Self-publishing. My journey–Chapter 2

28 Sep

As I promised last week in my post about self-publishing, we are going to discuss each subject individually. Today’s pick is Critique Partners or CPs as authors refer to.

I doubt there are any authors out there that don’t have a group of CPs. And if they don’t it’s because they are established authors with dozens of novels under their belt, experienced, and so forth. But we aren’t talking about those authors. We are talking about the ones like you and I, starting on our own down the road to publishing.
If you didn’t find your CPs yet, stop writing and go out and find them. Your work will improve drastically. The more you critique their work, the better you’ll become at yours, recognizing weak plots, boring characters and the ability to strengthen your voice. The best places to find CPs are online, on any sites for authors as well as your local book club if you have any in your area.
After I finished my first novel—the first draft of it—I set it aside, spending lot of time on the internet looking for ways to publish it. I found out about the (in)famous query letter, agents, writer loops, critique partners, editors, publishing houses, blogging, creating your own webpage, networking—you name it. My head spun form so much information, which I wanted to absorb all at once.
I tried my hand at writing query letters and each one of them landed in the trash. Nothing I wrote was good enough. Think about it, you write 80,000 words novel that you have to summarize into a paragraph or so. Catch the agent’s attention with your first phrase. How can one do it, beats me, but…
Desperate I couldn’t write a query to save my life, I turned to Writer’s Digest online and found out they offer various classes, including one that helped aspiring authors on how to write a query letter. I was on cloud nine, thinking there was my chance at becoming one of the most famous authors in the world, right? The key to success was only a click away and … you guessed it, I signed up immediately.
The class lasted for a whole month with one assignment per week. If I remember correctly we were five people in that class. Never met in person, knew them only by their screen name. We each submitted our QL and had to critique each other’s work. Well, there is the critique part coming into play. Up until then I have never told anyone what I thought about their work. Had no idea what to look for. I was shy, afraid to say much, for fear to hurt someone’s feelings.
As the class progressed, we became more comfortable with each other’s style. I got two amazing things from that class:

At the end of the class we had the choice of remaining in contact with one another, exchanging emails. I asked everyone, nervous to see if they were interested. I got two people responding that turned out to become incredible assets for my writing, trusting work partners and most of all—friends forever. They are Cindy and Jeff.
Our critique was quite shy in the beginning, exchanging chapters one at the time, critiquing then sending back along with one of our chapters. For each chapter I sent, I critiqued two. Not overwhelming, not hard to do when your heart is in the right place.
Two years later and a total of nine books written in our group, I can’t imagine my work without the input of my peeps, as I like to call them. We reward one another for well-done scenes but we also argue, we point out what works and why, where there are holes in our plots visible from a mile away, characters that are so boring they put us asleep, speed up the pace, too many / too little details, whatever we need help with, we count on each other’s review.
We all write different genres, but that’s exactly why it works for us. We see in each other’s work what other writers from the same genre don’t. Sometime we send chapters on a daily basis, sometime weeks pass before one of us has a chapter ready. We do what works for us.
Cindy writes incredible YA and is really good with grammar. I call her the “Comma Queen.” She’s kind in her reviews, like a mother hen, but points us in the right direction with only one word.
Jeff writes a combination of dystopian/sci-fi, and he’s creative, and very poetic in his writing. He’ll tell me where my hero sucks (“No real man thinks like that, Cami”, he’d say), or if my heroine should put her big-girl panties on and stop whining.
Recently we added another member to our group, Sherry. She’s too kind for now, reminding me of myself in the beginning, when I was too nervous to point out Jeff’s scene drove me crazy, or Cindy’s heroine came across as a spoiled brat. I laugh at those memories…. I hope Sherry will stick around long enough to feel comfortable with us and kick our butts when we deserve it.
I’ve heard stories of people that have tried several CPs until they found the right ones. I’ve heard stories of people frustrated with their CPs because they gave everything and they received nothing.
The main point in this story is, you have to find the right people for yourself. You have to try and try and if it doesn’t work for you, say it and move on. Don’t give up and trust your instinct that you will find the right CPs, the people that will bring so much joy to your life, and so much growth to you as a writer.

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