Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How to Build the Best Crit Group on the Planet



Hey sweet readers!


A week ago, I made a blog post about my amazingly supportive and encouraging team of critique partners. A lot of you marveled at how wonderful and tight-knit our group is. Some of you asked me how I got such great writing besties.


So, I'm going to tell you my secret for building the best, closest-knit, most helpful, honest, and supportive writing group in town. 


But first, I'm looking for some help.


 I've got this house I need someone to clean up.  It's very cluttered,  has some grime in the carpet,  and the walls need a bit of scrubbing. Also,  there might a leak in the roof,  so could you just climb up there and patch it up? And if the walls buckle,  don't mind that - I'm sure they won't fall on you. Probably they won't.
It's really not all that much work at all,  considering that I'd let you into my house - I built it myself, you see,  and I'm very proud of it. I'm sure you'll love it!  While you're in there taking care of things,  you might even get to talk to me. No promises, of course - I'm very busy - but it could happen.


Sound like fun? No, I didn't think so. Alright, well, how about this?


You look so nice today! In fact, I've noticed that you have really lovely clothing, and you pay such close attention to how you dress.

 What's that, you say? You're worried your closet is a bit of a mess? You know, people say I'm good at organizing closets. I have a couple of hours. I'd love to help out, that is, if you could use the extra hand.
How does each offer make you feel? 
Which one are you most likely to take up?


Now, here's the story of my critique group. One year minus eleven days ago, Gina commented on this here blog (when it was just a baby!) offering to critique my manuscript.

The key part of that paragraph? "Offering."

She must have known from reading the blog what a hot mess the MS in question was. She didn't care. Something she saw over here made her want to hang out with me (God help her) and she offered her help.

Well, I followed her example, and started stalking the Dickens out of contests and blogs. I scoped out plot lines that interested me, writing I loved, people who seemed dedicated to their work. I asked them (begged them) to read their manuscripts. That's how we found Maggie, Chessie, Jenny, and Jamie, in pretty short order. Not long after that, we snagged Marieke, MarcyKate, Megan, and the whole rest of the crew. (I have a list of my CPs and their blogs on my "Resources for Writers" page. - go visit them!) I read, critiqued, and raved about their manuscripts.

And, wouldn't you know it? All of them offered to read my MSs, too.

We became friends over email and Twitter. We dragged each other through the mud and muck of revisions and/or the query trenches. We probably would be lost without each other.
So, instead of getting people to read your stuff and give you their amazing input by asking them to do something for you (i.e. "Who wants to beta read for me?!?!",) try asking people if you can do something for them. I'll bet that not only will they give a lot more care to your work, but critiquing their work will make you a better writer, too.

And if things work out, you'll have a friend for life. 
Which is the best part, really.

(If you made it this far and still don't hate me, heads up - I'm going live with a new site in the next few days, and the blog address will change to www.leighannkopans.blogspot.com. If you follow through Google or just clicked the "follow" button, it should still show up in your feed, but if it doesn't, now you know why. THANK YOU for following and for staying with me while I'm under construction!)

46 comments:

  1. You are spot on with this post, Leigh-Ann! You get what you give – not just in writing but in all areas of life. And surely offering to help people out *without* thinking "well they should do what I want first" or "what's in it for me" is what it's all about?

    Can't wait to see the finished site!

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    1. THANKS EMMA. (secret: Nothing makes me so happy as to imagine you saying "spot on" with that fab accent. Teehee.)

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  2. That's a fantastic way to look at it. I'm so thankful for you and the group! As the newest member, I've felt welcome and part of something big. That's because of you!! I'm REALLY excited to go on this journey with you & the crew. Thanks for letting me be a part of it <3 AND also, YOUR MS ROCKS. That is all <3<3 Can't wait to see the new site!!

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    1. ERICAAAAAAAAAA! *tackle hugs*

      Hey guys? Erica's ANOMALY is the Next Big Thing. You heard it here first.

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    2. Aww, you're so sweet!! I LOVE you. AND OMG, I weep at the realization of you not stalking me. I'm so thankful you did. SERIOUSLY. *Hugs* Can't wait to meet you!!!! Oh and ONE ROCKED MY SOCKS OFF, and I ALWAYS wear SOCKS. SO Yeah.

