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Feb 19, 2014

How to Find a Critique Buddy: A Guest Post by Tori L. Ridgewood

Posted by Wendy Ewurum  |  at  6:15 AM

Today Tori drops it to chat about a topic that I have been asked about and who;s answer has elluded me. I am very excited to have her on the blog because I think the amount of attention she gave in preparing this post is commendable and has incredibly valuable information for any author. I hope you enjoy her post too.
Without further ado, I give you Tori L. Ridgewood, ladies and gentleman.



Finding someone who can read your latest work and give you honest feedback in a way you can
appreciate is like finding that perfect first date. You’re looking for common interests that can build your conversation, the kind of openness that welcomes you in but doesn’t make you feel as though you’re being patronized, and the knowledge that you can reciprocate in kind when offered their work in exchange.

A critique buddy is a friend whose opinion you respect, whose company you enjoy, and whose experience and talents give you a new target to reach, raising the bar on your own work. He pushes you to refine your word choices and tighten your paragraphs, make your dialogue more believable and your descriptions more eloquent. She tells you when you’ve left a hole in the plot, when an explanation needs to be more clear, a speech feels robotic, and whether a hanging thread adds or takes away from the plot. And then your buddy reassures you, bolsters your spirits, gives you positive commentary that renews your determination to get the thing done at last. 

A writer would be lost without an effective critique buddy, but how does one go about acquiring such an elusive beast?

I wandered for years without a critique buddy, not realizing how valuable it would be to have someone on my side. But since I began having my work published in 2011, I’ve been fortunate to gain two individuals who regularly read and advise me on my works in progress, and I do the same for them. 

Here are some ways you can find a critique buddy, if you don’t already have one:

1) Talk to writers with whom you already have a connection.

This is how I stumbled onto my critique buddies, and it was quite by accident. After having some short pieces accepted for anthologies, I corresponded a little with some of the other authors, exchanging general feedback. Then, there came an afternoon when I opened my email and one of the contributors, having enjoyed my story, wanted my opinion on her next submission and was offering to give me feedback in return. Another, I met through NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) -- I’d posted an excerpt of my book on my profile and after reading it, the lovely lady wanted to read more and make suggestions to me, if I was willing to receive them and do the same for her. 

2) Be polite and direct about your request. 

A critique buddy is, in my opinion, a little different than a beta reader. The latter is your test subject, the individual who will preview your work before it’s ready for submission. These are valuable as well, but your beta reader won’t necessarily be a writer. He or she is your final audience. The critique buddy, however, reads with an eye to being constructive after the first, second, third, or subsequent draft. It’s this person who will read with an eye on style, format, word choice, etc., making notes along the way and telling you where you might be drifting. Very similar to an editor, your critique buddy looks at your work before it’s even ready for that near-final step of being viewed by your publishing company’s staff, and if you’re an indie writer about to self-publish, the critique buddy becomes that much more valuable for taking on some of the editor’s tasks. So when you find someone you think might be able to speak your language, in a metaphorical sense, tell him or her exactly what you’re looking for. It helps the critique buddy to narrow the reading target, and if his / her schedule is already loaded, to determine whether your timeline will work.

3) Put the word out on your favourite social media!

I’ve seen requests for critique buddies posted on Facebook and Twitter, which is also a great way to start. Sometimes your regular CB’s are already swamped with their own projects, or regular life gets in the way, so it doesn’t hurt to put a call out. Also, sometimes you will want someone who doesn’t know you personally in order to have a less biased perspective. Be clear about your genre, your target audience, and what you need from the critique buddy, though -- there isn’t much sense in asking a lover of fantasy to have a go at your science-fiction unless there is definitely a cross-over of interests, or you want to find ways to work more of the other genre into your piece. 

4) Join (or organize) a writer’s group, either online or locally.

It’s much easier now than it used to be to find writers and share one’s current projects, especially without having to print everything. Copying and pasting documents into emails has become the status quo. But sometimes, it’s nice to go old-school and have a physically printed copy to pass on to a reliable individual for their constructive feedback. Talk to local high school teachers who are on some down time and looking for an enjoyable intellectual challenge, or librarians who know of readers who would like to help a writer to improve. It never hurts to ask, and sometimes, feedback is easier to receive and comprehend when it’s accompanied by eye contact, body language, and verbal tone. Emoticons are all right when it comes to giving a comment some context, but they can be misconstrued or feel trite when you don’t know the individual personally.

5) Be open-minded. 

