Hi everyone! Welcome to the Writer’s Block Party! We’re a group of critique partners (CPs) who write young adult and middle grade speculative fiction. Though we all met online, we’ve quickly become close friends, sharing our love of books and writing. As an introduction to our blog, here’s a little more about who we are, how we met, and what we love about our CP relationships.
Note: This post is done in a roundtable style where members of Writer’s Block Party discuss a topic together.
Moderator: Mara Fitzgerald / Editor: Axie Oh
Akshaya: Encouragement. Even about non-writing things. I love that anytime I’m having a bad day I can come here and know y’all will come through for me with the exact words of wisdom I need.
Christine: Critique partners turn writing, a solitary hobby, into a group effort. Even though you still put the words down by yourself, just having someone cheer you on while you do it makes it incredibly gratifying.
Katy: Yeah, it’s not just about reading a specific manuscript and giving notes–it’s about the whole process of writing, all the bad and good that comes with it. Being able to share frustrations and celebrations with people who truly understand those things is incredibly valuable.
Kat: A critique partner is called a “partner” for a reason. They’re a person who gets why you’re writing what you’re writing. They understand the “soul” of your story and can help you find it again when you stray.
Ashley: Tomato-ing with CPs is also super helpful. (Editor’s Note: Tomato-ing is based off the Pomodoro Technique in which you write in timed intervals. As a group, we usually do 25-minute writing sprints together and check in on Slack).
Mara: The best part about having a CP group is that anytime you have something that needs help you can just yell, “Hey, who wants to look at my query/synopsis/first 250?” and someone will respond. But also any time you are having an issue of any sorts–“Hey, I’m stuck on this world building” or “Hey, I’m feeling unmotivated”–you can feel free to post on this group and someone will come through for you.
Meg: I know when I talk to the other CPs in this group I feel like I belong somewhere and so does my book. CPs want your story to work and want to help you get your book to the best place it can be. They believe in you and your words! It’s nice to remember that there are people who support you and you can tell the small voice in the back of your head that you’re not good enough to take a hike.
Christine: It also helps me stay in touch with the market. I literally work in publishing, and I learn just as much from this CP group as I do being around books all day.
Melody: I love that when I need feedback–whether general or specific, but there’s no back and forth necessary–we can trade work or I just read their work/they just read mine, feedback is given, and that’s that until the need arises again. And then I have a few people within the group who will see multiple drafts of the same manuscript and they are the go to for that MS. In addition, everyone is an emotional support system overall, when entering contests, going to events, querying, etc.
Maddy: Reality check! My CPs make my writing better, and are all around the loveliest friends I could ask for, but they also keep me grounded. They ask hard questions, like – when are you going to get your life together and finish that WIP? And I adore them for it.
Melody: The pro is that we have a CP group of experts in various fields. On top of that, it’s a diverse group of writers and that wasn’t intentional, it just is–because that is real life and I love that our CP group reflects our everyday lives and isn’t a default fantasy world. (No shade.) The con is that I still haven’t read everyone’s work.
Akshaya: I feel like for some people having a group of 10+ CPs can be super overwhelming and that’s okay. You have to find what works for you. I personally love how we’re all so different but that we can come together in a safe place to discuss anything, writing related or not. A place we all know our opinions and feelings are valid and respected.
Axie: I really do love how everyone is also serious about their craft (witchcraft), and I know that when I talk about writing, even the little things will interest people.
Ashley: There are people who have different strengths too when it comes to writing, like pacing/structure, voice and character, world building, etc.
Christine: AKA like you have someone for EVERYTHING. And everyone is at different stages in their process. So no one feels left out or left behind because someone is always around to help with what they need.
Meg: I mean I know because this group was so big, I was worried whether I would make friends. It can be intimidating when everyone seems to know each other and you’re coming in new, but hopefully the right people will open up to you the way this group did for me!
Kat: I think our group works so well because, at the root of it all, we’re fans. We love the books that inspired us to write, and we’ll never stop loving them. So it’s a meeting of minds. And therefore, it doesn’t matter how big we are; we all come from that same love and it makes it easy for us to relate to one another. Also, I know that there’ll always be someone awake at random hours to dissect subtweets with me. So that’s a bonus.
Katy: And a lot of us are at different stages, which is really great too–there’s a variety of experience, and some people are going through the same thing as you while others have already BEEN through it. And it reminds you that no one’s publishing journey is all the same. We all are going to have different experiences and timelines and that’s ok; it doesn’t change the fundamental truth that we all LOVE writing and we want to keep improving.
Mara: One thing you might worry or wonder about is weird conflicts coming from some of us having book deals, some having agents, and some having neither yet (but still having awesome MS’s!). But one of the most amazing aspects of our group, I think, is that we recognize that these are all steps along the journey, and having “achieved” one of these things is just another step along the path. We’re all united by our love of writing and we all share the same feelings of doubt and insecurity–but also the same feelings of elation and passion when we’re working on our craft.
Christine: Well, I found Erin. Actually, Erin found me–nine months after I posted in Susan Dennard’s forum haha. She emailed me on a whim, and I am so glad I emailed her back. And then Erin introduced me to all of you, and the rest is history.