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  3. Fantastic Post L! Never really thought of it this way, but now that I think back, I have never found a good CP by the "housebuilding" method. I think going about it in the "helping" way starts out the relationship in the best way possible, and leads to better partnerships. Great insights :)

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    Replies
    1. *sniff* I just...I could not be happier that I stalked you. #ohIzuko

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  4. That's great advice! I love the idea of checking out contest entries and finding plots/genres you love~ I've found a few critique partners that way. I've also found some on AbsoluteWrite, just by noticing who was querying the same agents as me :)

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    1. If you're gonna beta, why not LOVE what you're reading, right? *high fives*

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  5. Great post, Leigh!
    I have a little question: do you advise sharing/brainstorming plot ideas with your crit partner while writing the book? I often feel the need of a sympathetic ear to bounce ideas with, but I'm kind of worried this might skew their perspective on the manuscript once they get to read it, instead of adding to the experience. Based on your experience, what to you think?

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    1. If you have a good rapport and feel for the premise, absolutely! Now that I'm on my 3rd and 4th MSs with some of my CPs, we do this all the time! Good luck and have fun. :D

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  6. What a great post! I found my critique group through a conference, but I've found AH-mazing critters around the blogosphere! Can't wait to see the new blog (although this one's really pretty)!

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    1. Thanks Daisy! <3 And, um...you look really nice today. *Ahem* IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

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  7. This is so true! I've met the greatest people offering to read, like, I wouldn't know you if I hadn't offered to read Jani's MS. :D

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    1. You are the sweetest! And after you saved my sorry Scrivener butt last night, I owe you tons!

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  8. I know this is going to be a SHOCK, but I agree.

    If I put out a random call for betas- I could get ANYONE. And, I don't know how to say this without being bitchy- but maybe I'd get someone who's advice I don't necessarily WANT, ya know?

    But if I STALK someone, I know whether or not I respect his/her writing and think that that person's feedback would make my MS stronger.

    This is another reason I love beta reading- I get to scope out other people's work and discover new awesome writers! BUT just bc I beta for someone doesn't necessarily mean I insider that person a CP. We're not CPs til we trade work, give feedback, and still love each other. :)

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    1. YES. SHOCKING.

      Great points. And a good distinction between betas and CPs.

      LOVE YOU MEGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG.

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  9. Also- insider=consider. Annoying.

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  10. So true. I met my CPs through Twitter/Absolute Write but they are some of the best cheerleaders ever. One of my CPs can't critique this summer for me, but she's being THE BEST CHEERLEADER EVER. I know if this book goes anywhere she will still get a mention because she's been such a good supporter. I've known both my CPs since 2009-ish, which seems like a long time but really isn't. lol. Great critique partners are invaluable, and I am still in shock you've found SO MANY. (Then again I can only handle like 2-4 people critiquing my manuscript before I go crazy! LOL!)

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    1. I *do* get stomach flips every time one of them reads it, though....

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  11. I'm going to embarrass myself here and say I WANT TO READ ALL YOUR MS's! All of you. Everyone. I'm so glad I met the members of this crit group... L, you are absolutely right. The best beta's and CP's are the ones I've offered to read for first. (Though I got REEEALLY lucky that Marieke offered to read mine before I read hers!) Last thing - you're awesome. Can't wait to see the new site! <3 <3 <3

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    1. DARCIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!! *hugs*

      Marieke is awesome, isn't she?

      <3 <3 <3

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  12. Hi Leigh-Anne,

    I've just started following your blog and, firstly, congratulations on getting your agent. I wondered if I could ask you a question, and don't worry if you don't have time to answer!

    Is it important to have a complete MS before you approach people for critiquing? I've done beta-reading through Absolute Write in an attempt to strike up friendships, etc, but it's never worked out particularly well for me. I'm sure the fact I don't have a polished MS is part of the reason why, but at the same time, I feel that I give up on my projects before I get to that point because I don't have much faith in myself. Maybe if I had an encouraging writing group I might be able to get there! Catch 22??

    I realise that my question totally falls into the first bracket of asking someone for something rather than offering but I thought I'd give it a shot anyway! :) Thanks.

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    1. Hi there! THank you so much. <3

      So, your question wouldn't apply to me personally, since I write out of order. But if you write chapter-by-chapter, and find someone else who does the same, there's no reason you couldn't arrange a swap!

