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The Great CP Search Is On! (Reprisal from 2011)

It’s not too late to post your CP profile, which can be added until late Friday night. 

If you’ve been a Ruby blog follower for a long time, you may recall my March 10th, 2011 article on critique partners — AKA cattle prods.   If you didn’t  read it, you might want to now as it’s relevant to this post.

During the RWA national conference we heard from many writers looking for a CP.  I won’t spout hearts and rainbows here and say finding a compatible CP is easy.  It’s not.  It’s a relationship that develops over time and requires a lot of questions at the beginning and some honest conversations later on.  If you happen to be searching for a CP, here’s your chance to network.

The first question CP wannabes always seem to ask is if writing in the same subgenre is important.  My answer is emphatically NO.  Good writing, characterization, and plotting don’t change from one area of fiction to the next.  Story structure and mechanics remain basically the same.  In fact, it can be a huge advantage if CPs target different markets for a variety of reasons:

  1. There is less chance of affecting each other’s voices.
  2. You’re never in competition with each other.
  3. Writing in different subgenres decreases the probability of unconsciously borrowing from each other’s work.
  4. You probably aren’t as well versed in your partner’s subgenre so you’ll question details another writer or reader in the same market might take for granted.  For example, my CP writes historical and sci-fi romances.  I’m not much of a historian and I tend to be pragmatic so suspending my disbelief doesn’t come easily.  Therefore, when the history begins to take over my CP’s story or her world-building stretches plausibility, I’m the first one to notice it.  As a contemporary writer, I’m more likely to question whether a term or phrase is anachronistic.

However, writing in a similar subgenre isn’t a bad thing.  There can be a lot of advantages to that too, such as familiarity with the market.  In any case, you should also have a BETA reader who writes or reads the opposite subgenre from your critique partner so all of your bases will be covered.

I believe the most important questions to ask when choosing a CP are the following:

  1. Are you writing at a similar level?  Naturally, we’d all love to have Stephen King or Nora Roberts as our CP.  But would you be able to give back as much help as you receive?  Would they need to spend an inordinate amount of time teaching you craft, thereby making it a one-sided relationship?  Would you even know enough about the myriad facets of literature to understand when they make suggestions about mirroring the theme in the subplot or adding a touch of irony to your characters’ situation to enrich the story?  Asking for a potential CP’s contest credits and for the opportunity to read the first chapter and synopsis to her WIP is a good way to judge if you have about the same experience.
  2. Do you write at a similar speed?  If you’re writing and polishing three books a year and your partner is lucky to pound out a first draft in that same time period, it will eventually breed resentment.  You’re probably able to write that much because you’re not spending all of your time critiquing someone else’s work.  If you happen to be extremely prolific, you might want to consider using different CPs for your various manuscripts.
  3. Are you thick or thinskinned?  It’s important to work with someone who is compatible with your critique style.  I personally want my CP to rip my work to shreds before I submit to an editor or agent.  I don’t have to take all of my CPs advice, but it’s nice to know what she really thinks so I can at least consider all of her issues with my book.  If you know you’re the sensitive type who doesn’t handle criticism and rejection well (you know who you are), you need to find someone who like-minded and willing to put in the additional time to bolster your ego while they point out the flaws in your work.  Newer writers tend to need more hand holding and stroking.
  4. How detailed do you prefer a critique to be?  Line-editing (writing and mechanics), a broader evaluation (story and characterization), or something in between?  My CP and I critique at a story and characterization level and only line-edit when something stops us cold in our reading, which can be anything from a typo, a run-on sentence, a pronoun referring to the wrong antecedent, to even a bit of wit or humor one of us failed to capitalize on.  What we don’t do is analyze every sentence and paragraph, since doing that tends to affect a writer’s voice.
  5. What are the strongest and weakest aspects of your writing?  It’s best to have a CP who has different strengths in the various craft elements than you have.  (Such as narrative, plotting, grammar and mechanics, characterization, humor, suspense, setting, dialogue, emotion, action, synopses, marketing blurbs, hooks, brainstorming, POV, five sense, showing versus telling, etc.) Ideally you should work with someone who can help you become stronger where you’re weak and vice verse.  For example, my CP is stronger in vocabulary, grammar, and mechanics, narrative, and action scenes than I am, whereas my strengths lie in deep POV, plotting, pacing, humor, and hooks.  We’re equally strong at dialogue, characterization, setting, and emotion.  And we both used to suck at writing a succinct synopsis (or should I say SUCKNOPSIS), however we’ve both improved drastically over the last year or two.

