply to keep writing. And I’m doing that. In fact I’m doing that this very moment. This blog is as valuable or more to me as it is for anyone who reads it and learns some tiny fragment of wisdom or gets a momentary smile. I’m also working hard on my third novel and have plans for several more. I have a loooooooong way to go before I am going to run into the issue of struggling against my own momentum.
No, what I’m talking about is actually getter my most recent book published. We move closer and closer to success by increments – some of them only measurable by highly sophisticated scientific instruments in some high-tech lab – but with each rejection, each bit of feedback from a contest judge, each new insight from a fellow query-trench commando – my daughter and I learn somthing which we can apply to our manuscript or our query to better entice an agent. But I fear the big easy fixes are all past, and the only improvements ahead are increasingly more subtle. Or more difficult.
We have run our first several chapters and query letter through countless beta readers, workshops, critique groups, and contests. We’re getting requests. But still no offers. I’m beginning to suspect if there us something wrong with our book, it is somewhere in the middle. One of the things that drives me so enthusiastically into many of these contests is that if we get in we can have our whole manuscript edited by a professional editor with a proven track record of success. Because we can not afford to pay a decent editor.
This is where a dedicated critique partner comes in. He or she can be your personal editor, your cheerleader, and your writing partner all rolled into one. If you can find a fellow writer who gets your writing (and whose writing you get), and with whom you get along, it is better than an editor. For one, it is free. Of course, you have to be willing to give as well as you get with regard to reading and critiquing your partner’s work, but as I’ve observed in the past, giving critiques is as good or better for you writing than receiving critiques.
So where do you find a critique partner? Find your CP wherever fine writers are sold. Or, less cheeky, fin them on Twitter, joining contests, querying, and looking for advice and tips just like you are. Last week there was a #CPMatch Twitter party, and these happen all the time. Sometimes writers host these parties, where you pitch your book on Twitter with the #CPMatch hashtag, and other writers seeking a CP will look for someone with a book that appeals to them. Sometimes writers host these on their blogs and announce them on Twitter. Or, you could just send out a call for writing partners through your own social network. However you do it, be aware it may take several tries before you find a compatible partner.
Hey! Just like dating!