What I've learned from reading my partners' pages:
--They're extremely talented, and each time I read their work, I learn more about pacing, flow, language, and character. *waves to Lisa and Leslie*
--We all improve with each manuscript we write. The evidence is clear--the more we write, the better we become. The verdict? Keep writing!
--For me, it's easier to read a novel as a whole, instead of batches of 10-15 pages or so. I remain immersed in the story world, and feel I can offer better critiques.
--If I think it, I should say it. If I think a paragraph or word choice is brilliant, I need to let the writer know. If a section confused me, I need to say that, too. I used to remain quiet, afraid my thoughts would seem ridiculous, but now I know better. We are experienced readers, and if something jumps out at us, whether it's a compliment or a constructive comment, we need to let our partners know.
What I've learned from my partners' critiques:
--Again, they're brilliant. They catch the best stuff! Even if I've combed through the manuscript ten times, I still miss lots of things--big and small. Which brings me to my next point...
--My partners' time is valuable. I won't send them my work until I've read through it multiple times and addressed anything that caught my eye. Once I think the manuscript is clean but crappy, and I should delete the whole file, that's when I send it to my beta readers.
--Marinate on their comments. Once I receive my document back, I read through all the comments. But I don't start working right away. I gush my thanks to my partners, and then I think about their comments for several days. By the time I come back to it, the critique is much clearer and I'm ready to work out the kinks.
--Value every comment. If it caught my reader's eye, then something needs fixing. I address each point with care, and appreciate the thought that went into it.
--Can't think of an easy solution to a story problem? Don't rush it. I keep a list of points I haven't easily addressed. I'll stew over solutions for as long as it takes. No sense leaping into a solution that won't work well.
--Ask for help. I know that if I can't come up with a solution, my partners are willing and able to help me brainstorm. All I have to do is ask. And if their critiques include a possible solution to a story problem? I'm not too proud to use it!
Criticism is tough to take, and in most cases, tough to hand out--even if it's constructive. As a collective unit, we are all trying to improve, and beta reads help us do just that.
How does your critique group or beta read partnership work? If you have helpful tips for the rest of us, please share in the comments.
Need a reading partner? Mention that in the comments, as well as what genre you write. Maybe some of you can pair up. Plus, I've heard of people meeting in the WriteOnCon and Query Tracker forums.