Writer Wednesday: Critique Partners – a little bit of heaven!

Some years ago, I belonged to a critique group. critique-3-300x225Of the four writers, none had been published and I became the only one who expressed specific goals. In one session, a women writer spent the whole time helping another writer without responding to the rest of us. It sometimes happened, so we weren’t offended; but the following week, the same woman spent two minutes on mine and said something to the effect, “I don’t even know what to tell you with this…” before moving to another person. I realized I was wasting my time there.

Years after that, at a meeting, I sat next to a colleague I barely knew. She mentioned she was a writer, and we soon struck up a friendship and critique partnership.

critiqueWe’d meet once a week or once every other week to read and review each other’s work. Timing and responses began bumpy but smoothed out rather quickly. We were near the same writing level, although I give her credit for being better than I. As we got to know one another, we understood what the other was attempting to accomplish in their own fiction. This helped us read one another’s work more productively.

The most important elements in a critique partnership is respecting the other, giving honest opinions without being brutal, and accepting criticism. As professionals, we didn’t experience issues in offering or receiving the feedback. At some points, we may have disagreed, but we didn’t let it interrupt what had (and has) become a successful venture.

My writing has vastly improved because of this partnership. I benefited from the critique1authentic and detailed critiques with increased confidence, which lead me to more submissions, and ultimately more publications.

 

How you might form a successful alliance:

  • A mutual understanding of writing goals and aesthetics.
  • Similar level of writing experience (or someone who has more than you. You want to grow from this experience and you’ll have a chance to give back.)
  • Trust & honesty – go hand in hand.
  • Time and availability to meet or exchange work.
  • Although it may help if you write in the same genre, it’s not required.

 

For those of you who have partners or experiences, did I miss anything?

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Random facts stalkers don’t know…

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I grew up in a tough neighborhood. (don’t stereotype me)

I was in a band. (for about 5 minutes)

I was in a few movies. (another 5 minutes)

I wrote my first “novel”at the age of 11. (an angst ridden piece about a girl who is kidnapped because she witnessed a crime)

I was actually kidnapped. (not at 11/that story is waiting for publication)

I always have wanted to own a Munster-like house.

I’ve gotten lost in every major city I’ve ever been (including abroad. Trust me when I say every country/every city has neighborhoods you don’t want to be lost in at dusk)

I keep a lot of random facts as well as insignificant details in my brain. (jokes don’t stick tho)

now the stalkers know – don’t be a stalker….

The Psychology of being “Unloved”

 

When I create a character, I take what I know from personal experience, what I’ve observed in other people (I am an avid people watcher), and what I’ve learned from my continued studies.

With the unnamed narrator/character in West End , it is important to understand the primary relationships and their effects.

In West End, the children are nearly parentless. Mom is an alcoholic who dies from the disease and Dad seems to be a workaholic, seemingly unconcerned about his children.

The article, “Unloved Daughters,” written by Peg Streep, lists some of the attributes the character in West End experiences.

Streep’s list is of 7 attributes. These are a few which I believe my character displays:

  1. Lack of Confidence

“The unloved daughter doesn’t know that she is lovable or worthy of attention; she may have grown up feeling ignored or unheard or criticized at every turn” (Streep).

    3.   Difficulty setting boundaries

“Many daughters, caught between their need for their mother’s attention and its absence, report that they become “pleasers” in adult relationships. Or they are unable to set other boundaries which make for healthy and emotionally sustaining relationships” (Streep).

   5. Making avoidance the default position

“Lacking confidence or feeling fearful sometimes puts the unloved daughter in a defensive crouch so that she’s avoiding being hurt by a bad connection rather than being motivated to possibly find a stable and loving one” (Streep).

 

It seems the reason the narrator in West End avoids life is an overall lack of confidence. She does not set boundaries; she knows what is happening at the trains and with her sister is not leading anywhere productive or good, but she is unable to set the boundaries for herself, let alone for a sister. And avoidance is her default position in everything.

However, it is my wish the reader can see the hope within the novel, the things that change within the character that can create something positive.

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