Monday, August 8, 2011

ARE YOU READY FOR A CP OR BETA?

Hi everyone,

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. With summer half over, you don't have much time left to enjoy all the fun summer has to offer. Don't let it slip away without a day at the beach, a mountain hike, a family BBQ, or that much needed vacation.

This weekend I received an email from a treasured blogger and friend. I'm keeping her name anonymous just in case she doesn't wish to share her story. But this is a dedication to her and our other much needed and often misunderstood friends.

For those of you that are currently looking for a CP or BETA to critique your first born child or fiftieth child make sure you are ready for it. We are all emotionally connected to our works and are very sensitive about criticisms of any kind. After you've poured months, years into you new born how could you not be?

HOWEVER if you decide to make that giant leap and send out you child into the cold, cruel world, thicken your skin and expect the worst. We all want our works to be loved by ALL. But often there will be someone who won't go absolutely nuts over it. They will find plot issues, weak characters, too much description, too vague, too whatever. They will point these flaws out and make suggestions on how to fix them. That is what a CP or BETA will do for you.

My current novel THE BLINDED GARDENER had been sent out to several CPS this summer. I am still waiting for two more critiques before I will finish my final revise.

The four CP'S I sent it to mostly loved my story thankfully, but they did point out a few areas for improvement. With their suggestions, I polished my ms to really shine. Then I received the one critique I was most anxious about. I knew hers would be the most honest, and she would find even the smallest of cracks. And of course, she did.

She was so worried about hurting my feelings and coming off as too rough. She apologized in advance for the harshness of her critique.

The statement took my breath away. After four successful critiques, I was now faced with something that almost terrified me ..... almost. I dived into her pages and pages and pages of suggestions. She DID NOT rip my baby to pieces, she pointed out the flaws.

We must remember these wonderful people put so much time and effort into critiquing. THINK about each suggestion. DON'T take it to heart. Also remember they are here to help. That's the point of sending it to them before you send it to an editor or agent.

After I read through them once, I sat and thought about it for a few days. I went back analyzing each one, correcting my ms as I fixed the issues at hand.

During the process, I emailed her, reassuring her I wasn't upset and repeatedly thanked her for the time she put into this critique. I must also mention that this same CP gave me the ultimate compliment. She said to me that I was one of her favorite authors and would love to read ANYTHING I wrote. WOW, that certainly made my year!

I decided to send her my first novel. This poor baby had gone through over fifty revisions in a three year period. I have been querying it like mad with no success for partials requests or the most treasured full. I had received some wonderful feedback from two editors and critique contests, but they all seemed to feel the beginning wasn't just right. Something was off. They loved the writing, but something was missing.

My CP friend would be the perfect person for this. Her talent for function and flow is exceptional. I also sent her the COMPLETE work with illustrations and all.

I received an email from her stating how much she loved the presentation and couldn't wait to dive into reading it. Then she mentioned how sad she was. Apparently she had given critiques to two other writers and hurt them to the point that they pulled out her writing group. My email helped ease her pain. She is almost considering not doing any more critiquing, except in her writing genres only. Well, I hope I convinced her not to ever give up. Her abilities are outstanding. Sometimes tough love IS necessary.

I know it sometimes hurts to hear negative remarks about our babies, but this is proof that CP'S are here to help us. I am not saying every CP is the perfect match. I've had a few that were totally off the wall and some could be intentionally hurtful. When trusting in a CP,  get to know them a bit first. Feel out their personality and read their blogs. This is a relationship that can go on for years if you're lucky.

So before you send out your novel, make sure you are ready to take the good with the bad. We need to do whatever it takes to create the perfect novel. And if it takes a hundred revisions to get it where it needs to be than we WILL do it.

As a final note, remember how special these people really are and put your emotions aside and absorb what they have to say. You most likely won't agree with everything, but you will get enough to really take your novel to the next level.

Have a great day everyone and thank your CP or BETA for giving you their time.


13 comments:

  1. You've probably done more for her than she did for you, too!

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  2. I was worried when I sent CassaFire to my three critique partners. But when I got the manuscript back and saw their suggestions, it was awesome. They had so many great ideas! And yes, I've raved about Jeffrey, Rusty, and Anne more than once on my blog.

