Friday, February 3, 2012

Where to Get Feedback for Your Writing

Once upon a time, when I was a very new writer,  I was not too picky about who read my work-in-progress. I wanted feedback for my writing but was intimidated by the idea of joining a writers group. So I'd just ask random people who were mildly interested in what I was doing to read my stuff. Needless to say, their feedback, if they ever got  back to me, wasn't very helpful. 

Flash forward to present time. For my current YA novel, I worked with some wonderful people who read either my whole WIP or a few chapters of it. Their feedback helped me a lot in my multiple revisions. I am so very grateful for these people who took the time to read my work and give me an honest and constructive critique with the intention to help me be a better writer.  

The person who reads your WIP should be someone you trust, someone whose opinions you respect. It would help if your critique provider actually likes to read, is a writer, and/or is someone knowledgeable about the industry. While you can certainly share your work with your children, their feedback alone would probably not be enough to steer you towards an effective revision. 

For those of you who are working on a book and want feedback, but don't know where to look, let me offer some tips on what has (and hasn't) worked for me:

Enroll in a fiction writing class or workshop.  Many fiction writing classes and workshops are structured such that members can take turns critiquing each other's work.  My take on receiving critiques in group settings is that you don't have to utilize each and every piece of feedback you get- it is up to you to distinguish between useful feedback and feedback that came with good intentions but not something you necessarily need to adhere to. Someone super cool I'd stayed in touch with after a writers workshop later critiqued my WIP.

Attend a writers conference. I've also stayed in touch with some awesome people I've met at conferences who have offered to look at my stuff and/or have asked me to look at their stuff. At conferences, I've also rubbed elbows with industry professionals- published authors, illustrators, agents, and editors. Sometimes I am able to sign up for one-on-one sessions where an industry professional critiques a chapter or a few chapters I've written. It's nice to get feedback from more than one industry professional to see where opinions of my work are similar and different. For example, at the Book Passage Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference last year, I was able to meet separately with two faculty members to discuss one WIP.

Seek out industry professionals offering critiques. If you can't attend conferences, there are still opportunities to find industry professionals offering critiques. Sometimes  authors, agents, and editors offer critiques in online auctions. I have found out about such auctions simply by visiting other kidlit blogs or going on Twitter. An online auction that has offered critiques from industry professionals is Brenda Novak's Annual Auction for the Cure of Diabetes.

Go online. With anyone you meet online, you should proceed with caution before you decide how far to take a connection, if there is one. That said, there are sites out there where writers can post on forums to search for a critique partner. Two sites that come to mind are  SCBWI and WriteOnCon. I do not recommend that you immediately forward a 50,000 word manuscript to any person you initially connect with. I do recommend exchanging  first chapters. Decide if the nature of the feedback you receive for the first chapter is what you're looking for, and give the other person a chance to decide the same thing about your feedback. Check out this person's blog and Twitter posts to get a better feel for their personality, and see if it meshes with what you are looking for in a critique partner. My disclaimer: Though I have done a chapter exchange or two, I have not yet offered anyone I met in an online forum a critique partner relationship.

Make friends with other writers. Find out about local events in your area- SCBWI seminars, author visits at the library, and events at the bookstore are just some places where you might meet some writers. 

I feel very fortunate that one of my critique buddies who recently gave feedback on my WIP also happens to be a friend and a published author too. A few years ago, after a friend of a family friend introduced us, we met for lunch to get acquainted, and years later, she and I still maintain a correspondence. 

Feel free to share how you met the people who critique your work.


Debbi Michiko Florence said...

What a fantastic post!

(btw, I've been having issues trying to comment on Blogspot blogs with my Wordpress and LJ ids, which is frustrating.)

Cynthia Heart Books said...

Debbi, thanks for your support!!

Crystal said...

My critique group is worth their weight in gold. I found them through SCBWI. Thanks for a thoughtful post! Lots of great ideas.

Cynthia Heart Books said...

Crystal, I'm glad you found a great critique group through SCBWI.

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