Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Samuel Park Talks Critique Partners (& a Giveaway!)

I'm thrilled to share my blog today with author Samuel Park.
Samuel is the author of THIS BURNS MY HEART, which was chosen as one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2011, a People magazine “Great Reads in Fiction,” and one of the Today Show’s “Favorite Things.” I read this book late into the night this weekend to finish it. I seriously could not put it down. An incredible story and so beautifully written.

Amazing, right? His novel is also the Starbucks Bookish Reading Club selection for this week. This promotion allows Starbucks customers to read the book for free when signed into the Starbucks Digital Network at the stores. Nothing better than Starbucks AND a great book!

Sam is here to share some fun insight about critique partners!
Everyone knows how important a part of the process revision is—in some ways, that’s when the book actually comes together. And since it’s almost impossible to revise in the dark, everyone needs feedback from their writing teachers, writing group, or even their romantic partners. Here is my breakdown of the kinds of critics that writers often run into at this early stage:

LOVEY-DOVEY LAURA—this is the person in your writing circle who loves everything you write and usually offers very little to no feedback. It may be that she’s afraid of offending you, or values your friendship too much to risk being critical. Now, before you dismiss Lovey-dovey Laura and give her seat to someone else, I’d argue that she plays an essential purpose: she helps you rebuild your ego, keep faith in the manuscript, and she may be a valuable anti-dote to the next:

DESTROYER DEBBIE—Ah, this is a common one! Destroyer Debbie really doesn’t like your WIP. I mean, she really doesn’t. And she wants to make sure that you know that. And the better it is, the more threatened she feels and the more critical she becomes. The only manuscripts she likes are the really bad ones, so she can feel superior to them, and doesn’t have her own sense of self-importance destabilized. If you have a Destroyer Debbie in your writer’s group or your MFA class, better show up at the meetings with a shot of tequila in your purse. You may need it!

SCHOLARLY SUSAN—This is the one who was usually an English major back in the day and loves to find the themes and symbols in your work. One really helpful thing she’ll do is let you know what your story is about. That is actually very helpful, in the sense that it allows you to play that up (ideally, in an organic way) as you revise. Scholarly Susans, though, are tricky because they respond mostly intellectually, and you want an emotional response.

NARCISSISTIC NANCY—This is the partner who likes the parts of your manuscript that are the most like hers. She sees everything through the lens of her own work, and can’t really engage with your WIP on its own terms. If you make a choice that she disagrees with, however good that choice is, she won’t like it. But if you write the way she does, using similar style, or with similar characters, she will be your biggest fan!

EDITORIAL EDGAR—This is the partner who’s really more interested in being a copy-editor than a writer. He’s brilliant at correcting your usage mistakes, pointing out grammar errors, or checking your spelling. He is very useful in that way (free copy-editing, who doesn’t love that?), but just remember not to expect more substantial feedback, or you’ll be disappointed.

And now, this is the one partner you want:
CONSTRUCTIVE CAROL—This is the critique partner who spots the flaws in your manuscript, but addresses them in such a constructive, positive, kind way, that you don’t even notice it’s criticism. A lot of it is the tone in her voice (or in her notes), which shows that she really wants the best for you, and is rooting for you. (You can always tell when someone’s irritated in their notes, can’t you?) She’s not threatened, because usually her own writing is so darn good. So she doesn’t mind spreading the wealth. If you run into a Constructive Carol, hang on to her for dear life. Buy her cookies, give her a bottle of wine. They are rare! (And deep down, they know how lucky you are to have them in your life.) The best way to find a Constructive Carol, by the way, is to be one, and that will attract others like you.

Thanks, Sam! Critique partners are so vital to the ongoing process of perfecting your manuscript! Remember to use (or not use) your suggestions wisely depending on your type of critique!


PhotobucketTHIS BURNS MY HEART is set in South Korea in the '60s, and is about a young woman trapped in an unhappy marriage who is given one last chance at happiness. I am giving away one copy on my blog compliments of Sam and the publisher (open to U.S. residents only)! All you need to do is be a follower of my blog and tell me you want this book in the comments (and believe me, you do!), and you are entered! Contest closes on Thursday at 10pm central.
You can find Sam at www.samuelpark.com and on Twitter.


Joanna said...

