One Writer in Search of A CP (Or, How I Stopped Minding and Learned to say Fark It)

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My crit group dissolved a couple years ago. It happens. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. But you need to have readers if you wants ta be a writer. I have a good friend who is agented and getting her stuff published and she’s read both WIPs, and she’s absolutely worth her weight in hardback books. I feel it’s important, however, to have several critique partners and beta readers if you are serious about a) finding an agent and b) getting published via said agent.

So recently I posted on a Tumblr site that offers writers a chance to find critique partners for works in progress (WIP). Within about a week, I had three emails. I sent two myself – one got NO response (RUDE) and the other got a very nice and polite decline because s/he felt s/he had enough CPs in his/her life. Fair enough. We wished each other luck and went on our ways. 

I’m not far in and this is already a learning experience. First of all, I wish I had gone back and re-read my own post carefully. I have two WIPs and I mentioned something along the lines of, “I think a British CP would be great” since one of the books is an alternate history that deals with English history and the other is partially set in England. People thought I meant that I ONLY wanted British CPs. What I really meant was, I’m open to whomever, but someone familiar with English history and literature would be great but it’s not a deal breaker if you’re not. And the emails I got ALL said something along the lines of, “I’m not English but…” And that’s 100% fine. My bad for not being clear.

I should mention, this feels a lot like online dating. I wanted to get to know the person emailing me before I just jumped into bed with them…er, I mean….sent them my work. Two of the responders did include lots of useful information – why they’d emailed me, what they think they bring to the table as far as critiquing my work especially, stuff like that. Those two and I went back and forth a couple of times then I sent them both the first 30 pages of both WIPs.

I had reservations about the third CP volunteer. I was never clear about why s/he was interested in either of my manuscripts. S/he also wasn’t interested in swapping manuscripts, just wanted a go at mine. So I don’t know exactly what s/he writes. Or reads. S/he gave me exactly one book read recently, which doesn’t give me a sense of what s/he normally reads and therefore knows the conventions of. Despite my reservations, I ended up sending 30 pages of both WIPs and it was about a day before I got a response.

I was pretty specific that I don’t want harsh criticism, yet the first sentence of the response was basically, “I know you don’t want harsh criticism, but <insert harsh criticism here.>” S/he tore up the first book and didn’t want to read more, and liked the second enough to read the rest.

I’m no stranger to criticism of my work. Especially that first book, which I liken to anchovies: not everybody likes anchovies. It’s not like potato chips. LOTS of people like potato chips. That is not a potato chip book. I’m fine with that. But I do like to understand where the criticism is coming from. So in my reply, I said, “Thanks for the prompt reply. I’m not surprised at your response to Book A. I will say that I really like this book. I’m curious, do you read or write in [the genres I read and write] becasue I didn’t get the sense that you did. Are these really genres you’re interested in working with?” Because if this person is a big fan of, say, military science fiction, or middle grade contemporary, s/he is not the audience for my books. S/he had been pretty vague on preferences so I wanted a clearer picture of the critiquer. I thought it was a fair question, but I haven’t heard a peep back.

I doth offend.

And because I am me, there’s some part of me that is all indignant. Like, just say, “Sorry, this isn’t going to be a good fit. Good luck!” But then, I wasn’t feeling great about the potential partnership anyway so really, I don’t mind. It’s not that I don’t care, I just don’t mind.

You need a dragon hide to be a writer, to be sure, but you should also not be a dick.

I’ll keep you posted on my CP search.

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