Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Scariest Critique Partners of All...

...Are not the ones that are "brutal" so to speak, or even the ones that have been looking forward to it the most. Sure, you might let them down, but there is still that excitement. No, the scariest ones of all... or the ones who you know, going into it, stand a strong chance of not liking your story.

So why give it to them?

This picture is in no way relevant to my post.  I just like it. 
Because they will be far more beneficial than you might be able to imagine. Because when they read it, if it's not their kind of story, then they'll be that much more able to look at your execution, your flow, your character development... they won't find themselves more interested in finding out what happens next than finding the flaws you can't see.

But that doesn't make it any less scary, or the desire to say nevermind to that person any less intense. Honestly, having a partner like this never even really occurred to me until recently, when I was talking to a fantastic woman who I read for. I really enjoy her stuff, I like a range of things. She, however, loves her happy stuff, her faeries and witches and other supernatural and paranormal creatures. If it happens down the street, she isn't all that interested in it. And my stuff? It's emotional, it's liable to make you cry, it's been known to twist your heart out and set it on fire and throw razor blades through it before giving it to the alligators (not my words). It is the stuff that could happen down the street.

So why, when this particular person rarely reads contemporary, when she likes things to maybe get serious and intense but end on a lighter note, would I possibly send her my dark and sordid tale of brotherly woe? Because one, she wants to read it. Because two, I trust her. And because three, she will be able to tell me when maybe I am getting a little too dark, a little too emotional for too long. When those things that are a turn off to the people who only dabble in the genre come in, she won't be afraid to tell me. And if it's something that is just a personal distaste of hers, she won't feel the need to tell me that either because she understands the reason why it's in there, even if it's not what she would do.

And those are the scariest people to send your work to, but one of the most valuable. Does that mean you only want people who don't dabble in your genre? Of course not. But don't let fear, or a desire to have every beta reader adore your work, or just plain stubbornness keep you from getting what could be some of the most valuable feedback you'll get. Send it to the people outside your genre, and be open minded when you get their notes back.


  1. Interesting thought...however, I always think if it's not their kind of story, they may be too bored to pay attention to it? Hehe

  2. They can still be a great critique partner even if it's not a story they fawn all over--which is the point of my post =) If they go in as a writer, instead of just a reader, they see things much clearer. Or at least, this particular crit partner of mine who inspired this post does.

  3. Good thoughts. Of course, as I think about it, NONE of my crit partners read the kind of stuff I write for fun. So you could say they're all like this. And they're all pretty good for me, too. I do have one reader who loves my work, but she's not a crit partner really. (She never gives me any criticism!) But that's okay. Everyone needs a cheerleader too.

  4. Interesting view. I could totally see how this would be beneficial. I do have one reader who doesn't read YA, so that definitely helps ;o)

    Great post, Kari!

  5. Good advice. I write YA/MG fantasy, but I have a crit partner that writes suspense/thrillers.

    I help him with character development and he helps me see past the cool fairy stuff and into the plot and logic of the characters.