Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thoughts on Choosing a Query Partner

"My mama told me, You'd better shop around..."
-- "Shop Around" by Barry Gordy and Smokey Robinson
Recorded by The Miracles, 1960
A few years ago I joined SCBWI in search of a critique group.  After several weeks of looking for the right group to join I decided just to start my own group.  I posted my intentions and asked if there were any other SCBWI members who were interested in joining.  Several people quickly replied and the group was started.

My mistake was in thinking that since we were all SCBWI members, we would be writing on a fairly similar level.  I thought we all understood the basics of a good story -- conflict, rising tension, character development -- and would be demonstrating that in our writing.

Then one of the first people to submit sent out a long story about five tiny fairies who were going to have a tea party.  As each fairy got ready for the tea party, the writer went into great detail about what each fairy chose to wear and how they did their hair.  The fairies met for tea, had a lovely time, and they all went home.  The End.

I was divided between bailing on the group I had just started and trying to help this writer who obviously needed help.  I chose the latter and wrote an honest response, trying very hard to be kind and encouraging.  In response I received a very terse, "Thank you.  I will take your suggestions under consideration."

I bailed on the group the next week.

Now that I'm once again looking for a critique partner, I'm being more responsible.  I've posted a request in Nathan Bransford's Forums [free registration] in the Connect With a Critique Partner section with an idea of my writing experience, critique style and what I'm looking for in a critique partner/group.  I've also linked to my query critiques on Nathan's Forums so people can read for themselves what I bring to a critique.

To avoid my past mistake,  I'm looking at this process much like a job interview.  I've posted an informal resume (with links to my writing) and I'm asking much the same from responders.  Given the time and effort involved in what I'm asking someone to do for me and what I am offering to do for them, it seems to me that the search for a critique partner/group should be approached just this seriously.

After all, if you go into it blindly you might end up having your work read by someone who believes good, engaging writing is nothing more than pretty fairies having tea parties.

-- Tom

How have you found a critique partner?  If you're looking for one, what criteria are you hoping to find?  Let's talk about it in the Comments section.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom,
    Posting here because my google account is having a war when I try to post on Maggie's livejournal site.
    I would be interested in exploring working with you as a crit partner. It sounds like we both feel a responsibility to be honest with crits and that's gotten me in trouble too.
    My first book, which I am ready to start querying, but can still use another eye, is a YA fantasy (portal to another world thing, bit of light sci-fi, I compare to Pullman's His Dark Materials). I have an MG sci-fi in progress, but it's on hold at 20k while I polish the YA.
    I'd be interested in swapping a few chapters if you are interested. writing (at) marlenemoss (dot) com