Meg: I found this group through Maggie Stiefvater’s CP Love Connection. It’s where I met Janella! Janella later connected me up with this wonderful group of people.
Mara: I am pretty sure I also found Akshaya through Maggie’s meet-up, LOL.
Akshaya: I found Maddy through Susan Dennard’s forum. Maddy met Janella through Maggie Stiefvater’s. And then I met a bunch of people, including Katy, through Maggie’s, and realized we all kinda knew each other and formed a forum. And thus our #writercult was born. Yay! And then we all added other CPs/friends we thought would be a good fit.
Maddy: What Akshaya said. I met her through Susan’s forum, Janella through Maggie’s, and forced the two of them to be friends. It worked out – we met at RT Dallas that spring, then they met other people on forums…and I borrowed their CPs until we all became friends.
Melody: I met Akshaya through Susan Dennard’s Daydreamers forum. Over time, she introduced me to Janella and Maddy during a Skype session and after that, the floodgates opened and I was brought into the fold of what is now this CP group!
Axie: Janella was my connection! I met her through Natalie C. Parker’s Agented Author hookup and she introduced me to all of you wonderful peeps.
Kat: I was torn about whether to do a smaller conference in April 2016 or go to RT Con. Axie convinced me to try out RT Con because we’d never done it before and it was conveniently in Las Vegas. So I signed up. Then the day before I was to fly out she contacted me and said “I met up with a friend I know from an agented author group. All of her friends are at RT and we’re committed now to hang out with them.” And now here we are!
Ashley: I met Christine at the Columbia Publishing Course in New York. After we geeked out over all the YA books we both love, we realized we were also both YA writers and then she introduced me to all of these amazing ladies.
Mara: I have also met CPs through the AbsoluteWrite forums. It can take a bit of time to integrate yourself into the community but it can be worth it. I also recommend finding people on Twitter! The YA community is VERY active on Twitter! Check out the people who are entering query contests and pitching their MSes and see who seems like your kind of person! I literally will go on #pitmad or whatever contest is happening that day and ask to read random peoples’ MSes. No shame!
Christine: Also, Pitch Wars. Which I did/Janella and Axie did. But even not getting into Pitch Wars, you meet so many people on the hashtag. Tons of people found CPs.
Kat: I gained friends from #DVPit on Twitter and those connections have lasted! Showing support for fellow writers is a great way to connect. I’ve actually met most of my lasting CPs at conferences! But I do know that it’s expensive. So I am a fan of online cons like Write On Con and MSWL has the Manuscript Academy now.
Mara: If you see someone in a contest/on the Twitters whose work you think is cool ask if they need CPs!
Meg: I know when I’m looking for a CP, I want someone who can balance what I need. I need encouragement to keep writing, but I also need a critique that’s going to push the story to be better.
Akshaya: It’s important to surround yourself with people whose work you love. Work that inspires you and keeps pushing you forward. I really truly love what you’re all working on and not just your current WIPs or stuff I’ve read but your ideas, your style, your prose.
Ashley: If you have someone that wants to swap stuff with you, start small with a chapter or two to feel it out. Not just their writing, but also what kind of a CP they are and what kind of a CP they need.
Christine: Big thing: don’t be afraid to say no if you’re uncomfortable. Trusting someone with your writing is a big deal, especially when you’re starting out. If you don’t like the way someone critiqued your work or you don’t care for their writing style, don’t be afraid to cordially part ways.
Melody: It’s important to make sure you clearly state expectations and are accepting of the expectations the other requests. Once you’re on board, trade the first chapter or three and see if you click (writing style, critique style, tone). If on top of great writing when all of the rest clicks into place, that’s when I know that there’s a good thing going.
Kat: It might take awhile to learn how to gracefully take HARD critique, too. Don’t just say no to everyone because they point out character flaws or plot holes. Those are meant to help you. But if they don’t get your creative vision then that’s another story. What’s important is recognizing the difference between those things.
Axie: Critique no matter what is hard. It’s okay to admit that. The best thing about CPs you can trust is that you KNOW they only want to make your book better.
Mara: It’s also important to make sure the CP “gets” what you are trying to do. That doesn’t mean they are complimentary all the time. But what I would take as a sort of “red flag” for your CP relationship is someone trying to tell me how THEY would write my story–versus someone who gets my vision and is interested in helping me achieve it.
Katy: I honestly love when people give me notes that are like “what if you had x y and z happen here? What if this character did THIS instead?” because even if I don’t follow that 100% it usually will help unclog my brain in terms of feeling locked into a certain thing that I wrote.
Christine: ALSO, a general note on critique. Some authors get their critiques and are SUPER JAZZED UP and ready to dive in right away. I am not one of those authors. I need a few days to let a crit sink in, even if I agree with it, before I can get down to revisions. So give your gut a little bit to settle when you get feedback.
Maddy: Finding CPs is like dating. You’ll encounter false starts, personalities/writing you don’t click with, before you find your people. Don’t burn bridges, but don’t be afraid to move on from a CPship that’s not working. Also, even if someone’s writing/critiquing style doesn’t work for you, they might still be a lovely writer friend. You will find your people.
Thank you so much for reading! Let us know if you have any questions. Also, we’d love to hear YOUR stories of how you found your critique partners!