Once these questions are answered and you’ve found someone who seems compatible to you, there are still a few things you need to do before trying to work together:

  1. Agree the partnership will ALWAYS be temporary, and you will not be hurt or angry if the other person decides your working relationship is no longer beneficial.  Having this conversation can be difficult – especially if you’ve worked together for a while.  But circumstances change that affect a writer’s time and needs.  One of those changes can be publication. I’ve heard many disgruntled writers gripe about how their CP suddenly stopped working with them once they had an editor reading their work.  It’s important to agree up front that dissolving the partnership is ALWAYS a possibility.  Contracted authors have time constraints and pressure to produce that a CP from her pre-pubbed days may not be able to handle.  Or, she may not have time to continue critiquing anyone else’s work.  In the end, your career has to come first, and if a CP is holding you back professionally, it’s time to become simply good friends who have writing in common.
  2. Agree that sometimes you’ll disagree and neither of you is obligated to take the other’s advice and there will be no resentment if they don’t.  Ultimately, it’s the author name that goes on the cover of her book.  She has the final say as to what does or does not belong in it.
  3. Agree to be totally honest with each other and to support each other emotionally whenever the truth hurts.  Many phone conversations or e-mails are going to begin with, “I know you won’t want to hear this, but. . .” or “I hate to have to tell you this, but . . .”   If you can’t accept that reality and you take criticism personally, you don’t really want an honest opinion of your story and writing professionally probably isn’t for you.  On the other hand, if your critique partner never has anything good to say about your work and is overly critical, FIND A NEW CP ASAP!
  4. Agree if the other person sells her book you will be happy for her (AND JEALOUS).  It’s only natural to be envious when someone else sells a book before you do—especially if you were instrumental in shaping the book into a marketable product.  The important thing to remember is that professional jealousy is a fact of life, and we don’t feel it because we want our partners to fail or that we want to be published INSTEAD of them.  It’s simply because we want to succeed too!

So here’s your chance to place a CP WANTED AD and join the Great CP Search!

If you’d like to find a compatible critique partner (or cattle prod), post a comment here with the heading GREAT CP SEARCH at the top in all CAPS.  We won’t be matching anyone up, but you can copy the SEARCH FORM (below) into a word file, fill it out, and then paste it into your comment box.  By posting this form, you are agreeing to be contacted by other visitors as a potential critique partner.

Tomorrow, you’ll be able to scan through the posts to see if anyone else who’s searching seems compatible to you.  If you find an individual  you think might be a good fit, e-mail the Ruby Blog at http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/contact  with your introduction message and the SCREEN NAME of the individual you would like to contact, and we will forward your e-mail to him or her.  We need the screen names in order to find their e-mail addresses in the blog’s admin files.  Please be aware that we will only forward messages for one week, so don’t procrastinate in following up.

OR, you can have other searchers contact you directly by including an e-mail address on your form (However, you may only want to do that if you have a secondary e-mail account that you use specifically for SPAM, which most of us do.)

AND PLEASE, if this search results in a partnership for you, let us know!!!  We love to hear success stories.  If you don’t find a CP here, don’t despair.  There are a lot of other places that are great for networking.  Contest discussion boards are a wonderful place to find other writers who are at about the same writing level as you are, and many on-line special interest chapters have matching services for their members.  The first five years I was writing, I used contests as my main source of critiques.  However, that can get expensive.

For those who already have a critique partner, please share your advice and personal experience on what helps make your partnership work.

For those still searching:

Cut and paste the questionnaire below into a word file.  Fill in as much information as possible about yourself, then cut and paste the form into the comment box under a heading (in all caps) THE GREAT CP SEARCH.

On the questionnaire use a Y as a definite YES,  N as a definite NO,  S for sometimes, sort of, or somewhat with questions you’re on which you’re in the gray area (there will be one answer you lean toward more heavily).  And use N/A for not applicable.

=======================================================================================

NAME____________________________________________

Please E-MAIL me directly at __________________________________________

OR

______ Contact me through http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/contact

I write:_____________________________________________________________________________Be as specific as possible about subgenre and style. (For example: I have a humorous voice and write ST contemporary romantic women’s fiction and category romances with a home & family storyline.)

