You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours…

In 2012, I got back on the writing saddle. Independent of one another (they didn’t even KNOW each other), two friends of mine challenged me to write a page-a-day to get back on track. Jen, the first person who approached me, did it out of love: she’s been a fabulous voice in the past when it came to giving me feedback, and she really wanted to see me put my work out there. The page-a-day project was something she’d done the year before, and she knew how beneficial it could be. Alicia, the second friend, was also wanting to get back into the writing saddle, and she wanted a partner in crime. I figured, hey, two people are basically feeding me the same idea, so I should take them up on it. So I did. Magic Elves was the result.

Every night, I uploaded my page (or two) to Google Docs, which allowed both Jen and Alicia to read at their leisure and cheer me on. It was a very informal process: Jen knew that in order to get me back in the saddle, I couldn’t take what I was writing too seriously, so the rule was general support in terms of feedback, to show that they were reading. It morphed into something else over the year, though: they were able to ask questions about what was happening and draw my attention to things I might’ve forgotten about. They also became a sounding board for ideas. It was mightily useful.

Alicia had her own project, so what she did for me, I did for her. Jen, however, was on a different playing field, sending out queries for her YA fantasy World Maker and hoping an agent would bite. Fortunately, one did, and last weekend, I spent my time reading her “getting-it-ready-for-an-editor” draft. I’d only read the first chapter of the project before, and the premise interested me enough that I was curious to see what the book was about (spoiler alert: it’s awesome. It beats the pants of a lot of published YA that came out last year).

Here’s the thing: Jen is one of those people that I’ll read anything for. She’s been a tremendously huge support for me and my writing, and better still, I really love reading her fiction. That she’s not published yet makes me want to cry, so I really, really hope it happens for her.

This sentiment of “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine,” is what I want to talk about when it comes to critiquing, because believe me, just because someone’s willing to read your work and vise-versa doesn’t mean it’s going to be a pleasant experience on either side. Continue reading