By Tina Ralph
In school, we all hated to see those bright red marks on our paper. You know the ones! Red marks that told the world weâ€™d made a mistake. Yet now, as a writer, we search for someone to do just that. Give us feedback. Tell us whatâ€™s not working. We want the perfect critique group or partner to help us write perfect prose and point out the errors in our plots.
There are some well-known authors, who say they donâ€™t do critiques and donâ€™t have critique partners. To them, I say, â€œOh, to have such confidence.â€ Most of us, however, do want constructive comments that will smooth off those rough edges before an editor finds a reason to place us in his/her rejection trap.
The hunt for red ink usually starts by asking a friend or family member. This is not a bad idea if the person is familiar with writing. If theyâ€™re not, their comments may be less than helpful. Painful remarks that kill our creative juices or overly glowing comments that are meant to keep from hurting our feelings. Either way, this isnâ€™t helpful.
No, weâ€™re writers. We go to the source. Notebooks in hand, we head for school. Yeah, it worked last time, didnâ€™t it? Teachers have a ready supply of red ink. They know what theyâ€™re talking about. Smart idea, but tricky. Make sure you know what type of class you need. Not every writing classes teaches you how to write commercial fiction. A class uniquely designed for your genre can generate the right type of feedback that will satisfy the red ink addiction.
This is where joining the right type of writing organization can help you. A few months back OCC offered an online romantic paranormal class. Some participants sent a call out for others in the group who might be looking for critique partners. Beating the bushes in this way, a few lucky hunters found what they were looking for.
Now, we have ammo to help us in our hunt — find someone who writes in the same genre; join an organization where other hunters gather, speak up and hunt out that unique individual or group that can offer you the help you need.
As a member of OCC, I found my current partner when she called me on the phone. Sheâ€™d found my name in the roster while looking for someone conveniently located, and called me. We live close and it has worked out beautifully for both of us.
Another suggestion is to try a one-time exchange. In this way, neither person is committed to a long-term relationship. Each of you can get an idea of the other personâ€™s critiquing style.
If none of these options have worked for you, try putting a request out on the Morning Juice alert. In this group, there are always people looking for critique partners. Beat the bushes, know what youâ€™re looking for, and make a lot of noise. Though sometime an allusive prey, you can track one down.
And donâ€™t forget to sign up for OCCâ€™s monthly free critique donated by a published author. This can give you the helpful hints you need to make your work shine.
OCC/RWA Membership Chairperson