Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals and what influence have they had on your work?
The fact that I'm posting this late in the evening should give some indication of just how hesitant I am to answer. Honestly, I've really had to give this one some thought because I just wasn't sure what I'd put down. Like everything else in my writing career however, I'm just going to work my way through the answer so bear with me.
Critique partners is an area where I am truly lacking. In all honesty, I've only had my stuff critiqued twice (and one of those times was for a writing class). So at this point, I really don't have critique partners. And while it might be hard for me to admit it, a lot of it revolves around fear. I know we all feel that fear at one point or another, but I guess I haven't conquered that particular mountain just yet. This is probably why I'm still editing, still trying to find those golden nuggets in my story that will make it shine brightly enough so I can share it with someone else.
Having said all this, I know how valuable having a critique partner is. The two times I did have my stuff critiqued, I learned a lot (both about my own writing as well as other ideas for where to go with things). Intellectually I realize that having a critique partner is what I need to get to that "next level", to truly advance my writing ability, to keep myself motivated, and to eventually get to the end goal - completing a whole book. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I am not ruled completely by the intellectual side of my brain, hence the reason I'm not there yet.
One looming question I have (and anyone can feel free to offer advice if they like) is how the heck I'll ever find a critique partner. I did join a critique site and tried doing critiques that way, but honestly it just feels too disconnected. While I don't mind reading and critiquing anyone else's work, I don't know that I could just toss it out there for anybody to critique. I guess if I had my way, my crit partners would definitely be somebody whose writing skill I respect greatly. It would also have to be somebody that really "gets me", if that makes any sense. I tend to pour a lot of myself into what I write, because I believe writing from the heart is the best way. So that kind of connection is probably helpful.
Since I don't have a crit partner however, I could just be spouting nonsense (feel free to call me on it, anyone). As far as influence, I can tell you that my reasons for joining the blog chain fall along that path. Every member on this chain is extremely talented, and I grab whatever I can from each of their posts. They influence me because I learn new ideas, techniques, and habits from them all the time. I read their books because I know there's good stuff there that I can learn from.
If you didn't get a chance to read what Michelle Hickman had to say yesterday, get on over there. Yes Michelle, I do know I need to get my first one done. I hear you loud and clear (grin). Tomorrow everyone can look forward to PK's answer.
How about the rest of you? Do you have crit partners? And how do they influence your writing world?