Sunday, January 27, 2013

Your words AREN'T perfect

No, really. Rein in that ego and listen up.

Crit Partnerships are a beautiful, sacred thing. We TRUST each other. We LOVE each other - and the words our CP's write.

But you have to know your words aren't perfect. And if you think they are, then we have a problem.

There's a difference between Crit partners, and Beta readers.

Betas are some of the first readers to lay eyes on your Manuscript. They give feedback that you may, or may not choose to act upon. They are AMAZING people, and resources, catching things CP's may have missed after several passes. Betas are the readers before the readers before the Manuscript is a book. But at this point, the MS should be shiny. Free of typos, grammar issues, etc.

Critique partners are the ones in the trenches with you. They're there WHILE you're writing the words. They talk you down from the trees of self-doubts and angst riddled rage seizures. They are the ones you send the MS to as soon as it's done - and you've done a pass through of your own edits.

(PSA - Crit partners are NOT unpaid Editors. You should do your own tweaks before sending to CP's. Don't expect them to do your work for you. Things are bound to slip through, but don't waste people's time on silly things you could have fixed before sending.)

Back to your words. And trust.

I say trust, because the Crit Partnership is SO important. We trust these people - some we only know online - not to fuck us over. Not to plagiarize. We trust them to keep our secrets. We trust them with our word-babies.

And we trust them to rip our words to shreds when they need it. We trust their judgment to make us stronger, make the words flow better, give us fresh eyes, and a way to make the MS truly sing.

Or we should.

See, some writers are unable to separate their words from themselves. From their ego. They think if you dare to make a suggestion about their PRECIOUS words, that you are attacking THEM! It is SO not the case, and it's indicative of an overly sensitive person -an  Artiste; or a new writer. I was there. You were there. Hopefully we've moved on to where we know it's not personal.

Subjectivity comes into it, yes. But some suggestions are NOT optional. The rules of grammar DO apply to you. There are some rules you shouldn't break.

Here's the thing. If you're not looking to make your MS better - if you think your words are PERFECT as they are, then tell your CP's before they begin reading. Tell them you are looking for a BETA reader, NOT a critique. TELL them you're looking for overall thoughts, and nothing deeper.

Because I've done crits for people. I've spent HOURS combing through MS's trying to make their beautiful words EVER BETTER! Some of those people take some of those changes. THAT'S how it SHOULD be.

But there are the other writers. People who are great writers, and snag a lot of full requests. People who I suggested changes for. People who keep getting rejections on those full requests, but still think there's nothing wrong with their MS. Newsflash - it's not ALL subjectivity from Agents and Editors.

If you're not implementing the changes your Crit Partners suggest, but you still ask them to CP for you, then YOU ARE WASTING THEIR TIME!

If you don't agree with their edits, then guess what? They aren't a good fit for you, and you need to have The Talk - it's not You, it's Me. You're not what I'm looking for.

If you don't agree with ANYONE'S crits, then sweetie, it's probably not Them, it's You.

People can be wonderful writers, but not a good fit for Critique Partners. It's not personal. It's no big deal. They can still Beta, or not. They can still be your friends!

But if you ask me to RE-Crit something I've already done, I shouldn't be finding the same GLARING errors I found the first go-round. I shouldn't find that giant fucking plot-hole I told you about the first time! I shouldn't see that huge tense shift I showed you when I critted the Manuscript MONTHS AGO!

So, you're basically wasting my time TWICE, because I already critiqued these mistakes. And you're probably not going to fix them this time either, are you? Nope. Because you think your words are perfect. 

There are 'I don't like this line/ character/ subjective' crits, and there are 'You need to fix this because it's bad/ wrong/ sloppy' crits.

If you don't trust your CP's to tell you ways to fix your MS, then you need new CP's, or you need to take your head out of your giant... ego.

I'm not saying I know everything. If I've critted your work, you'll see that I've got very strong opinions on things I hate and things I love. I'm a writer too! I'm an opinionated asshole, as sensitive as the next person about my word-darlings.

But I'll murder them in a HEARTBEAT if a CP shows me a way to make them better. That's where the trust comes in, and the ego goes out. Sometimes fresh eyes are just the thing to point out something amazing, or point out a glaring error.

Does it hurt? Sometimes - yes. But it makes my Manuscript SO MUCH BETTER.

And THAT should be the end goal.

Don't waste people's time by being a diva. Don't waste people's time by thinking your words are perfect. There's ALWAYS room for improvement. You are NOT the exception to that rule.


  1. Totally agree! I get so frustrated when I ask someone to critique my words & I get an "it's nice" in response. (That's not helpful at all!) - The best critiques are those that might make me want to cry and throw things at first, but ultimately make complete sense and make my writing better. If you only want someone to tell you "this is the best thing ever written!" Give it to your mom or your best friend to read! :)

  2. I completely agree. At some point, people have to realize that every word they write is NOT GOLDEN. As hard as it is, you need to look at your work honestly and know that there is going to be crap mixed in with the good. Take a few mins, hrs, or days to come to grips with this fact, and then make the changes. Your MS will be only the better for it.

  3. Completely agree! :D I know I'm not perfect and I expect my readers to tell me so. I want to get better, that's why I'm sending them stuff.

  4. Amen. I don't know how to add anything to that. :)

    I've slashed and burned based on critique notes, and also cried a little. But afterward, I can't believe how much better my writing looks. *Three cheers for the honest critique well received*

  5. You are so right!

    I once offered to beta-read a novel for someone that was so grammatically messy (sentence fragments, sentences that didn't make sense) that I could not read it. I tried for fifteen pages, and then I wrote back with a list of what I'd seen in the first little bit (The lead female character with severe manic depression who had nymphomaniac episodes but was still a virgin was the big one that bugged me the most. I could just smell the "The only valid sex is the sex you have with your TWOO LOVE character and NO ONE ELSE or you are a SLUT" coming. Along with the really poor portrayal of a serious mental illness.) and a strong suggestion to do some grammatical edits because they were too distracting, as well as an offer to read it after the edits were done.

    Didn't hear back afterwards, and two weeks later I saw the author posting constantly on twitter about the new book on Amazon self-published.


    I love my crit group big time. I'm thinking I need to find some beta readers, because I'm not getting requests, so there must be something wrong, (slow opening? Bad opening? People hate the names?). Or maybe it's just first book-itis.

  6. Right on target! My IRL critique group meets weekly and it's amazing what a good crit can do for a story, if the writer is willing to let honest and caring eyes point out flaws.