dep8hqfvyaaww7gLast week, I wrote about revising an old, retired manuscript…

Except this isn’t just revision. This is full-on rewriting. At this point, I don’t know how much of the original text and story will remain. I have a suspicion. Quite a bit of the bad guy will be hanging around. He’s sexy and scary, and terrific and terrible. The supporting characters, especially the main male character, are interesting and likely to remain largely unchanged – at least in personality.

That MC, though? She’s gotta go. She’s a pain in the ass and flat out awful. Not in the unlikable, but I still want to read about her way, either. More like in the I wanna smack her head into a wall, or throw this book across the room way. Not good. She’s due for a major overhaul.

And the plot? Holy slowpokes Batman! Let’s get this shit in gear, huh? I get that literary can be slower, but this is fucking molasses on a winter morning.

So, if it’s so much work, and such a pain in the ass, why am I doing this? After all, this was a story that got rejection after rejection, and finally got shelved in favor of a stronger piece.

Why make the choice to revise an old manuscript rather than write something new?

Oh, lots of reasons… But two really stand out…

At its core, it’s a good concept, and there are some really compelling bits in there (the bad guy in particular) that just won’t let me go.

It’s a story that is clearly pointing in a particular direction—now that I’m able to see it. Unlike the new piece rattling around in my head that is wavering between domestic thriller and romantic suspense.

After tearing the piece apart last week, I got to the even harder work of rebuilding the framework. It’s just an outline at the moment, a bare sketch with a few scenes (all the bad guy’s) left virtually untouched. But there is a foundation, a direction, a rough plot…

And it’s very different than before.

The pace is faster (thankfully), the steamy romance replaced with simmering chemistry and tension (damn it, I like my kissing books, but I think the tension better serves this story), and the main character has undergone a personality reboot—she’s still in the fledgling stages, but this woman is a vast improvement over her previous incarnation.

So now it begins… the work of digging into characters, finding their voices, and building their worlds, and then gleefully throwing havoc in their paths.

c5r6mc9umaa1pjxShelving a project you love is never fun, but…

My first PitchWars was (mumble, grumble, looks at calendar, gives up) more than a few years ago. I entered my then barely completed (and nowhere near ready) MS that I inexpertly described as an edgy romantic suspense.

I didn’t get in, but gained so much from the contest. The CPs, query help, and community were so amazing. I revised the ever living crap out of that piece (it became a literary thriller). Still, after several rounds of queries and only a few partial and full requests, I got nowhere.

Regretfully, I shelved it and moved on.

Two completed books later, having landed and then broken up with an agent… with countless (who am I kidding, I’ve counted) rejection letters, pages upon pages of feedback, and a completely different perspective about genre and writing… I’ve found myself in an interesting place.

My work straddles the line between romance (romantic suspense to be more precise) and domestic or literary thriller.

That’s a hard fucking sell.

I’ve been spinning my wheels on a new piece, unable to really move forward—should I write it more romance? Should I go more thriller?

My now-former agent’s advice on that question was: What do you want to write?

My answer was simple and complex and naive: Both, but I want to write what will sell.

Yesterday, I made a choice. I dusted off that old MS… and I proceeded to rip it apart, down to bare bones. Now? Now comes the scary part.

Putting it back together.

And it appears to be taking a whole new dimension, leaning toward straight up thriller, or even psychological thriller.

Let’s see where this ride goes, yeah?

What is a “crit partner”?

Google the term, or the unabbreviated “critique partner” and you’ll see a confusing list of definitions, and places to find fellow writers eager to pair up with a crit partner.

In my eyes, and those of the folks I most frequently work with, a crit partner is usually a two-way relationship that involves mutual sharing between fellow writers. Beta readers are a totally different lot, and they deserve all the praise and thanks in the world, but a good crit partner is a match made in heaven. A bad one… well… you can imagine the opposite.

Just like any relationship, the terms of what makes for a good crit partnership are not set in stone. Each writer has their own needs and preferred ways of working.

Things to know before you seek out a crit partner

  • Are you ready for critique?
    If you think your manuscript is well polished and shiny and ready to go, and your crit partner disagrees, how are you going to handle their opinion?
    If you know you’re in the rough stages, and your crit partner suggests something isn’t working, can you step back and view your baby through their eyes?
  • What do you want from a crit partner?
    Are you looking for developmental edit work? Finding and fixing plot holes? Do you want a line-by-line critique, or just a general idea of how things flow and feel? Want input on what works and what doesn’t?

Things to know about a potential crit partner

  • Are they familiar with your genre, and do they like it?
    It’s not going to help quite as much to have a crit partner who loves cozy mysteries reading your erotic thriller. Think about that for a minute.
  • Do you respect their opinion and/or work?
    If you think their work is not for you, you’re not likely to value their opinion. Make sure you look for crit partners whose thoughts you actually care to hear.
  • What do you each want from the partnership?
    If your partner thinks this is a mutual exchange and you go in thinking it’s a one-way street, you’re going to clash pretty quickly. Talk before you trade and make sure you’re both on the same page about what you do and don’t want from your crit partner.
  • What level of honesty do you want, and can you offer?
    Some folks need their critique coated in sugar, and that’s fine. Others take it straight up, thank you very much.
  • How do they want their notes? How do you want your notes?
    Not everyone uses the same software, and not everyone is familiar with “track changes” features, or comfortable following comments. Which method works for you, and is your crit partner willing to give notes that way? And vice versa.

Things to know when you get a critique, or when giving one

  • Critiques are opinions.
    Sure, sometimes it’s on a factual matter, but really, this is one person’s opinion. You don’t have to agree on everything, but be respectful about it. The same is true whether you are getting or giving a critique. This is an opinion.
  • Be nice.
    Whether you’re giving critique, or receiving one, be nice. Even if your crit partner isn’t. Why? Just because it’s the nice thing to do.

When things aren’t going well

Sometimes it happens. You find a crit partner, and only after getting started realize this isn’t a good partnership. Or maybe you’ve changed genre or writing style. Or they’ve changed. Or… whatever. Life happens.

Reasons don’t really matter when it comes to a break up. Be respectful, be courteous, be kind and above all, be brief.

If there are problems that you believe are fixable, talk to your crit partner about them. It may be a simple misunderstanding of expectations. If you don’t believe they’re fixable, then it’s time to move on, nicely.

A simple, “I don’t feel our crit partnership is working out” or “I’m going to have to back out of our crit partnership” is all it takes.