Posted by: Trisha Leigh | April 6, 2011

Crit Partners and Threats of Bodily Harm

Any writer will tell you how important it is to have critique partners you trust. Beta readers are important, and I adore them and take their advice seriously. But that crit partner, the one who knows your story from a tiny little sapling, cheers as it begins to grow, shakes their head when you shimmy down the wrong branch (and then helps you find the right one) are writing gold.

One of my dearest critique partners, Denise Grover Swank, read an old NaNo manuscript of mine recently. She didn’t have anything to do while waiting for beta notes to come in on her own manuscript, so I said – hey, I have this first draft and I’m wanting to know if there’s something there worth saving or if it belongs in the trunk with it’s shamed brothers and sisters.

So she read it.

For those of you who don’t know, I tend a tad toward the melancholy in my writings, and in my books an ending where the main characters aren’t dead can be considered happily ever after. But I’d told Denise this book had a cheesy ending…in fact the ending is one of the parts I recall not liking when I finished the draft. I warned her two people died, and that they would both be characters she liked. Hopefully.

I received an angry tweet about the second death, which actually turned out to be the fifth.

Oops. I forgot I killed that many characters.

Then we chatted on the phone:

Denise: I could not believe it when Character J stabbed Character B.”

Me: Oh, come on. You know even I wouldn’t kill Character B, right?”

Denise: If you had, birthday or not, I would have driven to your house and slapped some sense into you.

Me: *laughs*

Denise: No, I’m serious. It would have been like a scene out of Misery. I would have stood there while you opened the file and changed it.

Me: *scared*

Seriously, though, this is the kind of reaction you want your crit partners to have to your characters. Does this manuscript need work (lots of it)? Of course. But maybe some day I’ll pull it out, blow the dust off those characters, and figure out how to really make the story pop.

At least I know my characters motivated one person to threats of bodily harm. And that’s something. It really is.

What I’m watching right this second: The KC Royals try to beat the White Sox. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be watching baseball again.

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Responses

  1. I was serious.

  2. My greatest wish come true would be to have that kind of responce to my story. Grats on invoking that kind of reaction.

    • It’s scary. Denise is scary.

      No, seriously. Of course it pleases me when people invest in my characters. Hopefully you are about to be next!!

  3. Sounds like Denise is a great CP. 🙂

    I love it even more when my CPs disagree — vehemently — about something I’ve done in a book. Confusing, sure, but a strong reaction is better than a tepid one, right?

    • I always want a strong reaction. The worst words ever would be, “it was good.”

  4. I too know the value of beta readers. I have one of my own, a fellow writer who I met in a writing class a few years ago and got to know better in a private workshop. After the workshop folded, a few of the students continued to meet, then one by one they dropped off, leaving Catherine and me as the sole survivors. Over the years she and I have have gained an intimate knowledge of each other’s work–our narrative and dialog styles, the rhythms and pacing of our prose, our characters and their arcs, our plot structures and process, our themes. As a result, we’re able to provide valuable, insightful critiques for each other’s novels and stories. And I too like baseball, except the National League and the Dodgers.

    • Well I’ve never been a Dodgers fan, either. People who know how we work and everything about our writing are excellent for helping us find out way. I do find that it’s just as important to have people read who know none of those things. Sometimes our closest critique partners become like aunts and uncles to our manuscripts, and love their little nieces and nephews no matter what. Which can be bad. 🙂

  5. Haha, that’s awesome. I agree with Linda – a strong reaction really says something. Sounds like it might be worth dusting off when you have the time!

    • This MC is the only one I’ve ever written who is very close to being me. It would be hard to shove her in a trunk forever. Plus, you know. She’s like me. Mouthy. 😉


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