I was once on a panel with the amazing and wonderful Walter Dean Myers, who is serving now as our National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. (I mostly sat quietly and absorbed everything he had to say.) Walter was asked about the amount of competition and jealousy among those of us who write for kids and teens.
“We are not competitors,” he said. “We are co-conspirators. We support and encourage each other so we can make the very best books for our readers.”
This is a common sentiment among the authors that I know. It may help explain why so many children’s authors have critique groups or critique partners who are also children’s authors.
It can be a challenge to find the right critique group. I went through several when I was starting out, trying to find people whose approach to the work was similar to mine, and whose opinions I could trust. I tried a couple of groups in which I was the only person writing for kids. That was a nightmare. I had a critique partner for a couple of years who eventually soured on the business aspects of writing and gave up her writing. I finally found an amazing group that met once a month for an entire day. I worked with them for almost ten years until I moved out of the area. Since I live in the boondocks and travel so much, it’s been hard to be a regular attender at the great group I found up here. I trade manuscripts with a few trusted writer friends and get feedback that way.
If you write for kids or teens and you are in search of critique partners, your local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators) will be able to help you. (If you don’t belong already, join SCBWI. It will be the best money you spend all year.)
Critiquing friends and other co-conspirators are not just there to point out the holes in your plot. They’ll support you as you support them through the ups and downs of the creative journey. Writing is a solitary craft. Making sure that you have people in your life who respect and understand your work is vital.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
C.S. Lewis, who was in a critique group with J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and others
Today’s prompt: Write about a time when you worked on a creative project with a friend. See if you can go back to your childhood for this.
Bonus points – if you don’t have a critique group or a critique partner, start the search for one today.
Scribble… scribble… scribble…
6 Replies to “Co-conspirators & Other Partners In Crime – WFMAD Day 22”
Hi, good post. I’ve no CP’s at all. I’m just embarking on my first novel, so its not an idea that I am overly passionate about, but I’m more concerned right now to simply start and finish something and then fully revise it so I can get some experience under my belt. I’m wondering then once I do revisions, etc, if its still a very “novice” novel and not something I’m thrilled with, should I still seek FB?
I don’t belong to SCBWI, at my new stage, would it be worth it? Finances are tight now, but maybe in the winter I can try and see what I can pull. Right now, the 85 dollars is way too high. 20 dollars would be too high with my sad wallet.
I’ve been considering maybe trying to be more friends with some great online bloggers that I admire their works, writings, dedication, etc. Some are in the genre I personally write in, some not. The problem I worry about is engaging enough with them. I’m not on social media and can’t afford (and don’t need) that kind of thing in my life right now. But I can try to genuinely form friendships with those I super think I might live as CP’s? I wonder if that would be weird given how new I am relative to others, plus I am a huge reader, but likely not a great critique person. Just wondering, do you think CP’s obtained that way would be okay? Or SCBWI better? and would you have FB on your very first novel, or wait a good long while and a couple projects later before jumping in that pool? So much to think about. If you have any thoughts, let me know!
I’ve just become the Local Liaison for SCBWI in my area and will help set up critique groups when needed. Hooray!
Congratulations, Carrie. SCBWI was instrumental in getting my writing off the ground. Great group.
To must love stories, get in a critique group! Greatest way to network, meet new friends, and learn about writing whether online or in person. Co-conspirators is a great way to look at writers. I rarely run into writers who are competing with each other. We usually only compete with ourselves.
Thanks, Mahala. I’ll see you around town. 🙂
Thanks, but what if I’m only working on the 1st draft of my first novel? I mean this novel is not going smoothly and I’m not even passionate about it. But I’m writing and that is …well, its something.
Should I wait until I have the first draft fully completed and revised and THEN get it critiqued?
Sometimes I battle so many ideas and thoughts and “I shoulds” to do for the concept/character/plot and feel like if I had someone to bat it around with, maybe that would help. But for such an early early project, I wonder if I need to do this “myself” and see it through and make it all my own, etc first.
I’m halfway thru this current WIP and I’m already thinking about how I’ve gone way off track and want to change things, but I think I’m bulldozing ahead now just to get it finished…even though it looks like I’m going to end up rewriting the entire thing and making it totally different..I just want to COMPLETE something and have that “knowing” that I did that, now time to move on and really seriously think about the story and where i want it to go.