Let’s face it, the world isn’t a very nice place sometimes. Fickleness isn’t confined to junior high cliques or boyfriend break-ups. Instead, it can seep into writing groups, over-take an other-wise rational crit parnter or rear it’s ugly head in our beta readers.
So what do we do with crit teams gone wrong?
Well, let’s start with the basics and first try to give you a solid foundation. If you’re new to the whole critique group/beta reader/partner thing, hop on over to From the Write Angle and see what seasoned crit parnters have to say about finding a good crit fit.
If you’ve been in the crit business for a while, but are not quite sure what your role is, Joyce Alton shares her secrets regarding successful critique groups at Yesternight’s Voyage.
But for the sake of this post, let’s go back to high school for a moment and discuss two reasons to step away from the clique.
Critique teams can become our besties. We fall in like with them, invite them over for slumber parties and tell them our deepest desires. We spill our souls to them–on and off the page. Beware, oh fellow scribes, of this comfort zone. Over time, crit partners can become desensitized to our words and over-sensitized to our feelings. Instead of giving us the dirty on our manuscripts, they may pass along shallow encouragement. This is the time to toss your bestie aside and find a critter who likes you enough to be honest, but not enough to lie to you.
Which brings us to the second reason we may need to cut and run. Not all besties love us. Sometimes they stick daggers into our backs every chance they get. Other times they become passive/aggressive and say things with double meanings. Rarely, if we’re lucky, they simply fall away from us by hanging with a new group of friends and giving us quiet lip service whenever we meet in the halls.
Crit partners can fall into these same patterns. They can get down and dirty when their green-eyed demon red-lines our pages. They may simply provide weak and thoughtless commentary in their haste to hang with cooler kids. Or, they may simply grow apart from us on our journeys through life and literature.
So what do we do?
Give Up the Wishy-Washy. You’re nice. I know. On occasions, I am too. We hate to hurt feelings and hope that maybe, just maybe, things will get better given enough time. Well guess what? Your time is valuable. If you don’t get what you need in the lunch room, it’s time to walk. Quit straddling the fence. Get off the pot. Give up the wishy-washy and use your writing time wisely. If you don’t your crit partner will.
Which reminds me: how does one gracefully break up with a partner? If you’re anything like me, you hate confrontation and have realized that drama is best left to the theatre. So, because I love you, I’ll give you some sample break-up lines to help pave the way:
-Dear CP, I don’t feel qualified to provide the kind of feedback you deserve at this point in your journey.
-Dear CP, I apologize for making time commitments I am unable to keep. Please allow me to bow out of our agreement.
-Dear CP, I feel as if we are both at different places in our writing journeys. Because of this, I am unable to give you the time your writing deserves.
-Dear CP, I underestimated my time and ability to maintain a critique partnership at this time. Please forgive me for stepping away from our agreement.
If you’re in a crit group with a moderator, privately share your frustrations and let her handle the situation. Just know that it might take some time to resolve the differences, as an organized critique group typically has guidelines in place for dealing with member concerns. And resolution doesn’t always mean a boot to the behind, because sometimes, the problem might be you.
I did warn you that the world can be a cruel place.
How do you assess whether you and your writing partners are compatible and the feedback effective? Who makes up your crit team and how do you hammer out any difference?
Curious minds want to know.