I have multiple critique partners. Four I meet with in person, one via Skype, and three online. They have varying backgrounds and critique methods. Getting feedback from so many people can get overwhelming. For me, the best way to digest input is to search for common denominators. Chances are if multiple people say the same thing doesn’t work for them, it needs revision. Sometimes, the critiques contradict one another. In those cases, I ask clarifying questions of my partners to figure out why they made a certain comment and weigh their answer against what I was trying to accomplish in the scene.
Right now, my partners are reviewing my YA paranormal dystopia Edge of Truth. It’s new to some of them, others have seen many drafts already. I think the recent version below is fun and shows Rena’s (Main Character) personality.
The first page then:
With a grip on a gnarled stick, Rena Moon trampled across the rocky terrain. The mountain’s shadow offered no relief from the afternoon heat, nor did the slight breeze. Sweat dampened clothes clung to her back and frizz sprang up along her hairline.
“Maybe I should change my last name to Canyu. Rena can you get water? Rena can you help the twins…? Rena can you…can you…can you…” She spun to face her best friend, Blaze. “And if Anata thinks she’s going to make me go to Solstice after what happened last year?”
“I know, but can you slow down a little?” Blaze slipped on a rock, but caught her balance before she fell.
Rena slowed. “I told you to pick up a walking stick. It’s not breaking a Conservation Law if the branch is already dead on the ground.”
“Keep it down,” Blaze whispered. “It’s bad enough we already broke one law today. I don’t know why I let you talk me into this.”
“We’re at least eight miles from the cities. The Synbots don’t patrol here.” The thought of the synthetically created robots in the Badlands made Rena cringe. She needed a break from the confines of the stupid laws they enforced every minute of the day.
“I don’t want to miss curfew. How long will it take to get home?” Blaze asked.
“I’m never going back to Dumpden.”
Blaze staggered. “Well, there’s nowhere else for people like us to go. Are you sure they can’t track us here?”
After compiling feedback from my critique partners, I found a few common denominators. The first line is descriptive and not much of a hook and the MC’s BFF sounded a little whiny. Also, having so many critique partners gives me the opportunity to learn from them as well. Often times, we are able to identify issues with each other’s work which we can turn around and apply to our own.
For example, one of my partners was working on a YA paranormal, only nothing supernatural happened in the first chapter. Even though my main character demonstrates her power by page four, I wanted to work it in sooner. Plus, I had a long talk with myself about why I liked the second half of the book better than the first. The answer was simple: Nevan. So, I revised the opening to demonstrate Rena’s paranormal ability quicker, bring in her love interest sooner, and introduce her BFF in a more likable light.
The first page now:
Rena Moon wished she could swap places with the water bottle, held tight and pressed to Nevan’s lips. Or even the sunlight peeking through the trees, tracing the contours of his face.
“Come on,” she said to her best friend Blaze. “Let’s move closer.”
“Why are you whispering? It’s not like he can hear us from here.”
“We’ll have a better vantage point from over there.” Blaze pointed to a shaded spot five trees to the left. “It’s just outside his peripheral vision, which means we can stand closer to him. Maybe even within hearing range.”
“Loving your attention to detail.” She tucked her fingers beneath her rucksack strap and strolled toward the tree, all the while stealing glances at Nevan.
“Sweet Mother Earth,” Blaze nudged Rena’s shoulder, nearly knocking her off balance in excitement. “They’re gonna do it again. He’s picking up the spoons.”
“Wha…?” Transfixed, she watched his biceps flex as he shifted and rested his forearms against the table edge.
After a quick glance down both sides of the bench, he nodded, once, twice, three times. Someone tapped a set of cups against the table, creating a deep, resonant beat. Nevan joined in, drumming the spoons and knocking his wrist in perfect rhythm to bring the music alive. The combined sounds pulsated through the ground. Rena honed her ability on the vibrations Nevan produced. Every tap thrummed through her, uniting her with his song on a level no one else knew about or could even understand. They tugged her toward him, as if he’d attached a melodic tether to her and was intent on reeling her in.
Reaching out to other writers for help and sharing knowledge about the craft can be an enriching experience. Our job as writers, is to examine the feedback we receive, decide what fits with our goals for our story, and put in the time to make the revisions.
Do you have more than one critique partner? How do you balance the feedback?