Remember, you’re asking for help to make sure your book is the best it can be. You’re not asking a loved one to tell you it’s already perfect. Our goals, as writers, are to improve our skills with every project. As individuals, we are our own best competition. If you’re not prepared to review the comments, suggestions, and potential changes to your writing that your critique buddy is giving you with appreciation, you might have to rethink some of your choices. Your CB is not there to tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to know. If you’re not sure that something is working, and he agrees, that’s an excellent reassurance that your instincts are functioning -- you needed to know that in order to continue. And it’s important to remember the subjective nature of fictional writing. Not everyone is going to like what you produce. One of your aims, in having a critique buddy, is to make sure that your writing is clear and that those you think will like the book will have a good time reading it. Thus, it follows that your critique buddy should enjoy reading it, too, and if he/she does not, be able to accept that something needs to be fixed to make it work.

It’s an honour to be one of those individuals who is able to give and receive critique with diplomacy, directness, honesty, and clarity. A critique buddy can most definitely be a friend, as long as their openness does not challenge your friendship. And it shouldn’t -- a good friend should be someone who can tell you anything and your relationship won’t suffer for it. Choosing your CB with that awareness can be a great advantage and only improve your work in the long run.

Thanks so much for having me on Fabulosity Reads!







Tori L. Ridgewood’s new book Wind and Shadow: Book One of the Talbot Trilogy, published by Melange Books, was released on June 20, 2013.
  
After a series of misadventures including being accused of attempted murder in high school, Rayvin Woods, a photographer and natural witch, left her hometown of Talbot in Northeastern Ontario, hoping to start her life over and never return. Ten years later, circumstances force her back to face her past and her former crush Grant Michaels. 

Malcolm de Sade, a cunning vampire, escapes from an underground prison looking for vengeance. His accidental release unleashes his hunger and ambition on a small, sleepy town. Rayvin’s power is all that stands between de Sade and his domination of Talbot, and beyond.

Grant Michaels, a police officer, thought Rayvin was a murderer. He will do whatever it takes to protect the community he loves from danger... but will he learn to trust his heart, and the word of a witch, before it's too late?

Rayvin didn't count on rekindling a lost love or battling a malevolent vampire and his coven for her life when she came home to Talbot. Facing the past can be a nightmare… It’s worse when a vampire is stalking you.

Wind and Shadow is available for sale on Amazon.

“During a period of writer’s block on Wind and Shadow, I wrote a prequel novella titled Mist and Midnight to help myself find answers to questions about how my vampire was trapped, and why he had come to the small town of Talbot in the first place. Mist and Midnight was released in 2011 as part of the Midnight Thirsts anthology, published by Melange Books. It’s a stand-alone piece, but it’s a terrific companion to The Talbot Trilogy,” said Ridgewood.




After her first heartbreak, Tori found solace in two things: reading romance novels and listening to an after-dark radio program called Lovers and Other Strangers. Throughout the summer and fall of 1990, the new kid in town found reading fiction and writing her own short stories gave her a much needed creative outlet. Determined to become a published author, Tori amassed stacks of notebooks and boxes of filed-away stories, most only half-finished before another idea would overtake her and demand to be written down. Then, while on parental leave with her second baby, one story formed and refused to be packed away. Between teaching full-time, parenting, and life in general, it would take almost seven years before the first novel in her first trilogy would be completed. In the process, Tori finally found her stride as a writer. 

At present, on her off-time, Tori not only enjoys reading, but also listening to an eclectic mix of music as she walks the family dog (Skittles), attempts to turn her thumb green, or makes needlework gifts for her friends and family members. She loves to travel, collect and make miniature furniture, and a good cup of tea during a thunderstorm or a blizzard. Under it all, she is always intrigued by history, the supernatural, vampire and shapeshifter mythology, romance, and other dangers.

Tori is currently working on Crystal and Wand: Book Three of The Talbot Trilogy. She lives in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada with her husband and two children. She is a full-time teacher at a local high school. 





About the Author

Most know me as the author to Fabulosity Reads and in actual fact, that is the previous name of this blog. I have since then moved my books to a Wordpress self-hosted blog so that I can have a place to show a different side of me which I am equally passionate about and that is marketing and personal development. I hope you will love being here, watching me grow as I share and learn. My highest hope is that we will grown and learn together in all disciplines affecting our lives. I'd LUUURRRVE to hear from you, so don't be shy...

3 comments:

  1. You're analogy about trying to find a good cp and that first date is spot on. I've joined many critique groups and left many critique groups - they weren't the right fit. Then having found a couple cps - one has just stop being involved in writing - so I'm back to hunting for a replacement.
    Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd suggest joining an in-person writing group as well. I found a great one via the Meet-Up website. It's also good to establish ground rules and agree to amend them as needed. Sometimes, a CP just doesn't work out, especially if the amount of feedback given is lop-sided. I love my CPs and hate to think of the day I will have to change it up.

    ReplyDelete

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