DUE TO OVERWHELMING INTEREST, I HAVE HAD TO CLOSE THE MATCH UP EARLY AT 100 PARTICIPANTS. I APOLOGISE FOR ANYONE THAT MIGHT HAVE MISSED OUT THIS TIME, BUT PLEASE FOLLOW ME ON ANY OF MY VARIOUS FORMS OF SOCIAL MEDIA IF YOU'D LIKE TO KNOW WHEN I OPEN THIS UP FOR A SECOND ROUND. AND IN THE MEANTIME, ENJOY THE INTERVIEW! THANK YOU!
Hey, Drama Llamas :) Welcome to part II of my interview with my awesome critique partners, Jolie Vines and Zoe Ashwood. If you missed Part I, you can read it here! Don't forget to sign up for our romance writer critique partner match up at the end of the interview if you're in the market for a new writing bestie!
QUESTION 7: What impact has having a CP had on your writing? Do you think it’s necessary for writers to have CP’s?
Jo: I absolutely believe CPs are your writing's best friend. Your CPs are your first readers! I've had several CPs but am never letting my current ones go *evil plan laugh*
Elle: Please. Even if you tried to let us go, we’d find you...
Elle: My writing has improved 100% since working with Zoe and Jo. I honestly knew nothing about self editing when we started together and their feedback and encouragement were the only things that got me through long months and multiple rewrites. But now that story I worked on all last year will be published in September! You’d better believe there will be an entire paragraph in the acknowledgements thanking them for not letting me give up.
Elle (again. Shuttup already Elle! lol) : That said, I don’t think it’s 100% necessary for a writer to have a CP, but feedback of SOME SORT, whether that be a developmental editor, a CP or a bunch of alpha/beta readers is essential.
Jo: Agreed on Elle's last point - having a CP is a commitment, because you get out of it what you put in. Not everyone will have time for that. Beta readers can give more general like/dislike feedback, or you can pay a dev editor to help with overall issues. But will they fangirl over the first kiss? Are you going to be able to message them at 2am because you just thought of the BEST scene detail? Nope. Didn't think so.
Elle: ^best point ever. And your CP’s begin to know your story almost as well as you do. So later on down the editing line, they’re STILL there to bounce ideas off, when you get stuck. You can’t go back to a dev editor 6 months later and ask if your character should now do XYZ. But you can with a CP.
Zoe: YES to all of this. A CP is like a fangirling/boying developmental editor. Especially when you're starting out and can't afford an editor, swapping critiques is the only way to go. Later on, using a developmental editor might make everything easier. But we also boost each other's posts on social media, and I expect we'll promote each other's books when they're published. We're maybe a bit unusual as far as CPs go, we've maybe morphed more into an author group? I don't have a clear label for this.And cracking the whip! Sprinting together, being encouraging - this all comes naturally.
QUESTION 8: How much work is involved in having a CP? On an average week or month, how much time do u spend on your CP Work?
Jo: Typically a book might take me between 2 and 6 weeks to return. It depends on the complexity of the story and the amount of time I have free to work on / think about it. A good rule of thumb is that a chapter can take between one and two hours to critique.
Elle: I can normally do a full critique in about 3 weeks. We’ve also critiqued queries and blurbs and synopsis’ and I can get those back in a day or two. It does take time, but I think you learn a lot from doing it.
Zoe: Mmm...it IS a commitment. When I'm critiquing a full MS, I sometimes have to pause my own writing because I rarely have enough time in a day to work on both. That can be tough - but it worked out great recently when I was critiquing Jo's book, because I just wasn't ready to commit on my next project and took that time to brainstorm. But it's the most valuable thing you can do for your stories.
When I'm working for an hour in the evening, I can usually critique 1 chapter a session, which means I can critique a 80k book...maybe in a month? As Elle said, outlines, queries, synopses and such are much faster.
QUESTION 9: What’s one thing your CP always pulls you up on?
Jo: Punctutation. Odd details, like recently I invented medieval Etruscans. Oops.
Elle: Etrus-whaaaat? Obviously I was not the CP that pulled you up on that one.
Elle: I’m always being pulled up on using the characters names too much in dialogue. I know it doesn’t sound natural yet I somehow still do it all the time! And we won’t even talk about my grammar...
Jo: I seem to have a bad habit of arranging my characters in weird ways. I believe Elle once described my heroine's positioning when taking a phone call as a 'pretzel'.Also, I write over-dramatic foreshadowing that needs reining in. I even confuse myself with it.
Elle: See, this is why we’re friends. We like the drama lol. And Zoe counter balances us
Zoe: Yeah, I'm the resident fact-checker! :D I remember reading Elle's outline for Only the Positive and she had the hero shoving the heroine against the fridge in a passionate kiss - and I was like "all the fridge magnets would fall off and it would be awkward".
I get consistency problems (like people NOT falling down the stairs when they're supposed to), my character motivations are never clearly expressed, and my setting is always missing - I get too stuck in dialogue and then I need to flesh out the surroundings.
QUESTION 10: How is a CP different to a beta reader or an editor?
Jo: CP would read a potentially rougher draft than later in the process. I'd also expect them to have skills a Beta wouldn't. Betas should be all about the enjoyment / does it make sense, without being able to tell you why.Editors come in such a range. A CP acts as a developmental editor, so there's an overlap. I wouldn't expect a CP to do copy edits! (Though I'm very lucky one of my CPs is an expert and I've used her expertise to force grammar rules through my thick skull). Overall, a story might go through several iterations, a CP at the beginning and an editor being near the end of the process.
Zoe: A beta is a general reader, not a writer, usually. A CP MUST be a writer, preferably in the same genre (or even subgenre!) as you write. A beta will make comments on general stuff, like whether they liked the characters, found any passages too slow, etc, but a CP will dig deeper, making sure characters are behaving as they should and that plot points are where they should be. An editor is - first of all - paid to do their work. So the relationship is, I expect, much more professional (which would probably mean fewer emojis in the comments?).
QUESTION 11: Have you ever been part of a critique partnership that didn’t work out? Can you tell us why?
Jo: Mostly, my CP relationships have been limited to single books. Sometimes they haven't worked past a single chapter exchange - never be afraid to say if it isn't working out!I did have one relationship which I had to end because my trust was lost in the individual. That was a hard lesson, as I'm a pretty open person, but you live and learn.
Elle: I’m a newbie to CP’s and I got damn lucky first go!
Zoe: I had two other CPs with whom I worked on full novel critique swaps - we still keep in touch occasionally but I think our critiquing styles (and our genres, really!) didn't match. With Jo and Elle, it was just an immediate connection, they were fun to chat with and serious about writing. Their stories didn't make me cringe, and I could honestly see myself reading those kinds of books in my free time. That's important, I think. If you hate what the other person is writing (like... dark romance with lots of angst and abuse just isn't for me - or horror, ugh!), you'll probably have trouble being a good CP.
Huge thanks to Jo and Zoe for joining me on the blog today! If you're a romance writer ready to find a critique partner of your own, you can sign up below! And if you aren't signing up, please share the post with your romance writing buddies! Let's help each other become better writers!