Um, so, I have an agent. A real, honest to goodness, bona fide agent. And she's brilliant, and I love her, and...
Sorry for squeeing in your face like that. I just really can't contain my enthusiasm! The agent is the wickedly talented, one and only Adele Daz...wait, no...it's the ineffable Bree Ogden with D4EO Literary Agency! Not only is she a phenomenal agent, but we also love loads of the same TV, like Brooklyn 99 and The Mindy Project! So it's like we were made for each other...except, less creepy than I'm starting to sound. Okay, moving on.
I wrote a few months ago about my experience moving on from my first novel. I'd queried it to about twenty-five, maybe thirty agents, and I'd had some partial requests, but no fulls. I know that isn't an enormous amount of rejection, and I genuinely love the book, but something about it just felt off. So I shelved it.
At the time of that post, I had two other finished manuscripts that I was really excited about, and I was debating which one to focus on. So I sent my second drafts of both to someone I trust implicitly, someone who is very intelligent, a critical reader, and who would be brutally honest with me. My younger sister. She doesn't love young adult, but she does love a good story, no matter the genre. She told me in no uncertain terms that one of them was good and the other was great. Because she's brilliant, I took her advice and started buckling down on the one she said had the most potential.
I'm so glad I did.
The process went just like we're always told it should. After I had a clean third draft of the book (with feedback from my sister), I sent it out to my first round of critique partners, who all read extensively in my category (YA) and genre (contemporary/romance). They gave me outstanding feedback that I tried my best to implement.
Then I sent it out to my second round of CP's, this time half of whom read primarily outside my genre. Their sharp eyes caught problems I had never even considered. They weren't satisfied with the assumptions of the genre but demanded to be shown things I didn't realize were missing.
By my third round of CP's, this time blended in their preferences, the feedback was getting nitpicky (which I asked for). They liked it. A lot.
After that revision, I felt excited about my book. I sent it to my beta readers, including well-read teen girls, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. They loved it. I loved it.
I felt, not ready to query, but prepared to query.
In every way, writing and revising this book has felt different from that book that I shelved. Not only have I taken pains to grow as much as I can as a writer, but--and I think this is at least as important as my growth--I have become much more open to feedback (the importance of which Gina recently explained perfectly). Being able to humbly accept the opinions of my trusted friends and, in some cases, taking time to understand the root problem they had with an area when the feedback may not have felt right on the surface, has made a huge difference in the quality of this book compared to the last one. Then, I'd rejected feedback that didn't make me feel good. This time, I sought it out. I leaned into the discomfort as much as I could, even when pride begged me to reject it. I didn't, and my story is so, so much better for it.
In other words, holy #$&@!*#^@$* (I'm not sure which curse word that's supposed to reflect...maybe all of them? Or, um, I mean none. It's none swear words. This is a family establishment, people!)... Sorry, where was I? Oh, right! Holy COW, do we need critique partners, inside and outside of our genre. The insiders will know what's fresh, what's stale, what's unappealing to readers, what's intriguing. Meanwhile, the outsiders will call us on every trope and cliche that even the most discerning readers in our genre may have become desensitized to and force us to write what needs to be written.
While all feedback may not work for our novel, we have to think long and hard and humbly about the critiques that will help us write the story we've meant to write all along. Our critique partners probably all deserve a hug or a basket of goodies or a Chipotle run for putting up with us, don't they? I know mine do. :)
I'm excited about this next phase of my writing. I know that my agent and I will work through more revisions than I can currently imagine. No matter what happens, though, I pray that I'll see every step as an opportunity to become a better writer and, hopefully, half as good a critique partner for my dear friends as they are for me.
What's your experience with critique partners? Need recommendations on where to find a CP? Or do you want to find one HERE, within this very community? If you're looking for a CP, comment below with your category (target age group) and genre and hopefully we can make some (book) love connections!