Thursday, June 23, 2011

What To Look For In A Critique Partner

You’ve finished the first draft of your screenplay, novel, television script, or picture book. You know that it’s not “done”. Ernest Hemingway’s quote, “the first draft of anything is shit” keeps rolling around in your head. You know you need a fresh pair of eyes to go over your writing and give you feedback that will improve the first draft. I have a couple people I usually turn to when I need help with my revisions.

There were some readers in the past who didn’t quite offer much insight, but there are a couple (that I still go to) who always take their time and send me excellent notes. If you’re considering sending your manuscript to a reader, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

1. Is this person an avid reader? Those who read voraciously will have a better sense of story and structure, which will enable them to give you more substantial notes.

2. Is this person reliable? Sure, you might have a blast hanging out with them, but will they deliver what they promised? Does this person have a history of flaking out? If so, find someone else.

3. Is this person constructive and respectful? Even though this is your first draft, it’s still your baby. You spent a lot of time with this project and your characters, developing their world, and deepening your connection to it. I have found that those who understand and appreciate this connection are able to give more constructive feedback, remaining respectful of you as the writer.

4. Is this person insightful? It would be ideal to find a reader who understands narrative structure, and is also a naturally creative thinker. There have been several times when my readers would open up a new way of approaching a scene or character that got me out of a funk or helped me liven up something that felt too flat.

It may take a while to find a critique partner that suits your personality and professional needs, but hopefully, these questions will get you started on finding your story soulmate. And remember, you don’t have to take all their notes into account…it’s still your story after all.