November 5, 2011
Having your book read by someone else is terrifying. When Destined to Fail was still in its very early stages, I was the only one who had read it. I worked on writing it for one year––tweaked the characters, created new conflicts, deleted whole chapters and started new ones, and did a lot of editing and revising along the way. After about a year had passed, I thought “now what?” My manuscript was near completion, but what was the next step? The answer was terrifying––have someone else read it.
Writing is such a personal journey, whether you are writing in reflection to your own life, or created your characters and story out of only your imagination. Books are published and judged, rated and commented on, and everyone wants to leave their opinion. It was overwhelming after I finished Destined and realized that now I was going to have to let others read it. Rate it. Comment on it. I would be lying if I said I was a cool cucumber when those thoughts were running through my mind. I wanted to throw my manuscript in a drawer and forget all about it, never have to worry about getting a bad review. But of course––I didn’t choose that route.
One of my first critique partners was a fellow author, Cathleen Holst. She actually found me through my book blog, ChickLitPlus.com, and sought me out to review her debut novel Everleigh in NYC. I started chatting with her about my manuscript, my fears, and my journey so far into the writing world. She offered to help me by reading through my first chapters and giving me her feedback. I sent her the first few chapters, crossed my fingers for the best, and waited anxiously for her email. When I received her reply, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Cathleen really took me under her wing and gave me great advice––as a writer, a self-editor, and a reader. Little tips and tricks, recommendations on reading material, and a whole lot of enthusiasm and encouragement on my work really boosted my confidence in becoming a writer. I took everything Cathleen had said, and got to work with my revisions.
I later worked with Cathleen again, but I also expanded on critique partners. I have been so lucky through ChickLitPlus to have met some fantastic women and avid readers who jumped at the chance to get an early read of Destined to Fail. Jenn from Booksessed and Michelle from Just Jump both signed on to give my MS a read and give me early reviews, as well as any other feedback they had. Both women gave me extremely valuable thoughts, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the time and energy they spent on me and my book.
Critique partners are something every author needs. I read and re-read, edited, and edited again while I was working on Destined. I could recite the book in my sleep. I knew my characters inside and out, how they would react in certain situations, what one wanted for breakfast each day, how they spoke and carried themselves. But I could never have gotten my final piece, my final final proof copy if it hadn’t been for my critique partners. And simply put––my story would not have been as good. You need different opinions, you need to see how readers accept your story and your characters, and you need to make sure your vision plays out with your readers. I loved reading my critique partners early thoughts, what they took away from Jasmine and Nate and how they reacted to the ending. Without them, I would be blindly putting my work out to the public, not having a clue how it would be received. I’m not saying that everyone will love my book, or everyone will have the same opinions as my critique partners. That’s impossible. But I do have a better insight, better knowledge on the subject. And I was able to make some changes based on their feedback, and like I said earlier: change the book to be even better.
Critique partners are truly invaluable to authors. A big thing to consider when finding your partners is making sure you find someone who enjoys your genre. I think Ladies Who Critique is a fantastic idea, and will get you matched up with a perfect partner to make your experience with publishing the best it can be. If you are a first-timer, this process can be daunting. But in the end, you will see the benefits and be thankful for the work of your critique partner.
Samantha March currently lives in Des Moines, Iowa with her boyfriend and crazy cast of friends. She also runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up to date on all things health, fitness, fashion, and celebrity related. Destined to Fail is her first novel and is out November 8th.
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