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  3. This is such a great reminder. I LOVE critique partners who are totally honest and let me have it, provided they really know their stuff. I have had people at a lot of levels critique, and I've actually sort of got a file in my head as to who is great at 'big picture' (they get first round) who is great at micro-stuff (my finishers) and then the most skilled set--these tend to be published or very nearly folks who've been through it with professionals, though a couple of my burrowers are good at it too, who can give feedback on pacing and voice that people earlier career just aren't necessarily looking for. All levels, though, are crucial (it's why I like to build in 3 rounds of feedback--so at least 6 people)

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  4. Note: people who aren't ready to hear this, really probably aren't READY... It's sad to hear of people leaving critique groups over it, but they need to make a decision. Do they want to get better, or don't they?

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  5. I would love to find a CP or a beta reader but I have no idea where to find one.

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  6. In weight resistance training, they say : "No pain. No gain." The people who critique our works spend valuable time they could use elsewhere on THEIR dreams. We should appreciate their care and their commitment to our growth. Great post, Michael --- Roland

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  7. An excellent post, and an excellent point. When sending out our manuscripts we need to be prepared for tough love. It's the best kind in the end. Of course even tough love goes down better with sugar. Which it sounds like your CP's have in droves. :)

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  8. This is excellent advice, Michael! We need to pick our CPs carefully, being sure we respect their opinions and that they will not simply overlook ms. issues to avoid uncomfortable truths. And we do need to thicken our skins. For me, the CP must have a compassionate heart and a constructive criticism attitude, as well as the scalpel. I think if it's clear a critique is coming from a place of snark, that reflects the critiquer's personality, and should be tossed (as should the critiquer). But before we react like that, we must ask ourselves if we're just reacting; if there is compassion and worth in the difficult words, then that critique is valuable!

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  9. If these "writers" react that way to CPs or Beta Readers what will they do to agents, editors and publishers?
    No one likes to experience anything negative but it comes with the territory. How can I learn and grow if everyone thinks like me?
    My CP group is brutal but not personal. If they became personal I'd start looking elsewhere.
    A critique is IMPORTANT it should never be wishy-washy.

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  10. Well said on the value of getting critiques and beta readers, and for the Author need to be ready. This is an awesome post Michael.

    Thanks for sharing your positive attitude, and compliments to the CP.

    It is appreciative authors such as yourself that keep CP's coming back to well loved authors.

    Have a wonderful day Michael :)

    ......dhole

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  11. So important to remember. Good for you for having that thick skin. It can vary because you can have betas or CPs who love your work (or are too nice to point out bad areas) and you feel pretty chuffed til you get someone who isn't afraid to be honest and then your world is shattered. But not really. That's what we need cuz it's the only way we improve. It took me awhile to find the right partners who will be honest while still being positive. Now that I have them I shall never let them go... muhahahahahaa....
    but seriously, it is so valuable and you are so so lucky to find this CP who will help you grow. I try to leave myself wide open for whatever crit I receive and like you, I always sleep on it first so I don't take offense, and then look at it with renewed vision.
    BTW I think we should all collaborate and have a CP appreciation blogfest where we honor our CPs/ betas! Eh??

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  12. Hi Michael, sorry for not being around as much but at the moment Romantic Friday Writers is taking most of my time as we grapple with exactly the same issues - critiquing, how to keep everybody happy. Terribly hard. That is our current discussion and I found excerpts from your post helpful.

    Glad BG is being critiqued so thoroughly. Looking forward to reading it so much. It will be a lot of work doing the revisions but as you say, best do it before sending it off to agents/editors.

    Reading your previous post, Midnight in Paris. Yes, that is what I did when I visited Paris this time. Visited the haunts of the Golden Age - 1920's Paris. Swoon. No, I don't want to live in that era, I'm happy with the present, but I do so admire those writers, especially Hemingway and Fitzgerald. I lived that movie. So cool.

    Denise

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  13. I couldn't agree more ... One of the first critiques I ever got, was prefaced by the comment "I'm very frank". In reality, this reviewer was "very mean". BUT she was also right on with her comments.

    It took me a LONG time to have the courage to go through her notes again--and I did stop writing for about eight months because of her review. But when I did finally take a look at her comments with the right frame of mind, she helped me make my story a zillion times better.

    Now, I'm not saying you should be harsh -far from it. But 1) as a reviewer you need to be kind as well as helpful (even if it means pointing out bad things which we all have in our MSs) and 2) as a writer you need to be able to set aside your emotions just a bit in order to see the truth in your reviewer's comments.

    Whew. so yeah. You nailed it Michael!

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