Critiquing Suggestions for Transitioning to Published Author

ACFW Advice, Critiques, Friends of ACFW, tips Leave a Comment

by Carrie Fancett Pagels

I’ve posted elsewhere about not despising the day of small beginnings, as the Bible also tells us. One of the blessings of working on three “smaller” publications in the past several months is what I’ve learned about my writing life. For example, how can I best work with a Critique Partner (will abbreviate as CP henceforth.) At this stage of my writing career I’ve worked with multiple levels of CPers and all taught me something different. I had to learn the hard way how to manage when there was no CPer on board. I had that happen at the end of a novel I’d been completing with two other CPers. That was when God sent me two editor friends to save me! But let’s say you, like me, have learned you do best with having some CPers in your life. And you’ve moved on to the new stage where what you are writing will be published and you are under a deadline. I’m going to share my suggestions as will Kathy Maher, my CPer for “Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance.”

1. Get clear on your boundaries and decide what tactic you will take if you have to divert your path because of noncompliance. Some suggestions: I will get you x amount of my manuscript (MS) by this date of the week. In return, I’ll expect your MS to me that date and I will return it by (agreed upon date) as will you. We’ll try to not deviate by more than a day or two (stuff happens but deadlines are hard to move…) Kathy puts it this way: “Do unto your CP as you would have them do unto you.” If you want quick turnaround, give it. If you want brainstorming, raise your antennae for your CP as much as for yourself.

2. Accept that you can no longer expect anyone to look at your first, second, or any draft that is not in its final form. You simply don’t have time. You need to self-edit and complete your best draft within the agreed upon time and get it to your CPer. No second crits. Period. You won’t see that section again until you’ve got the final MS in your hands. Kathy prefers multiple CPs on a project while I prefer one CP and beta readers. With multiple CPs you can run that revised copy by the next CP. However, in return you’ll have more critiquing to do.

3. Decide how much of the MS you will exchange. Will it be the first 3 chapters for a proposal? A complete novella or short story? An entire MS that is novel length? Remember-what you expect critiqued you will need to plan to do in exchange. Some authors simply choose to have no CPers and to hire an editor.

4. What if your CPer fails to deliver? I’ve had this happen more than once. Like I mentioned, God sent me editors. In another situation I pretty quickly saw that the CPer didn’t remotely critique like I did. And she didn’t respect boundaries even with reminders. So I had to move on and one of my BFFs, an ABA editor, helped me out. Bottom line is God will provide!

How about you? What are you doing at this stage of your writing career as far as CPs?

ShirleyPlantationCarrie Fancett PagelsReturn to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance, is an Amazon top-rated Civil War book. Carrie contributed to God’s Provision in Tough Times (July, 2013). Her short story, “Snowed In: A Northwoods Christmas,” will appear in Guidepost Books’ A Christmas Cup of Cheer (October, 2013).

Comments 0

  1. Because I have so little time to write and critique, I now have a writing partner. She critiques, but we also have brainstorming sessions and the like. We also prefer to send large portions of our ms instead of the scene by scene critique. We’re both confident in our grasp of the fundamentals, so we critique more for story than for details. She’s published and I’m not, but we’re both pressed for time and simply can’t keep up with a larger group. I’ve tried. It’s frustrating. I also have a few beta readers. Some non-writers and a writer or two when I can get them.

  2. Ron, sounds like you have really worked this out well! I haven’t done group crits in years. You are right–there isn’t enough time once you are seriously pursuing publication. Congrats on moving on to the next phase of your writing career! Blessings!

  3. Ron and Carrie, I had the same experience with the crit groups. I received wonderful feedback, but the workload overwhelmed me. I also have what Ron calls a writing partner and we do much the same for one another. But for that fine tooth combing, a second pair of eyes comes in handy. Each crit partner I’ve worked with over the years has taught me something new. Invaluable experiences, all.

  4. Good article, Carrie! When I first started out w/ACFW I was in a four person group. We set boundaries to share once a week w/around 12-15 pages as the limit. It was a learning time for me, and I still count those ladies as dear friends, even tho we’ve all moved on to other things. Now, I have cps but each one is handled differently. Works for me.

  5. This article gave me some insight into critiquing. I’m new to ACFW, so I’m currently in two critique groups that have very different ways of critiquing. One group is large so there isn’t much in depth feedback. I found using CP like you did worked well, but sometimes choosing from my two critique groups can be limiting. I like the advice on exchanges and deadlines. Wish I had that when my CP’s looked at my manuscript. Thanks for the post!

  6. Kathy, I am so grateful you were available to CP with me on this project! And you are so blessed to have a lovely writing partner in Debbie Lynne!!! I agree–every CPer has taught me something that has helped me! And God brings those relationships about for a reason!

  7. Carole, I am in the same situation of different CPers for different projects. I even had a wonderful Australian CPer (Dotti Adamek) on a novella I wrote last winter. A lot of times it is who is available while I am writing the final draft because everybody has different responsibilities and I don’t think it is reasonable to wait too long on each other. Blessings!

  8. Michelle, thanks for commenting! Each stage of CP process is SO different. When someone is on a final draft of a manuscript going in on a deadline you simply can’t be working with a group IMHO! But those are great for very beginning writers who are working on mastering techniques in scenes and even chapters. Blessings!

  9. I agree that it’s a geat idea to set time frames when there’s a big project outside of the normal amount critiqued in a small group. When things are clearly explained, the chances are better the CP will follow through. It must be really hard to count on someone for input and then not get a return.

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