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Monday, June 6, 2011

Dealing with the Fear

Let's talk about fear in conjunction with critiques. My guess is that since you're here, you know how important it is to get other people's eyes on your MS to catch typos, technical and grammatical mistakes, plot holes, character inconsistencies, etc.

In the beginning of my journey I felt it would be great to find a local critique group that I could meet with on a regular basis and talk about our books. There wasn't one to be found in my area. Not a free one anyway. I tried to start one. There's not enough time to tell you what a bust that was!

I knew other people swapped chapters by email, but the thought of sending an electronic copy of my MS to someone I only knew online terrified me.

What if they stole my idea and finished something better--faster than me--and sold it to an agent before I could? There were a few other fears, such as:
  • what if they hate it?
  • what if they love it?
  • what if they tell me its utter trash?
  • what if they laugh at me?
  • what if they never write me back?
  • what if I hate the chapters they send to me?
And many others. Fear convinced me that I couldn't find online critique partners. So I gave up.

Last October I participated in a free online conference hosted by a small publisher. (The Muse Writers Online Conference will be Oct 3-9 of this year.) They have classes on just about every aspect of the publishing world and you get the opportunity to pitch to small publishers.

Pitching was/is another huge fear with me, but I took advantage of the opportunity. It was a wonderful (and terrifying) experience. And I learned from it. I also received a partial and a full request. Let me share with you an email I received afterward.

The owners were very  nice and listed a few items I could work on. And then there was this.
For me, Charity, I suggest you expand your use of a critique partner or even a group. The more people (with critiquing experience) who get their eyes on your book, the more potential you will have for growth.
I believe this is true for all of us. Let's deal with our fears this week so we can start trying out critique partners.

For today, tell me what your greatest fear is about swapping chapters.

Tomorrow we will talk about HOW to give an honest but kind critique. I'll also open up my email box for submissions. You can send up to 350 words of ANY scene that you know something isn't working, but you just can't figure out what. This can be from a finished or unfinished WIP. Submit to charity.bradford@gmail.com and include Fearful Critique in the subject line.

Please include:
Name (will be removed before posting)
Genre/Word count

Brief intro or question you would like us to look at while reading.

350 word submission.

Wednesday the submissions will go up on this site with my critique and be open for your critiques. Think of it as an audition for your future crit partners.

Thursday we will talk about how to deal with the critiques we've received. 

Friday I'll call for people who would like to try swapping first chapters and match you up.

Sound like a plan? Let's do this!


Huntress said...

My fear is sending chapters that aren’t ready, that wastes a valued critique partner’s time.

I fear my critiques might come off as snarky as opposed to humorous.

I worry that my crits might send my Beta Buddy down the wrong path. Or that they take it as gospel and not as opinion.

Charity Bradford said...

I used to have the same fear. I think we secretly hope we will send a chapter and someone will tell us its perfect, but we have to let that go. A good critique is that one that says, "I love this! Here's where you can tighten, improve, clarify..."

From personal experience, I can testify your comments aren't snarky. At least I never felt they were. Maybe we just have the same odd sense of humor?

Fear #3 is such a biggie. Hopefully we can discuss that on Thursday and come to a place where we can all feel better about our opinions. :)

Brooke R. Busse said...

My greatest fear is...

1) That I will come off inadequate because of my age.

2) That I will not be able to think of anything to say.

Charity Bradford said...

Brooke, thanks for sharing your fears with us.
Those are very honest fears.
Here are my thoughts:
1. We all have to start somewhere. Most people will not know your age, so as long as you are honest with what you see and feel as you read something, you can be helpful. Many people may seek you out as a great Beta for YA works as well.

2. Form your comments based on how the piece made you feel, state what it made you think or questions it caused you to ask. There is no wrong way to make those comments because its couched in your opinion.

We'll talk about how all critiques are just opinions anyway and as the author we have to learn how to sift through the comments to find what will improve our writing--based on the goals we have for each wip.

mshatch said...

Huntress, your crits are almost always spot on, and I have never felt offended by anything you've said or bullied into changing something purely on your say so.

Brooke, it doesn't matter how young or inexperienced you might be. I recently critted something an eight grader wrote and while it was obviously the work of a young writer, boy did it have voice and the little bit I read was very intriguing. We all have to start somewhere, right?

Charity, great post! I have to say I tried to find critters in my area, too, without success - until I started blogging. The rest is history :)

Brooke R. Busse said...

Ms. Hatch, that writer's name didn't happen to be Madeline did it?