My favorite authors are _____________________________________________________

My work would be enjoyed by the audience of_______________________________________________________  List a well-known author your stories/tone/voice are similar to

I prefer to give and receive critiques that include:

Story & characterization analysis only ____ With occasional line-edits ____ With in-depth line-edits ______

I prefer a no-punches-pulled, straightforward critique focusing mostly on problems   _______

To avoid feeling discouraged, I prefer frequent praise to surround negative comments ______

I’d like help brainstorming problems ____    I just need the problems pointed out ____

I’m highly self-motivated_____    I need someone to help me set goals (kick my butt) ____

I have completed ___#___manuscripts

I usually write________,000 words a week.

I finish and polish a _______,000-word  book in _# __ months.

I have been seriously writing / pursuing publication for  ___#____years.

My strengths are _________________________________________________________________

My weaknesses are _________________________________________________________________

My writing credentials are:________________________________________________________________________________________  List contests you’ve won and when, contests you’ve been a finalist in and when, what percentile you’re work has fallen into in the GH, any job related writing, publications, blogs, etc.

18 responses to “The Great CP Search Is On! (Reprisal from 2011)”

  1. Jacie Floyd says:

    Thanks for reposting this, Laurie! Finding the right critique partner is HARD. But I agree with the criteria you’ve set out. The hardest thing for me is having the time to critique and people who say they want honest feedback, but then they don’t really. I don’t want a critique that sugar coats anything, but a lot of people do.

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  2. GREAT CP SEARCH

    I’ll be brave and go first 🙂

    NAME: Janet Walden-West
    Please E-MAIL me directly at: _janetwaldenwest@gmail.com_
    or
    ___X___ Contact me through
    http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/contact

    I write:_Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, and Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance full of competent, diverse women with a warped sense of humor, and damaged heroes who can appreciate them. My romances are slow burns. I’m a fan of diversity.

    My favorite authors are: Courtney Milan, Elle Kennedy, Lucy Parker, Cecilia Grant, Theresa Romain, Darynda Jones, Karen Marie Moning, Shelly Laurenston, and Dahlia Adler.

    My work would be enjoyed by the audience of: Lucy Parker for CF, Shelly Laurenston for UF/Para.

    I prefer to give and receive critiques that include:
    Story & characterization analysis only __Y__ With occasional line-edits __S__ With in-depth line-edits __N____

    I prefer a no-punches-pulled, straightforward critique focusing mostly on problems ___Y____
    To avoid feeling discouraged, I prefer frequent praise to surround negative comments __S____
    I’d like help brainstorming problems: _S_
    I just need the problems pointed out: _Y_
    I’m highly self-motivated: Y

    I have completed:#_5_manuscripts
    I usually write:_ 4-5,000_ words a week.
    I finish and polish a: 100,000-word book in:#6-8 months.
    I have been seriously writing / pursuing publication for: #__7__years.

    My strengths are: Dialogue, Humor, Characterization, Conflict, Action Scenes.
    My weaknesses are: Big Picture Plotting, especially resolving the conflict after The Black Moment, and getting the H/H’s HEA wrapped up. Great at starting fights/less so at resolving them. 🙂 Under-writing/vague transitions in early drafts.

    My writing credentials are: I’ve Finaled in numerous RWA contests and won over a dozen with my previous manuscript. I was a PitchWars 2014 Mentee. I’m a monthly contributor to http://www.TheMillionWords.net.

