Friday, May 20, 2011

Searching for that special someone

I need some help from you, my very small but oh so beautifully formed group of readers. I'm not ready for beta readers or critiquers (is that the right word?) yet but one day soon I will be. Now before you panic and click away, pretending to yourself that you never saw this post, I'm NOT asking for volunteers! What I am asking for is some hints on what would be a good way to go about finding such people. I know that it's a two way street, and actually that excites me. I'd love the chance to critique someone's work, I just don't know how much use to anyone I would be right now. Everything I know about writing I've learned from the internet. No-one has ever read what I've written, I've not been on any courses and I only own a few books on the craft of writing (although to be fair, one of them is Stephen King's awesome On Writing). I know lots of other people are in the same situation and I only mention it so you can see why I don't feel qualified to critique anyone's work yet.

Obviously I make it a point to read as much as I can about the actual craft of writing. Somewhere in my perusings I came across a post linking a site that was a good place to join to get to know people with a view to finding a critique partner, but I'm darned if I can find where I filed the link. I'm asking for your advice at this early stage of my WiP because I'm guessing it could take time to find someone who is comfortable enough with me to let me see their work and vice versa.

So here's where you lovely people come in. What I want to know is what skills should I be developing to become a good critiquer? (still not liking that word). Is there anything specific I should look for when trying to find a critique partner, and are there any sites that you can recommend as being a good place to find like- minded people?

Finally, how important do you see beta readers? I use that term to mean people who may not necessarily be writers themselves, but who enjoy reading and are prepared to say what worked and what didn't for them, even if they can't say why. I sort of have a beta team. That would be Diva and Blue. I was concerned that if I let them read anything they might go too easy on me. On Wednesday, Blue asked if she could make a few notes on a three page outline I'd typed for a possible project. After reading her notes (written in red pen of course) I know that at least one of them isn't afraid to tell it like she sees it! Don't worry, I've almost recovered :)

PS If anyone needs 14 year old beta readers I know two who will work for chocolate - and Playstation privileges :)


  1. I think it's vital to have feedback on our writing. Otherwise it's a bit like painting with our eyes closed.

    What to look for in a - I call them reviewer, but that's probably not the right word either - depends on what you need at the time. It might just be encouragement when we start out on a new project, at other times we need to know what's not working, at what point the reviewer fell asleep or smashed the screen with a lump hammer ...

    On-line writing groups are where I found my writing groups.

    btw, I think anyone who can read is qualified to give an opinion. It's up to the writer to decide if they'll act on that opinion.

  2. Good point Patsy, 'It's up to the writer to decide if they'll act on that opinion.'

    I hadn't looked at it like that, thank you :)

  3. Beta readers are so invaluable, because often you can't see with your own work what need sot be improved.

    Looks for someone who is prepared to commit to it, with all that entails, and outline to them what you're looking for. You don't want someone, for example, who is just going to write back 'it's great - I love it'. You want someone with a critical eye.

    It's also important that you're on the same level in terms of feedback. Not everyone's style works. I'd suggest doing a sample three-chapter exchange and see if you're a good fit for each other.

    Finally, get someone who knows your genre.

  4. Hi Sarah, hop over to Rach Writes blog and sign up. She'll pair you up with someone. :O)

  5. Talli - thanks for that. I particularly like the sample chapter idea, that can't be too painful!

    Madeleine - welcome to you, and thank you for the suggestion. I'll hop on over there soon and introduce myself.


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