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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Novel Critters

Did ya miss me? I decided to take an extra long Labor Day weekend. It helped me tidy up some loose ends around the house, work on my contest package for Kensington Brava, and critique a manuscript for one of my CPs. (Yes, Mike. That's real blood on my notes.)

It might sound weird, but I enjoy critiquing someone else's manuscript more than I like my work being critiqued. Reading a crit for my own work is helpful for that particular novel, but critiquing others helps me think in broader terms. It shakes me out of my comfort zone as I experience other voices, other styles.

But getting your finished draft critted is like standing naked in the middle of town. You'll get the occasional wolf whistle for a clever piece of n
arrative, but you'll also get heckled and have angry old women (and men) curse you with their canes.
Maria! What were you thinking? Destroy this scene at once and never let it darken my door again!
I have very stern critique partners.
I also love them. They keep me from making a total fool of myself.

I've probably critiqued well over 700 short stories, chapters and
whole novels so far. Two thirds of that total was done on OWW. OWW is short for Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror.

I don't remember how I found OWW, but for a 30 day free trial, I was glad to test the waters and see how I'd fare. That was six years ago. Talk about being a babe in the woods! I didn't know nuttin'.

The more I reviewed, the more I learned. I got to be pretty good at it too. People would review my work in the hopes I would crit them back.

Within a few months, I had a regular posse of 8-12 critters who would review my work as soon as it came up. I rarely left the submission up on the shop for more than a week. Once it had at least eight reviews I took it down and moved on. That was more than enough feedback for me to work with.

Three years ago, I started a private crit group that reads and reviews entire novels in one go. You don't catch as many individual nits, but you can analyze the story arc and character developments better.

But I really owe OWW a lot because they taught me the bones of a good crit and a good novel. They were so integral to the development of my upcoming release, True Believers, that I acknowledged OWW in the dedication.

Many reviewers read the original incarnation of that story and helped me shape it to what it would become. It was a long road for this story, but I'm glad to see it reach fruition.

Critique partners, no matter where you find them, are indispensable.

Do you have a critique partner(s)? How did you find yours?

UPDATE: Kait Nolan, Jennifer Shirk, Marianne Arkins, Barbara Wright commented and left their respective crit group urls. If you're looking for a partner, here are a few more places to check out.

Crit Partner Match
We're like but for writers.
Passionate Critters Romance Writing Critique Group
OWW Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy & Horror
Concrete Bride Live crit group in the Houston, TX area
Writers' Village University Online writing group

And if you have a group, leave me a comment and I will update the blog with your group's url too.


Ted Cross said...

I was lucky to have one online blogger simply contact me and ask to be a crit partner.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I have a fairly large crit group--

We started out meeting at one crit group and then ended up forming our own. :) But we've been together for about 4 years now.

Kait Nolan said...

I was fortunate enough to stumble across mine in a LiveJournal community for writers. It was one of those deals where you introduced yourself, what your genre was etc. I was the first person she'd seen come up in the lot who wrote romance. Four years later and we're still going strong. Nobody gets me like she does!

I felt so lucky about it, I actually started Crit Partner Match ( to help people connect with other writers in their genre.

Maria Zannini said...

Ted: That IS lucky. And it's hard to find too. Congrats.

Liz Fichera said...

A critique partner is essential. I've found the best ones when I wasn't looking.

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: You're a corporation! Wow!

Kait: You too! This is awesome! You guys really have gone above and beyond.

I'm going to update this blog with your urls. Thanks!

Maria Zannini said...

Liz: I believe you. Mine clobbered me out of nowhere. LOL.

Marianne Arkins said...

I started at -- and that site taught me everything (OY, I was just awful when I started -- what's POV? You need conflict?), but now I'm down to just a few folks. I don't have time for a large group, so value the 2 - 3 people I do have.

I don't think anyone should EVER write without CPs.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I have a face-to-face group that meets weekly in Houston and Sugar Land, TX. We're actively looking for new members, but you have to be able to attend on a regular basis. You can find our guidelines for membership at:

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: I know one person who never uses a crit partner. I wish I was that good. :) I'll post your site.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: I don't do as well at live meetings. I think because there's always too much socializing first.

Online, I can crit at my own schedule. But the good thing of live is that you can more accurately gauge reaction from a real person.

PS Love the name of your site!

Falen (Sarah) said...

Ooh, i'll have to check those out, i could use a few more crit partners.
I met my group when we all worked at barnes and Noble. We've been together more than 7 years.
I'm also a member of OWW, though i've only posted one story (which was chose as editor's pick, so that was super exciting!)
I have plans to use it more in the future. I'm just in a weird "nothing is ready for crit" space currently

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: I remember that! It was an excellent review. Back in July.

I edit the newsletter so I get an early peek. :grin:

Claudia said...

Hi Maria,
I am a member of a small writers group we formed a year ago. The guy who advertised the need for a group quit after one meeting but the group stayed (girls only!). We think the reason he quit is because he couldn't handle an all-female writing group ;) LOL
We critique each other's stories and so far it has worked well. It has helped me develop an editing eye when I write stories (not so much for emails or blogs LOL).

Maria Zannini said...

Claudia: That's bizarre that you 'ran' off the guy who started the group. But really, it all comes down to chemistry. There's a lot of trust involved with giving and receiving a crit.

So glad you found a group that fits.

Meghan Schuessler said...

I found my "group" thanks to Kristen Lamb. Myself and two other women are part of Kristen's online WWBC (Warrior Writers Bootcamp). Their feedback has been very helpful so far. I always think getting an unbiased opinion is important.

P.S. Don't wanna be a pain, but you did say to let you know - I started following your blog a few days (a week maybe?) ago, but you're not a follower of mine as of yet. I'd love for you to check out my blog when you have the chance :)

Maria Zannini said...

Meghan: I found you! You didn't have an avatar so Google Friend Connect put you at the end of the list.

Also your link wasn't active, (I don't know what to tell you to fix that. --sorry.) But I followed the link from your comment and added myself from there.

We're all good now. Thanks for letting me know! And thanks for commenting!

Dayana Stockdale said...

that is a fantastic amount of critiquing you have done! I bet that has made your writing experience so much richer. I'm just coming out of a long lonely stint in the writer's cave and need to get me some crit partners. I really hoped to find people in person, but blogging seems like a great way to do it too.

Maria Zannini said...

Good luck, Dayana! I hope you'll try some of those links to find your CP(s).

They're all good resources.