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  3. THE GREAT CP SEARCH

    NAME__Patricia [aka Pooks] Burroughs
    Please ontact me through http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/contact
    I write:_currently— https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20747269
    Magical Regency, Dark YA Epic Fantasy, an epic [180K words per book] trilogy. Have written successfully romantic comedy, contemporary romance, historical romance, screenplays].
    My favorite authors are Ben Aaronovitch, Dorothy Dunnett, JK Rowling, Georgette Heyer, Terry Pratchett, Robert Galbraith, Julia Quinn [historicals], Lisa Kleypas [historicals] [hard to stop!]
    My CURRENT work would be enjoyed by the audience of_JK Rowling, Grace Draven, Anne Bishop, Libba Bray. List a well-known author your stories/tone/voice are similar to
    I prefer to give and receive critiques that include:
    Story & characterization analysis only _X___ With occasional line-edits __X__ With in-depth line-edits ______
    To avoid feeling discouraged, I prefer frequent praise to surround negative comments ___X___ {which doesn’t mean I can’t take criticism, but I have to know what is working, and fell like criticism is coming from a place of caring and respect}
    I’d like help brainstorming problems _X [I may ask follow up questions to make sure I understand the issue, and love brainstorming]
    I’m highly self-motivated_____ I need someone to help me set goals (kick my butt) __X__
    I have completed ___14 manuscripts
    I usually write 8,000 words a week [once I am in the actual writing mode of a project].
    I [hope to] finish and polish a ____180,000-word book in _# 11 months.
    I have been seriously writing / pursuing publication for ___30+____years.
    My strengths are characterization, emotion, voice, plot twists
    My weaknesses are _plot [which I have learned to accommodate and overcome to a great degree], wordiness, self-editing [I have a learning disability that greatly impairs my ability to self-edit]
    My writing credentials are: RITA Finalist for Best Short Contemporary, Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting [awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences], RT Pioneer in Romance, Golden Quill for Best Fantasy Romance, and various others. Seven published novels, Editor of a short story anthology, and other publications.

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  4. Nicole Terry says:

    NAME: Nicole Terry

    ___X___ Contact me through http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/contact OR at authornicterry@gmail.com

    I write: contemporary adventure romance with humorous overtones usually set in a small but odd town. In addition to urban fantasy & fantasy romance with snark and women who tend to make decisions that inevitably get them into trouble. Most of my writing, including the romance, is in 1st POV. I do single title and eventually would like to do category as well.

    My favorite authors are : Gini Koch, Kristen Ashley, Laura Resnick, Emma Chase, Ilona Andrews, Kristen Callihan, Anne Bishop, JD Robb, Christine Feehan, Shelly Laurenston/G.A. Aiken, Dana Marie Bell, Molly Harper, Patricia Briggs, Kevin Hearne, Brenda Jackson, Kianna Alexander, Julia Quinn, Stephanie Laurens, and Suzanne Wright.

    My work would be enjoyed by the audience of Kristen Ashley

    I prefer to give and receive critiques that include:

    Story & characterization analysis only _Y___ With occasional line-edits __S__ With in-depth line-edits __S____

    I prefer a no-punches-pulled, straightforward critique focusing mostly on problems _S______

    To avoid feeling discouraged, I prefer frequent praise to surround negative comments _S_____

    I’d like help brainstorming problems _Y__ I just need the problems pointed out _S___

    I’m highly self-motivated__S___ I need someone to help me set goals (kick my butt) _Y___

    I have completed ___3___manuscripts

    I usually write_____1,500___ words a week.

    I finish and polish a ______80_,000-word book in _6-8 __ months.

    I have been seriously writing / pursuing publication for ___2____years.

    My strengths are _____CHARACTERIZATION, BRAINSTORMING, ENCOURAGEMENT, __________________________________________________

    My weaknesses are ________PLOTTING, PUNCTUATION, CONSISTENCY____________________________________________________

    My writing credentials are:_____MY BLOG: https://authornicterry.wordpress.com/___________________________________________

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  5. Your better half. ;-) says:

    Girl, we certainly lucked out. I hope many take advantage of this opportunity. A good Cattle Prod is hard to find!

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  6. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    I’m going to jump in here as well. I am a “budding” writer, as noted on my form, and still finding my way. Nonetheless, am going to need a CP at some point and now would be a good time before I develop too many “bad habits”:)So here goes:

    NAME: Cynthia Huscroft___________________
    Please E-MAIL me directly at: cjhuscroft@yahoo.com OR contact me through http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/contact

    I write: This is my first big writing endeavor. Prior to this, I have only written medical blogs. I currently do not have a chosen genre but am working on a YA mystery (think Nancy Drew). A novice here, so I haven’t really found my “voice” yet. Be as specific as possible about subgenre and style. (For example: I have a humorous voice and write ST contemporary romantic women’s fiction and category romances with a home & family storyline.)

    My favorite authors are: Anne Rice, Anya Seton, Amy Tan, Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell, Sue Grafton, Nevada Barr…. to name a few. I’ve just recently started reading romance novels.

    My work would be enjoyed by the audience of: Carol Keanne (at least for now) _________ List a well-known author your stories/tone/voice are similar to.

