Let’s Get Critical!

OK, now I have that Olivia Newton-John song in my head. And I’m sure you do too. You’re welcome.

This week on The Ball we’re talking about our critique partners — why we have them, why they’re important, why you shouldn’t choose a friend or family member. Or, maybe why you should. My critique partner is my sister. I’ve mentioned her a few times on this blog, but let me formally introduce her: Debutante readers, meet my sister Megan. Megan, these are the Debutante readers.

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This is my critique partner Megan (not the baby. Although, the baby just turned 4, and is already reading, like 5th-grade level books, so she might be my second critique partner soon).

I know. She looks all smiley and sweet and that if she had bad news to tell you, she’d sit you down and hold your hand, and kindly break it to you that Ryan Gosling was having a baby with another woman (that was a rough day for me, OK?), and then make you a lemon poppyseed cake and some tea.

But in reality, she’d send you a text with a lot of HAHAHAHAHAs, and leave you floundering to cope with the news. No poppyseed cake to be found.

Well, she might not do that to YOU, because she is actually really sweet to other people. But I’m her sister. And she does not feel compelled to sugarcoat things for me. Which is why she’s an AWESOME critique partner (along with the fact that she doesn’t charge for her services. BONUS.)

Yes, it’s typically a bad idea to have a friend or family member as your critique partner as they may find it hard to tell you things that you don’t want to hear, and they may feel compelled to tell you how AMAZING your book is and how you’re the BEST WRITER IN THE WORLD.

My sister doesn’t have this problem. After reading a few chapters (I send a few at a time as I’m writing — she’s my first and only reader until I’m done with the whole book. And then it goes to my mom, because she doesn’t care about my feelings either. Genetics.), Megan will call and say “Are you ready?” which is code for “Sit down. I’m about to rip this shit apart.” And then she does. And it makes my work enormously better for her un-sugarcoated thoughts and attention to detail.

But don’t tell her I said that. She’s my sister, after all.

 

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Colleen Oakley is the author of BEFORE I GO (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, Jan. 2015), a love story. A former editor for Marie Claire and Women's Health & Fitness, she's now an Atlanta-based freelance writer. Find out more at colleenoakley.com.

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