      The important part is agreeing on the terms beforehand, and reciprocating. RECIPROCATING. <3

      Good luck and HAVE FUN! And thanks for stopping by!

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  13. This is all so true. I saw your Vlog on Darci's blog. LOL. I stalked a few of my CP's. And for the most part just became friends with them. Now they are my best friends. You do have to get out their and find and be there for people.

    Great post. And I think I've said it. BUT CONGRATS!!!

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    1. Yaaaay! I think it's such an emotional thing, this writing, that we become more than CPs pretty quickly. :D

      Thank you!!!

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  14. It truly is, you know, the best crit group on the planet. :D It makes me so happy that I can never quite get my inbox under control because there's always at least one mail from one of you. I love that there's always someone around on Twitter to cheer up my day. And that there's always someone to keep me going with these revisions of mine. O__o

    Also, I adore that most of you don't mind too much I keep having Opinions and FEEEEEEELINGS about your MSs without sharing mine bc I'm such a freaking perfectionist.

    You are all SO AMAZING <3333

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    1. Um...shouldn't you be revising???

      You're the amazing one! read and critique in one day? And so sweetly? Oh, I can't wait to hug you. <3

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    2. *shifty eyes* mayyyyyybe?

      Next May!! <3

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  15. Replies
    1. *hugs Brenda* *counts down the days till August*

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  16. I freaked out because my bookmark didn't work for your blog and I was like SHE CANT STOP BLOGGING but then I used my head went to your twitter and found the new link, Haha I'm a fail! But great post, if I ever get started writing I can't wait to find some CPs!

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    Replies
    1. Hahaha just a little housekeeping.

      I don't like that "if" word, young lady. :D

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  17. I remember that blog post. I think you were like, "Anyone wanna beta?" And I was like, "ME!!!" And then I didn't hear from you for a long time, so I thought you must've been thinking, "Ew, I meant anyone but YOU." Then out of the blue you came back and the rest is history.

    We seriously have the best group ever. Smart, funny, brutally honest, totally and utterly supportive. I LOVE YOU GUYS!

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    1. OMG. I seriously would be a floundering tactless douchebag without you, G. *sniffles*

      LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!

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  18. that IS how I found you! although I still haven't produced anything for you to read *cries*

    <3

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    1. SECONDARY. I'll give you thirty days. GO.

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  19. I just hope everyone reading this understands that there is literally NO greater expert on the subject anywhere in the world. For serious. Guys, if Leigh Ann so much as breathes on you, jump on the opportunity to inhale her oxygen and wrestle your way into her CP world. I love how much I continue to learn from you every day! And your writing ain't bad either ;) <3<3<3

    ReplyDelete
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    1. If I'm breathing it out, isn't it CO2? #science

      Thanks for sharing the most epic week ever with me, Dahl! I'll never forget it. <3

      Delete
  20. So I read through all these comments, and was smiling and whatnot, and nodding my head along with everything, and I got to the bottom and started to close the webpage.

    And then I stopped and was like, "Oh, wait. She's talking about us. Um. I should probably say something. Everyone else said something. I need to say something. WHY AM I SO AWKWARD."

    So here's me saying something. I'd like to thank Scrivener for making me want it, because after I got Scrivener I voted for Scrivener in that blog poll, and L, you voted for Scrivener right after me, and then you hunted me down and was all like, "Sci-fi. Scrivener. Crit trade. Now." And I was like, "Okay."

    That was like almost a year ago. I remember it was right before WriteOnCon, because we queried that shit up. And the whole time I was thinking, "Hey, she's a lot like me. Except nicer, and more socially aware." And I'm pretty sure you've hooked me every other crit partner I have. XD So thank you. ^_^

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    1. Aw, Chess. You're making me alllll kinds of teary this week with your uncharacteristic shows of sentimentality. :D

      I'm sorry your first traded MS with me didnt' suck nearly as much as mine. I'm not sorry that you read it, or I'd never have that pic of Davis, that dear sweet boy.

      And I'm not nicer than you. Don't effing slander me, Zappia.

      Delete
    2. I will slander you all across this piece of bread if I want to.

      Delete
  21. Awesome advice. Only problem - for me at least - is that it seems like every writer I "stalk"...ahem..read about, is already taken!

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