    I prefer to give and receive critiques that include: I am not sure what I prefer exactly but what I do know is that I want a CP who will help me become a better writer.
    Story & characterization analysis only __Y__ With occasional line-edits __Y__ With in-depth line-edits ______
    I prefer a no-punches-pulled, straightforward critique focusing mostly on problems: X (but also need some focus on what is good as well.)
    To avoid feeling discouraged, I prefer frequent praise to surround negative comments ___S___
    I’d like help brainstorming problems __Y__ (or brainstorming in general) I just need the problems pointed out _Y__
    I’m highly self-motivated __Y___ I need someone to help me set goals (kick my butt) _S___

    I have completed ___0___manuscripts

    I usually write: Currently about 2500 – 3000 words a week.

    I finish and polish a _______,000-word book in _# __ months. I’ve not reached this point yet.

    I have been seriously writing / pursuing publication for ___1___years.

    My strengths are __My imagination, vocabulary, doing research needed for what I’m working on and others yet to be discovered.

    My weaknesses are _Sequencing and timelines; echo words; distractions and, as with strengths, others yet to be discovered.

    My writing credentials are: Have published medical blogs via a local advertising agency in my locale. List contests you’ve won and when, contests you’ve been a finalist in and when, what percentile you’re work has fallen into in the GH, any job related writing, publications, blogs, etc.

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  7. Ilse Mul says:

    GREAT CP SEARCH
    NAME: Ilse Mul
    Please Contact me through http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/contact
    I write New adult Fantasy.
    My favorite authors are JK Rowling, George R. R. Martin, Terry Brooks, Nora Roberts, J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Christopher Paolini, Diana Gabaldon and more.
    My work would be enjoyed by the audience of George R. R. Martin, J. R. R. Tolkien, Christoper Poalini and Cassandra Clare.
    I prefer to give and receive critiques that include:
    Story & characterization analysis: Y
    With occasional line-edits: Y
    With in-depth line-edits: S
    I prefer a no-punches-pulled, straightforward critique focusing mostly on problems: Y
    To avoid feeling discouraged, I prefer frequent praise to surround negative comments Y
    I like constructive criticism for things that could be improved, but I’d also like to know what is working good and thus should be kept. It keeps me motivated.
    I’d like help brainstorming problems: Y
    I just need the problems pointed out: At the moment absolutely Y, since I’m not that experienced in writing yet.
    I’m highly self-motivated: Y
    I need someone to help me set goals (kick my butt) Y (I have times where that is most certainly needed!)
    I have completed 0 manuscripts (My current series is the first I’m truly going to work out as a manuscripts. All previous writings were mere exercises)
    I usually write ??? words a week: I don’t have an average yet. I’ve done most writing during NaNoWriMo and there my average was 1000 words or more a day. This is the first year I’m working on my story outside of NaNo times as well, but I can’t say what my average is, yet, because I mostly worked on World building before Camp NaNo.
    I finish and polish a book in ??? months: I have no experience with this yet.
    I have been seriously writing / pursuing publication for 0 years.
    I don’t fully know my strengths and weaknesses in writing yet. If I’d had to judge this based on my old work, I’d say my weaknesses can be details as in too many of them. In Game design (which I’m currently changing my career into from Traffic Engineer) details are needed, as much as possible to make sure the game gets made as it should. In my old work too many details could be seen as hampering, since I often wrote policy pieces.
    I can imagine that I might get into details too much during writing, instead of leaving it to the imagination of the readers, even though I’m a great fan of the way J. R. Tolkien included all the details. For me it made the story come to life. And that’s exactly the point/problem: how to find that balance.
    One definite weakness is Language. I write in English and although various professionals have told me I speak and write it rather fluently I still tend to mix up some grammar and spelling.
    Perhaps one of my strengths is that I can easily write 2,000 – 3,000 words based on a short phase/scene description of perhaps 50 words or even less. I hope during writing and critiques my writing strengths and weaknesses will become clear.
    Additionally a few are my Imagination and the ability to adjust. My outlines are “negotiable”. If I find something that works better (like I have in my current writing project) I’ll happily destroy (part of) the outline in favor of that what works better.
    I don’t have any writing credentials to show yet.

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  8. Submissions for THE GREAT CP SEARCH has closed. We hope this helped you find a match.

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  9. Thanks for the opportunity. It’s fun seeing what kinds of goals others set for themselves and the stories being written.

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  10. Ilse Mul says:

    Thanks for the opportunity, Laurie! It’s wonderful you’re giving us this chance 🙂

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