A little love for my critique partners

On the first day of Christmas…

I realize those twelve days are supposed to start on December 25 and run to Epiphany, Jan. 6, but I want to offer my gratitude for the people and things that make the writing life possible for me.

I’m starting with my critique partners. For about a year and a half, I have woken up to an early morning writing group, my very first critique partners. We greet the day together and if we’re up for it we write, beginning at 6 a.m. More importantly, we read and critique each other’s work. My four novels exist because of my Writing Friends’ encouragement, gentle criticism, and frank assessments. If they don’t like something, they tell me. If they enjoy something, they tell me. I love how we’ve been there for each other for so long.

Add to that my historical fiction critique partner, a fellow novelist, Jeanne A. Moore. We exchange pages of our historical novels. I’m in the midst of revising a novel that I wrote during a past National Novel Writing Month. It is set during the early 20th Century in Baltimore. As I write, I think of Jeanne. She’s noted a few of my quirks and set me straight—at least until I do it again.

BTW, you are going to love her Old West romance/coming of age/women’s fiction. I anxiously await a new chapter every time I finish one.

And I have a new critique partner, Bonnie Martin, looking over my finished modern love story, set in charming Chincoteague. I, meanwhile, am reading her delightful small town story, filled with delicious food references. Her book will be another one I’ll be recommending when it hits the bookstores. We’re only a few chapters in but her comments have been very helpful. It helps that she’s a big fan of Chincoteague—and knows the place well.

I love to read works in progress. It’s like being a witness to magic. More accurately the machinations of the magician that bring an illusion to life. I can’t witness the real-life magic, the inspiration, that makes a writer put a scene, a character, an idea on paper. But after those pages are written, I am happy to offer my own observations so that the authors’ storytelling magic convinces every one who reads these tales that the characters exist. Maybe the scenes and dialogue even prompt the readers’ tears, or laughter or even a sudden craving for brownies.

My critique partners certain help me bring my characters to life. These women push and prod me to delve deeper into my heroes’ emotions, motivation, stakes and goals.

When I write, I write to please a basic need deep within me. But I find I tend to think…I hope Jeanne sees I wrote this sentence in the right order with no misplaced clauses….Will Kristie find this scene believable?…Will my reference to pop culture make Kim laugh?

These women are my first readers. What they say matters. And today, on my First Day of Christmas gratitude list, I thank them.

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