WITHOUT MY CRITIQUE PARTNERS I WOULD STILL BE HOPEFUL AND UNPUBLISHED.
We are writers. We know how to express our thoughts. Therefore, to critique someone else’s work you must always consider their feelings, the effort it has taken to produce their work and how the piece you are critiquing is like a child to them. You should apply tact and offer suggestions – not tell them that their ‘child’ is untidy and bad mannered, but suggest a little discipline and a good scrub could improve the image of their manuscript and make it more appealing to a publisher.
Critique partners come and go. Not for any reason of personal affront or dislike but because their life intervenes. You may be able to produce chapter after chapter, but they may have written one novel, and once you have critiqued all of it, they may have nothing else to send you. This is when you offer your thanks and best wishes, and search for another partner. My ideal number of critique partners, to read a novel, is three. Sometimes I am down to two. At one stage I had five! Each critique partner will have different skills and will zoom in on different aspects of your writing. I struggle with grammar. I have a partner who is a whizz. It took several years to find her and I cherish her comments. Another is great on point of view, and ‘showing versus telling.’ I am proud that her red comments in my chapters are becoming fewer as time goes by. I accept that I’ll always have some red marks to check because as authors we become ‘word blind’ when reading our own work.
I read a self published novel with a great plot, but I’m sure it hadn’t been critiqued. It may have been proof-read for grammar and typos, but the head-hopping in it drove me crazy and I never finished reading it. In one scene there were five people, and the author hopped from head to head with everyone’s thoughts and feelings, page after page. He did this in other chapters to a lesser degree until it destroyed the enjoyment of the plot. Had he used critique partners, one of them would have picked this up and he would have been able to correct this fault and concentrate on the various scenes from a single point of view, making it an easy and exciting read, instead of creating a form of mental indigestion.
There is no harm in having different points of view within a chapter, as long as the move to another point of view is clearly defined. The maximum number suggested is three different points of views per chapter, if you are writing in the third person. (He/she thought….). This can vary from publisher to publisher, and the genre in which you are writing.
When writing entirely in the first person (“I thought…..), an author wouldn’t have this problem. However, there appears to be little enthusiasm among publishers for books written in the first person, despite the popularity of one book, (Fifty Shades…) originally self published before being taken up by a publisher. I submitted a 15,000 word story to a publisher and had it returned with a request for me to rewrite it in the third person, past. I duly did this during one wet cold winter and it has been published. However, I still consider it read much better in the first person. My critique partners had to reread it again in the third person and yes, I missed changing the tense in a lot of places.
My best piece of advice to any author, hoping to dive into the publishing world, is to be brave. You have to be brave to put your ‘child’ out there for the world to read. You have to be brave to send it, piece by piece, to another person, hoping against hope for their praise, while being prepared to see lots of red comments on its return.
I didn’t know Track Changes existed in my Word programme (Ctrl+Shift+E). What a great tool. I use it all the time, as do my critique partners. You can add your comments, change the wording, delete words or sentences, and the original document remains, with the changes in red (or any other colour you choose to use). I would suggest you take a page of prose, find Track Changes on your computer, and have a play. I don’t use the ‘balloon’ option, but some of my critique partners do. It’s a matter of personal choice how you place your comments in a document, but your comments are essential feedback to your partner.
If you’re serious about becoming a published writer I recommend that you get serious about finding critique partners. Without them I would still be hopeful and unpublished.
A Talent for Loving by Virginnia de Parte
Secret Cravings Publishing
Talents come in many guises.
William and Belinda, two genetically altered individuals meet years after leaving the government-rearing nursery for genetically altered infants. Their late development allowed them to escape a life devoted to the government’s defence departments. If their skills are now discovered they are in danger of conscription by the government.
William, whose talent is to move through space between locations in the blink of an eye, has devoted his life to protecting other ex-nursery adults. Belinda occasionally uses her talent, lifting objects of great weight with her thoughts. Their meeting leads to love and a raft of problems both struggle to overcome.
Can they trust each other enough to allow love to bloom? Can they risk the renewed attention of the Defence Department?
A Talent for Loving explores an alternate reality and discovers the one talent neither Belinda nor William can control – love.
She looked at him as he gazed out to sea. His thick brown hair hugged his head and small curls tucked around his ears. She tightened her arm around his waist and leaned into his chest. So far the day has been lovely. The view from the touring bus was so much better with higher expansive views than travelling the Great Ocean Road by car. There’d been several stops for photo opportunities, but this pause in the journey allowed everyone an hour to walk and explore, to feel the sand between their toes, and fill their lungs with ozone-laden sea air
“The surf’s building. There’s a blow on the way.” He pointed to the south. “See the breakers out there? They’re coming closer by the minute. I bet the wind gets up when they get closer to shore.”
She followed his gaze and looked out to sea before glancing back to the surf below them. Could that black dot be a seal? Or was it a surfer in a wetsuit? Oh God! No! She shook his arm and prodded his shoulder.
“Wills, is that a person in the surf? Whoever it is seems to be going out rather than swimming in. What do you think?”
Together they peered, watching closely until an arm was raised. Then a flailing and the dot disappeared.
“I think it’s a child. Here.” He pulled free, tore off his jacket and tossed it to her. In a second his shirt came off and he’d stepped out of his trousers and shoes in one fluid movement. Another breath and he’d gone. All that remained beside her were his dropped clothes.
Sure enough when she looked there were now two black dots in the surf, one larger than the other. Already the surf had grown and running through the waves a channel of calm water cut its way out past the breakers. Its smooth surface looked deceptively calm to anyone who didn’t know how to read the surf. This strong strip of undertow would have pulled the child out and she could see William moving across the surf, parallel with the breakers, away from the slicing strip that threatened to pick them up and carry them further out.
She hadn’t even known he could swim. Surely he must be a strong swimmer? Why else leap into climbing surf? Another hole in the knowledge she had of William’s abilities.
Alone on the cliff edge she stared in horror, realising the danger he’d put himself in and she locked her gaze on the two black dots and concentrated as hard as she could. Would it work? Anything was worth a try, because standing here, windswept and abandoned, clutching the wooden railing with her one free hand wasn’t going to be of any use to William if she didn’t try and do something. With everything to lose if it didn’t work she locked her gaze onto the spot in the roiling water where he’d been visible a second beforehand and took her consciousness into the surf to search for him.
About the Author:
Virginnia De Parte writes futuristic fiction, spiced with romance and adventure. She has three romances published as e-books and the fourth in the series about the genetically-altered Corban family is called ‘A Stellar Affair’ and is due for release in August/September. These are published by Secret Cravings Publishing.
Her other love is writing poetry and she is published in this genre as well, both on line and in hard copy. She has an erotic piece called ‘Memoirs of Lady Montrose’ just released with Total-e-Bound.
A love words, and changing the way they are arranged, drives her writing. She endeavours to insert poetic prose into her fiction. Setting her stories in the future allows her imagination to run riot and she waits for the world to catch up with her inventions, instead of having her work dated by the constant, present-day advances made in technology.
Virginnia belongs to writing groups and on-line critique lists, all of whom help to keep her on-track and well edited.
She lives in the aptly named Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, a land of beautiful scenery, four million people and a number of hobbits.