February 16, 2011

Crit partners as royal marriages

Critique partners are like royal marriages.

For centuries, it was customary for royals to marry only those of their social class, both to maintain 'pure blood' (hmmm, sound familiar?) and to strengthen diplomatic ties with other nations. As a result, nearly all European royal families are related. A king is far more willing to broker peace rather than declare war if his child or grandchild, cousin, niece or nephew sits on the throne of his 'enemy.'

King George and Czar Nicholas -
Note the family resemblance.
(Though war against family isn't always unavoidable - most famously during World War I, when King George V of Great Britain was forced to declare war on his cousins Czar Nicholas II of Russia and Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany.**)

Wars and cousins aside, critique partners are like royal marriages in that they further relationships and create bonds between aspiring authors, as well as forge interwoven networks of people with similar passions.

Carefully chosen critique partners are a great diplomatic tool in that, assuming these writing partnerships stem from or result in friendship, should a crit partner achieve success, you have not only a great ally in writing, but one with an audience and influence.

It's the accepted notion that if a writing buddy achieves success before you, you will be jealous — but a critique partner getting published, gaining a popular following, hitting the NYT bestseller list — that can only help you.

(See: the joint awesomeness of Stephanie Perkins and Kiersten White. Stephanie and Kiersten write completely different genres, but both blog and tweet about one another's work, widening their exposure for no reason other than they believe in one another and want to see each other do well.)

That's not to say you should choose your critique partners solely for social and diplomatic advantage. Not only is that not nice, but it might rule out potential critique partners that could do your writing a world of good. Maybe you know someone who isn't interested in publication, or maybe isn't a writer at all, but is uncanny at rooting out plot holes and making you dig deeper. That sounds like a pretty good crit partner to me.

My thought simply is, think carefully about your critique partners. Choose ones who are of your 'class,'* talent and commitment-wise. Choose ones who are kind and generous and will be there for a blurb or a guest post or a contest when they hit the big-time.

And if you are blessed enough to hit the big-time yourself, be willing to do the same for your critique partners.

*But let's forget about the pure blood thing. We <3 Mudbloods in writer-world, right?
**In doing research for this post, I came across this extremely interesting book which I will now be buying. I think I could read biography and memoir all day long and not get sick of it.


Laura Pauling said...

Crit partners are a wonderful support system. And yes, ideally, helping each other move forward would be ideal!

Sarah Enni said...

Well Abby, I chose you because of your fantastic handlebar mustache. Oh wait, that was the Czar...

lol I love this post!!

Holly Dodson said...

Crit partners FTW!!

The Blue Lipstick Samurai said...

Since YOU are the Anglophile and I love Russians, I can't help but ponder this analogy...

Very happy to be your crit partner! <3 Though if I don't come up with something for you to critique soon 'partner' is going to become a loose term.

Carrie said...

Excellent post. Great advice on finding critique partners.

Pam Harris said...

Love this post! I also love the moment when you just know you've found the perfect crit partner. :)

Abby Stevens said...

Sarah - *twirls handlebar mustache* Yes, it is rather magnificent, isn't it?

Holly and Laura - Absolutely! :D

Glenna - this comment made me sputter with laughter. Seriously. And I am very much looking forward to reading more of your work. I still think about EMOH.

Carrie - Thanks. :)

Pam - Isn't that the greatest? I feel like I've really found a crit partner groove, so to speak.

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