This was one of the best takes on critique partners that I had read. They all play their part, huh? Now, which am I? While I'd love the book, 'fraid I don't live in the US!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Not here for the giveaway, but I liked Samuel's breakdown of the critique partners. I'm fortunate that mine mostly fall into the 'Constructive Carol' category.

storyqueen said...

Great post...and I am dying to read Samuel's book!!

LTM said...

Hey! Supercool! I've met a few of these folks before. Love the nicknames--LOL! :D

I try to be a constructive carol as much as possible, although my editorial edgar tries to sneak out every so often.

Congrats to Sam! I'd love to read his book, so do enter me in the contest. Thanks, Kelly! :o) <3

DEZMOND said...

ooh, Kelso, you know how much I love Samwise Park :) I have the book and I loved it as much as I love the author and our dear friend Sammy.

Matthew Kane said...

I want this Book!!!

Susan Fields said...

I love his take on critique partners and the benefits of each - even those who aren't Constructive Carols! And I would love to read his book!

Anonymous said...

hahaha - i think i lucked out with my critique group, but we've had some revolving members that fit those descriptions. hilarious :)

Suzanne Casamento said...

OMG! I can't believe those critique partner descriptions. Hilarious!

Kelly Polark said...

Joanna - Yes, a great rundown!
Alex - Everyone needs a CC or two in their critique group.
Shelley - The book is wonderful!
LTM- I think I'm CC with a touch of LL.
Dezz - We do love Sam!
Matt- I'll throw your hat into the ring!
Susan - Yes, a definite must read!
Gina - I imagine we've seen traces of all of them!
Suz- Very fun breakdown!!

Sophia Chang said...

I want! I so want!!!

I feel alot better knowing I'm not the only one who ran into these more colorful CPs :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Wow...what an amazing break-down of critique styles. LOVE! :-)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

This is funny. So many different kinds of critique partners, but all comments are useful in some way, right? Thanks Sam and Kelly.

Missed Periods said...

Thank goodness both of my critique partners are Constructive Carols. And every time we hold our group at my house, I give them plenty of wine.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Oh my- this is a fantastic breakdown and oh so true! Congrats on all your successes Samuel and thanks for having him on your blog Kelly! Great post!

Melissa Sugar said...

This is the best take on critique partners that I have read. I am a new follower (thanx to Creepy query girl's tweet). I am so glad I found your blog. I had the opportunity to meet two awesome people. Congratulations Samuel, your book sounds fabulous & deserving on all the recognition and awards.

Adrienne said...

Oh gosh, I just love the descriptions of the critique group members (you find variations of these characters in illustration critiques, too). Funny stuff!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I'd love to win a copy of Samuel's book. I don't read many grown up books, but TBMH really made want to read it.

Great breakdown on the kinds of people you want in your critique group.

SA Larsenッ said...

What a great take on CPs. Geez, my head is spinning, but in a good way. :D Love this!!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great analysis of crit buddies - I'm lucky to have a couple of Carols! :)

I'm outside the US - but good luck to my American buddies! :)

Kelly Polark said...

Sophia - They are everywhere! :)
Shannon- He just whipped it up, too! Clever man.
Cynthia - I think you can learn something about most comments.
Missed P - That would definitely take the critiques up a notch!
Katie- Thanks, I love his take on cp's too!
Melissa - Welcome! Thanks so much for stopping by!
Adrienne- Yes, I bet it happens in all creative outlets!
Sharon - I usually don't read adult books, so glad I picked this one up!
Sheri- Yes, in a good way!
Jemi- Thank you & thanks for the tweet!

cleemckenzie said...

All of those partners sound amazing. Love those English majors though.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Oh my gosh, I love this. What an insightful breakdown. And also, I love that last one.

Now I want his book. Congrats to the winnner!

Heather Kelly said...

Congrats to Sam! This book sounds wonderful. Of course I'd love to win a copy!

Christina Farley said...

What a neat book! I want to know where in South Korea the book took place since I lived there nearly a decade!

And I loved how Sam names his crit partners. That is fun.

Shelley Sly said...

I loved this! I'm lucky to have a Constructive Carol in my life. Thanks for the fun breakdown.

Marisa Hopkins said...

Okay, I loved this - I've had a bunch of CPs that fit those descriptions - ha! so accurate! - but I have a handful of Constructive Carols as crit partners now, and I REFUSE to let them go!! :D

Great post - thanks, Samuel, and congrats!

Sourov Roy said...