Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Michelle Styles: Finding validation

Donna has allowed me to take over her blog today!!!

So I am going to speak about critique partners and the need to have them.

It is a very personal thing to have a critique partner but I wouldn't be without mine. Both of my partners see my work at an early raw stage. First Donna and then Sue after I have worked on the piece. They read it and give their honest opinion.Even if I don't like what they say all the time, I trust their eye. Often I am too close. Sometimes, what I think stinks, doesn't and at others, things need to be changed. CPs are great because they want me and my work to succeed, but they are also not afraid to pull their punches. I truly believe by having my work critiqued, I have fewer revisions from my editor. I also know that if I have skipped over a place where my cps have said -- this doesn't work, nine times out of ten, my editor will also --say have another look at this. They are my validation squad. My biggest cheerleaders, my supporters but they also demand my best. They do not let me get away with half measures.

Neither of my critique partners writes historicals, but they both do write romance so they know the form without being the competition as it were. I think this is a key as well.

As Twyla Tharp says in her excellent book, The Creative Habit to build a validation -- you need people you admire, people who happen to be your friends, people without agenda and most important people who have hammered your work before so you know they are capable of honesty (brutal if needs be). The criticism that matters the most is the honest kind that comes with no agenda from someone who cares enough to be objective but still wants the best.

I found my critique partners through e-harlequin. I had been through several as I knew I was too close to my work, but for a variety of reasons, we parted company. Sometimes, you have to do that -- shake up your validation squad. Luckily my partners are settled at the moment. The way you begin is by exchanging work -- can you respect the other person's opinion? Can you see what she is trying to say? And can you see how to change your work to make it stronger? Does the way she works make sense to you? Luckily it did and it worked for us.

It is much easier for me as my cps know what the business is like. They understand its ups and downs. And most importantly they believe in me as I believe in them. I know that they have helped me make my writing what it is today.


  1. I couldn't agree more about having wonderful cp's. My cp, Jessica Raymond, has been a real treasure and I know my writing wouldn't have grown the way it has.

  2. Michelle,

    This was an interesting post to me since I don't have a cp right now. I did have one before and she was great. She's no longer writing because of her job.

  3. Diane --

    I went through two or three critque partners plus one or two informal ones before I found mine.

    Sometimes, things happen. What you want is someone you can trust to give you a supportive but objective answer.