Crit Buddies: the Happy Meal of Writing

This past week/end was a blast.  DH had been scheduled for his yearly golf tourney up in Brainerd, but injured his neck and stayed behind.  Unlike his normal, workaholic self, he actually remained home on his already scheduled days off.  It was great to have him around and we got some odds and ends done.  Lots of relaxing too.

Middle son’s relay team placed 5th (out of 5) at the state track meet on Saturday.  He was so excited to stand on the podium to receive his award.  Eldest marched for band, while our Dear Daughter and Youngest walked the parade.  DD turned 14 and celebrated in style, while DH and I apparently adopted three teenaged children. 

All our kids are highly social, which means a lot of hosting.  Our food count for the weekend looked something like this:

  • 16 hamburgers
  • 36 cans of various drinks
  • 24 water bottles
  • 8 hotdogs
  • 2 brats
  • 3 large pizzas
  • 4 boxes of cereal
  • 1 butter braid
  • 1 angel food birthday cake
  • bags and bags of chips
  • bags and bags of veggies
  • cantelope, pasta salad & other filler foods too numerous to count

Oh, yeah.  And one Mc Donald’s run for Youngest.

“Dad, please take me to Mc Donalds.  I want a cheeseburger with only ketchup.”

“I’ll make you one.”

Youngest is stubborn and knows how to hold his ground.  After much finagling, the truth comes out. 

“Dad, your hamburgers are just a teensy, weensy bit…not as good,” Youngest says and holds his fingers together so they almost touch.  He smiles real big, trying for damage control.  “Everybody likes your hamburgers.  Grant and Davis.  Connor does and Lexi and Tyson.  Mom…”

Youngest ticks off names, his little eyes looking directly into DH’s.  He loves his Daddy and doesn’t want to hurt his feelings.  “To them, your hamburgers are good.  To me…not so much.”

This refreshing honesty is exactly what I look for in a critique partner.  I love the truth.  It’s the only thing that helps me grow as a writer. 

Thankfully, I have a group of critters that gives me what I need.  Two are outstanding Beta Readers.  Another is my Comma Queen.  She makes last minute polishing a dream.  And just recently, I hooked up with another Minnesota writer who has proven to be an outstanding critiquer.  He’s young (by my ancient standards) and has a fresh perspecive.  He’s also not afraid to tell it like it is.

“Everything sounded really good up to here.  This part just doesn’t work for me.  Flesh it out.  Give more detail.  This sounds off.”

I love it.  My critters are the best Happy Meal around.

Is it important to have a well-rounded critique group, or is that akin to too many cooks at the fry basket?  Which type of reader is the hardest to find?  Which ones are the most valuable to you, and why?   

Now let’s go get a hamburger!

18 responses to “Crit Buddies: the Happy Meal of Writing

  1. yvonne osborne

    I need some new crit partners. Did you just happen upon them through luck or persistence?

    I have lots of great organic hamburger. Never get tired of it. Your kids sound great.

    • Yvonne,

      One gal I met at a writer’s conference. She lived 45 minutes from me and we met twice a month. Then she got married and moved : ( She was a great critiquer, as she saw things very differently than I did. She made me realize that not everyone can survive off no description!

      Two other gals–my betas–came from AQ. We have been in contact for almost a year. We blog and email. However, it wasn’t until very recently that I asked them to beta for me. It worked out great. My Comma Queen is also an AQer and blogger. In passing–during a moment of stress regarding finding a good copy editor to help me polish my ms–I asked if she was good at grammar. Low and behold, she used to edit in her past life.

      Then, my newest victim and I ran across each other on the SCBWI site. He was calling out for a crit buddy and on a whim, I answered. He’s fantabulous for the not quite polished critiquing. Other than my last partner, I had known, chatted and exchanged emails with them for quite some time.

      So, a little bit of both, I guess.

      It isn’t always easy and it usually takes me awhile before I feel comfortable enough with sharing my work. The thing to keep in mind, most people are looking for a good critter to happen down their writing path. Sometimes all we have to do is ask! I think it helps to have a partner familiar with your genre.

      Are you in any groups that might help you connect? Or do you go to any conferences? Oh, or ask at your library if there is a writer’s group around. I did that in a previous town and discovered that while there wasn’t one, people had inquired about one. We hooked up, did a bit of advertising and voila, we had a group of 8 in no time!

      Best luck.

  2. I like honest but not brutal. Tell me why you didn’t like it, don’t just say you didn’t. ^_^

  3. My critique group is great. Two guys and four women, and each of us focuses on something different when we read and critique submissions. It’s not too many cooks in the kitchen, because we all know we have to make the final decision on a change. But when 3 or 4 members have the same criticism of a passage or a plot twist, I pay attention. They’re probably right.

    • Patricia,

      Perfect example of using feedback productively. A solo comment may not ring as true as a oft commented on issue. Great point to remember.

  4. You make me smile. I love to have a wide variety of readers. To me, the highly detailed nit-pickers are invaluable, but only if they have the capacity to see the wider, healthier picture of tomatoes and lettuce and if they’re as willing to accept the sloppy dose of ketchup as they are to spray it, ya know? When you get critiquers who can only dish it out – not so much fun.

    • Amen, Victoria. We need kitchen prep, fry guys and burger flippers as well as servers. And let us not forget the clean up crew for when we schmutz ketchup all over the place!

  5. Mmmm, hamburgers…:)

  6. I’m lucky with my crit buddies too. They are honest and kind 🙂 I also met them through AQ.

    I often feel as if I’ve adopted several teenagers – a lot more food, but I love that they can all hang out here 🙂

    • Jemi, isn’t it nice. We know where our kids are and what they’re doing? A bigger food bill is a good trade off for helping raise the next generation.

      AQ Rocks!

  7. Gotta love a child’s honesty! They’re so sweet about it!

    Mmmm, now I can not wait for Independence Day weekend for burgers and pasta salad and all those cook-out goodies!

    I like a critique partner who can point out the good and the not so good. I like the criticism to be helpful. I strive to be that kind of critique partner, too!

  8. Your week/end sounds so much fun! And those are some delicious food you listed 🙂
    When I get a ‘it’s great!’ comment, I do feel good and it does make me happy but to be honest, it’s not helpful at all… What’s helpful is constructive criticism, showing me something that I’ve missed, telling me what sounds off and what doesn’t work. That kind of criticism helps me grow as a writer and my manuscript to get better.
    You are very blessed to have such a supportive and helpful group of people around you 🙂

    • Lua, I am lucky. It has taken a year to put my critique system into place, but I love the strengths that each of my buddies has. They are helping me become a much better writer. One of my critters used to write out her questions or concerns. For her positive feedback, she would slide a smiley face next to a passage she really liked. It was so simple but effective in letting me know what worked and what didn’t.

  9. Your smallest is seriously going to tear up the world, I’m totally convinced. Not in a bad way mind you. :p

    • He can move in with you for the summer! You need a new roommy right? Yeah, we have definitely been blessed with the addition of youngest to our family. I can’t imagine how boring life would be without his take on the world!

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