Monday, April 18, 2011

Guest post: How I Met My Critique Partners

Today I'm delighted to welcome the lyrical Julie Dao. Julie writes women's fiction and YA, and her blog The Silver Lining is not only hugely popular, but also a great example of how beautifully she writes.

I'm honored and pleased to welcome her as a Maternity Leave Guest Blogger ( MLGB).

How I Met My Critique Partners
by Julie Dao
Making the decision to blog can be a scary, scary thing. You know that myth about how when you get your picture taken, the camera is capturing your soul? Well, putting your work on the internet is like storing a big piece of yourself in cyberspace. For the first time ever, it's not just Mom or dear old Granny reading what you write anymore. As soon as you hit "Post," your words - and your dream of one day seeing your paperback on bookstore shelves - are instantly accessible to anyone from anywhere.

But if blogging is so terrifying, why, then, do so many aspiring authors do it? Because taking the plunge comes with unimaginable benefits.

I've had my blog for about two years now, and during that time, I have learned more about the art of publication, the art of writing, and the art of reading and critiquing than I could ever have imagined. And the best part about all this learning? The friends I've made, and especially my two critique partners. They are my writing buddies, my (gentle) critics, my personal pep rally, my home slices, my seconds if ever I get challenged to a duel.

And with such great people to back me up - and to be honest with me when a character's out of whack or a chapter stinks - blogging, writing, and querying don't seem so scary after all because I'm not doing it alone.

When I first started out, I read everything I could find: agents' tips, publishers' websites, other writers' blogs. I did my best to leave thoughtful comments, or even just to say a quick "thanks" when a particular post helped me out.

That's how I met many of my writerly friends, and also a talented blogger named Lynnette Labelle who happened to be doing a "matchmaking" service for those in need of critique partners. I filled out a form, got paired with one Sierra Godfrey (do you guys know her? She's awesome, y'all), and we hit it off.

After a few bumps in the road, we found a third critique buddy, the ever suave and savvy DL Hammons. And the rest is history.

I can't tell you how many times these two have kept me going with my WIPs. I'm not someone who just gives up, by any means, but any writer will tell you that there are days when burning what you've written seems like a good idea. Let's just say Don and Sierra hid the torches from me, and what's more, they challenged me to keep up with them. And let me tell you, they don't set an easy pace. But even while I'm sweating buckets, trying to keep up with their talent and motivation, I know I'm doing it with a couple of pretty great role models.

Whether we're g-chatting about one of our latest chapters, what we had for breakfast, character development, what we want for dinner, or how jealous Sierra and I are that Don looks better in a cheerleader uniform than we do, it's nice to know that I've got their support.

So to those of you who are reading, I hope that your critique group is everything you want it to be. And if you don't have one, I hope you eventually do, 'cause when you're traveling down that long, dark, forest-y road of blogging and publication, it's nice to have other people to hold the flashlight and scream right alongside you at scary noises.

Thanks again, Julie, and not just because you were so awesome and flattering to moi. It's been a joy and a pleasure working with you! - Sierra

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