I should mention this is not the ideal way to begin a job interview.
Nevertheless, here are my major shortcomings:
- My failure to plot ahead means I sometimes back myself into corners.
- I lose track of details like the color of a character’s shirt or the day on which a scene takes place.
- My fashion sense leaves something to be desired.
- I am an insensitive bitch.
Allow me to introduce them:
Critique partner Cynthia Reese has published four books with Harlequin Superromance, and is an infinitely better plotter than I am. Because of this, she can catch me before I veer too far off track, and brainstorm with me until I figure out where I’m headed. As a multi-published romance writer, she knows the “rules” of the genre much better than I do, and has a strong sense of overall story structure.
Critique partner Linda Brundage is also a much savvier plotter than I am, so between my two critique partners, my biggest weakness is covered. Because Linda doesn’t read or write romance, I can count on her to nudge me outside that box. She's got a flair for scene-setting and description, and is also my most sensitive, emotionally driven reader.
Beta reader Larie Borden an insensitive bitch like me. It makes her a good reader not just because I count on her for the harshest feedback, but because if she agrees with Linda that a character is a jerk, I know I’ve got some serious rehabbing to do. She’s not a writer, but a voracious reader with a keen eye for detail and a strong sense of what she likes. As an added bonus, she’s a savvy fashionista who outfits my characters so they don’t look like they got dressed in an unlit thrift store.
Beta reader Bridget McGinn is a former marketing colleague and the most voracious romance reader in the bunch. She’s been reading the genre her whole life, so she has strong opinions about what works and what doesn’t. Besides being wildly smart, she’s got a sensitive streak like Linda. That means I can count on her to be my second gut-check after I’ve fixed whatever rubbed Linda the wrong way on the first round.
Beta reader Minta Powelson is another former marketing colleague, and she gets the manuscript after I’ve made everyone else's changes. She’s my reader with the keenest eye for grammatical details, punctuation, and consistency, so I trust her for the final polish when I’m so tired of a manuscript I want to hurl it out a window. If a character had a pink bandana on page 64 but a yellow one on page 297, I can count on her to notice.
I do venture beyond these five readers – for example, when I need a male perspective, a fresh set of eyes, or specific expertise – but this is my core posse. It’s no accident their strengths are my weaknesses. I consider this one of the most valuable things I gain from these critiquing relationships.
Incidentally, I met four of the five readers through different jobs I’ve held in the last 10 years. The fifth (Cynthia) I’ve never met in person, though we’ve critiqued together for 6+ years since we met in an online writers’ forum.
So there you have it – the people who keep me from sucking. What do you look for in critique partners and beta readers? What weaknesses do you need help overcoming? Please share.
And don’t forget to thank all the people who make you the best writer you can be. I’ve got some phone calls to make now.
P.S. See that little survey box at the top right of the page? I'm conducting some highly-scientific, very valuable research about kissing. OK, it's not very scientific or valuable. Still, would you mind taking a second to click? Thanks!