Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Guest Pod: K. D. Wood on Critique Partners and Groups

Today we have a special guest here Inside the Pod. M sat down with author K. D. Wood and asked her a few probing questions. Here is what K. D. had to say...

The day I finished my first manuscript was one of the most amazing, terrifying, exhilarating and confusing days of my life. It is also a moment that is forever burned into my brain because I remember staring at the screen and thinking, now what?

Unfortunately back then, I wasn’t pals with many writers. I just wrote for the pure thrill of putting that first story on the page and giving it life. Confused by my research and desperate to know where my story stood, I decided to start the submission process after only two revisions.

Nineteen rejection letters later, it was glaringly obvious I needed a new approach to my manuscript. I started reaching out and connecting with other writers. This led me to understand just how important finding great critique partners can be for a work in progress.

After actually finishing the manuscript, finding a critique partner or critique group is the life’s blood of all your future revisions.


Because just letting your mama/best friend/spouse read your manuscript won’t help move your manuscript or your writing forward. Your family loves you. They want you to be happy. This means unless your family/friend reader works in the publishing industry they are going to tell you that your book is AMAZING. That the story is the best thing they have ever read.

They are going to tell you what they think you want to hear because that’s what people who love you do.  Now that I’ve ripped that band aid off.

I. How do you go about finding a critique partner or group?

There are many, many different options for finding other writers. But first, you have to decide which platform will work better for your personality. Face to face interactions or online. If you want to mingle with other writers in person, start locally. Look for writers groups for your particular genre. My own group River City Romance Writers I discovered while partaking in another resource. I heard about RCRW while attending MidsouthCon in Memphis, TN. Writer’s retreats, conventions, library groups, book clubs, coffee shops and book signings are all great places to meet other writers.

Recently, I got to know a few writers who have a hard time in social situations due to Aspergers. Though working hard on their novels, they struggle with interacting in social settings. If that’s a hurdle you also face, there are online communities for writers too, and one in particular is Bookcountry. Facebook is packed with writers. I’ve made some amazing writers pals participating in #WordWar on twitter too.

And let’s say after you take this crucial first step, you hit writer’s gold and meet someone or a group of people you want to hang out and talk writing with. There are several very important questions you need to consider.

II. What do you want to accomplish as a member of a critique group or with your new critique partner?

If you and your new potential writing pals are not on the same page about goals, conflicts will arise very fast. So you need to ask the questions that are most important to your writing goals. Communication, communication, communication.

III. Are you writing as a hobby or on the road to publication?

These two things are very different and can make or break a potential relationship. If you’re pounding away on your novel, preparing for submissions, churning out those word counts every day, you need to make sure your future critique partners are in it to win it also. Otherwise, you’ll just end up frustrated because your goals are so different.

One of the best ways to make sure you don’t run into this issue is to ask this question of yourself.

IV. Are you setting realistic critique goals for your group or partnership?

Let’s face it. Life is extremely busy. We all have stuff to do whether it’s jobs, family, kids or laundry. There are a million things to be done every day. When you have these initial conversations with your potential critique partner or partner it’s a question you need to address. If you’re a full time writer, pounding out those words eight hours a day but your potential partner has a twelve hour shift at the hospital, there will have to be some extreme specifics in time management ironed out for both sides to be happy with the partnership. And even with a situation like this, if your personalities and writing style are so in sync, anything is possible if you work hard enough to find a middle ground.

Now for those more uncomfortable questions.

V. Will your potential critique partners be willing to call you out on accountability when you start being a big old whiner-pants?

This is the part of finding critique partners that involves making sure you’re compatible as friends first. As a critique partner you need someone who is able to tell you to pull your head out of your ass without crushing your spirit but who also won’t let you get away with whining and when you don’t have your pages for the week completed. Someone who is bleeding on the keyboard the same way you are, who can understand when you break down and want to shred your latest revision and just how crappy that feels. Finally, there is one VERY important step to helping you move forward in your writing and finding a critique partnership.

IF YOU’R BOOK ISN’T FINISHED, MAKE FINISHING YOUR MANUSCRIPT A PRIORITY – Everyone’s time is valuable. Joining a critique group and not having your pages complete for meetings or delivering a stinging critique to someone who is working on their 11th draft when you haven’t even reached the first END on your own is disrespectful to your friends and the time they are investing in your work. Everyone in your new group needs to be pulling his or her weight, so don’t you be the straggling zombie shambling behind everyone else. Write the very best book you can. That way, you will be open to all the hard work that comes with diving into a new revision with lots of great ideas from your new critique partners.

K.D. Wood lives in north Mississippi with her husband, two boys and one very bad puppy. She writes Young Adult and New Adult Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. Visit her on Facebook (K.D. Wood) and follow her on twitter @KDWoodauthor

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