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The Great CP Search (Reprisal from April 2017)

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’s 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 your work has fallen into in the GH, any job related writing, publications, blogs, etc.

6 responses to “The Great CP Search (Reprisal from April 2017)”

  1. Tracy Brody says:

    Just spent a few days at the beach with Golden Heart sisters and we did some plotting sessions. Good reminder that we don’t have to do this writing thing all on our own. CP’s can teach you, keep you on track, and see things you’re too close to pick up on. Good luck all those looking for the right CP match.

    3+
  2. You’re so right. CPs make all the difference, Tracy.

    2+
  3. Leslie Scott says:

    THE GREAT CP SEARCH

    NAME_______Leslie Scott________
    Please E-MAIL me directly at _____lesliescottwrites@gmail.com___________________
    OR
    ___Y___ Contact me through http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/contact
    I write:_____NewAdult Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, and Western Contemporary Romance_________________________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 ___Jim Butcher and Kelly Armstrong_________________________
    My work would be enjoyed by the audience of____I have no idea__________________________________ 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 _Y___ With occasional line-edits _Y___ With in-depth line-edits __Y____
    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 ___N___
    I’d like help brainstorming problems __S__ 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) __N__
    I have completed ___6___manuscripts
    I usually write____5 -10____,000 words a week.
    I finish and polish a ___85____,000-word book in _4-6 __ months.
    I have been seriously writing / pursuing publication for ___4__years.
    My strengths are __Plot, conflict, and character motivation_________________________________ ________________________
    My weaknesses are _____grammar (commas, let’s be honest here)___________________________
    My writing credentials are:__I have one novel published with TWRP and 3 more under contract (two in edits) one in process ______________________________________________________________________________________ List contests you’ve won and when, contests you’ve been a finalist in and when, what percentile your work has fallen into in the GH, any job related writing, publications, blogs, etc.

    0
  4. Geena Gallardo says:

    GREAT CP SEARCH:

    Here I am being brave!!!

    NAME: Geena Gallardo

    Please E-MAIL me directly at _geenagallardo@icloud.com

    OR
    X Contact me through:
    http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/contact

    I write: Paranormal Romance with a hint of Greek mythology, I try to have a sassy humorous voice (there are A LOT of cuss words, etc.)

    My favorite authors are: It ranges, Darynda Jones (obviously) to Diana Gabaldon, Molly Harper, V.C. Andrews, Robyn Peterman, J.R. Ward…

    My work would be enjoyed by the audience Of Darynda Jones (I mean I wish I could write like her, but she is my inspiration!)

    I prefer to give and receive critiques that include:
    Story & characterization analysis only Y
    with occasional line-edits S
    with in-depth line-edits Y

    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 mean Occasional praise is okay too?)

    I’d like help brainstorming problems S I just need the problems pointed out Y
    I’m highly self-motivated S
    I need someone to help me set goals (kick my butt) S

    I have completed 1 manuscripts
    I usually write_5,000? Words a week (I am in editing mode right now, so this is variable).
    I finish and polish a _50,000+-word book in _3 _ Months (I’m new at this and optimistic.)
    I have been seriously writing / pursuing publication for _3 years. (I wrote my manuscript back in 2015 and have been harboring it and polishing it waiting to strike. Or just waiting for this wonderful group of Ruby’s to push me into fields of the great unknown.)

    My strengths are: I’m very outgoing, or is this about my writing? Humor, Action Scenes, characterization. Sexy scenes…mmm, brainstorming, research, imagination.

    My weaknesses are: I have never been a CP to another person before or ever have had one for my writing, so I would be new at this. Another weakness is my dialogue. Oh and plot holes, sometimes I feel like I have trouble making sure things connect. Maybe making sure my HEA actually works and doesn’t make you want to actually vomit or throw the book in the fire (or your electronic device.)

    My writing credentials are: I unfortunately have no writing credentials in relation to contests or book publications, but I did enter my first contest during the 2018 WWF and have entered more through RWA since. That being said, I have completed Nanowrimo where I did write my manuscript in 2015. I also was a writer for a Diversity blog during my college years where I published many articles, I also blogged for a maternity retail store that I worked with a couple years ago.

    1+
  5. Lenee Anderson says:

    THE GREAT CP SEARCH

    NAME Lenee M. Anderson
    Please E-MAIL me directly at: leneemanderson@gmail.com
    I Write: Historical mysteries with a romantic storyline
    My favorite authors are: Winston Graham, Jennifer Ashley, CS Harris, Rhys Bowen, Bernard Cornwell
    My work would be enjoyed by the audience of: CS Harris
    List a well-known author your stories/tone/voice are similar to: CS Harris, Bernard Cornwell
    I prefer to give and receive critiques that include:
    Story & characterization analysis only: Yes
    With occasional line-edits: No
    With in-depth line-edits: No
    I prefer a no-punches-pulled, straightforward critique focusing mostly on problems: Yes
    To avoid feeling discouraged, I prefer frequent praise to surround negative comments: Yes
    I’d like help brainstorming problems: Yes
    I just need the problems pointed out: Yes
    I’m highly self-motivated: Yes
    I need someone to help me set goals (kick my butt): No
    I have completed: 1 manuscript
    I usually write: 500 words a week.
    I have been seriously writing / pursuing publication for: 10 years.
    My strengths are: I’m self motivated and disciplined. I’m a good researcher. I write strong internal stuff and weak external stuff. Very good at characterization. I’m good at developing stories and bad at developing plots.
    My weaknesses are: Highly self critical. Easily discouraged and frustrated. I get bogged down in meaningless details. I go with my gut most of the time so I don’t always understand why something feels wrong.
    My writing credentials are: I’ve written advertising campaigns and marketing campaigns, business proposals, all my own promotional materials. I’ve edited articles for the American Legion which have appeared in the local paper. Oh, and I wrote an article for the high school newspaper, like, 21 years ago!

    0
  6. Lenee Anderson says:

    THE GREAT CP SEARCH

    NAME Lenee M. Anderson
    Please E-MAIL me directly at: leneemanderson@gmail.com
    I Write: Historical mysteries with a romantic storyline
    My favorite authors are: Winston Graham, Jennifer Ashley, CS Harris, Rhys Bowen, Bernard Cornwell
    My work would be enjoyed by the audience of: CS Harris
    List a well-known author your stories/tone/voice are similar to: CS Harris, Bernard Cornwell
    I prefer to give and receive critiques that include:
    Story & characterization analysis only: Yes
    With occasional line-edits: No
    With in-depth line-edits: No
    I prefer a no-punches-pulled, straightforward critique focusing mostly on problems: Yes
    To avoid feeling discouraged, I prefer frequent praise to surround negative comments: Yes
    I’d like help brainstorming problems: Yes
    I just need the problems pointed out: Yes
    I’m highly self-motivated: Yes
    I need someone to help me set goals (kick my butt): No
    I have completed: 1 manuscript
    I usually write: 500 words a week.
    I have been seriously writing / pursuing publication for: 10 years.
    My strengths are: I’m self motivated and disciplined. I’m a good researcher. I write strong internal stuff and weak external stuff. Very good at characterization. I’m good at developing stories and bad at developing plots.
    My weaknesses are: Highly self critical. Easily discouraged and frustrated. I get bogged down in meaningless details. I go with my gut most of the time so I don’t always understand why something feels wrong.
    My writing credentials are: I’ve written advertising campaigns and marketing campaigns, business proposals, all my own promotional materials. I’ve edited articles for the American Legion which have appeared in the local paper. Oh, and I wrote an article for the high school newspaper, like, 21 years ago!

    0

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