Do You Have a Psychic Vampire Critique Partner?

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WHAT do you MEAN I am head-hopping? THAT is my VOICE. You are ruining my ART!
(Image via Carniphage Flikr Commons)

In the beginning of my Enemies of the Art series, we discussed Psychic Vampires. Psychic Vampires are all around us, and likely, we will never be rid of them. PVs are most likely to show up at a number of critical junctures. They sense the energy shift, and since that energy is no longer all about them, they will fight tooth-and-nail to bring balance to The Force (of Manipulation).

While many of my posts are directed toward writers, most people have these same issues. If we don’t learn how to guard against and handle PVs, we will always be their victims. Psychic Vampires will always feel renewed and refreshed, namely because they just sucked the life out of their victims (us).

Psychic Vampires abound in the arts, and they’re also prevalent in many writing groups. They are vamps dressed in writer clothing. Often they are so self-absorbed they can’t even see the reality of what they are.

This is why confronting PVs is almost always fruitless and will simply lead to conflict that only further feeds them at our expense. Our best option is to be able to spot them, then ignore them or RUN.

Beware the Psychic Vampire Critique Partner

I wish I could give all of you a nice, easy website to find healthy, professional critique partners, but unfortunately those don’t exist. We will have to trust, then use trial and error, then set tough boundaries. Some CPs will make it, but likely most will not.

Why?

Too many writers get into this business for the wrong reasons. They really aren’t interested in the life of a professional and just enjoy “playing author.” Writing is for attention and ego-stroking. Their goals are about THEM and this means anyone on board with them will go the wrong direction.

They will keep steering the ship the wrong way…toward the rocks.

Some PVCPs are touchy, sensitive and unwilling to learn and grow. Mistakenly, they believe that their art is just genetically coded into their DNA and that any feedback is just trying to sabotage their “art.”

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What do you mean too many flashbacks? YOU ARE SO MEAAAANNNN!

If you have a critique partner who refuses to listen to honest feedback. If she is touchy and oversensitive? Move on. You won’t grow. You’ll spend too much time propping up an ego that can never get enough propping up. The PV will be a continual vortex of need and if you don’t jump ship while you can? Expect to crash on the rocks with them.

This writer won’t make it unless she changes, and if you’re enabling her to be a PVCP, why should she?

We Are Who We Hang Around

I cannot recommend attending writing conferences enough. Yes, even WANACon counts. The reason? These writers have invested cold hard cash into getting better. When we forge relationships with writers who are professional or stronger, we grow. Water will always find its level, so make sure you’re rising, not sinking. Habits are contagious. This is one of the reasons I cannot recommend joining an RWA chapter enough (even if you don’t write romance).

RWA is full of professionals who work their tails off and understand craft and the business. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the other. Refuse to be in a place that dulls your creative edges.

PVCPs Waste Valuable Time

I’ve been in critique relationships where the other person never learned to think for themselves. Why bother reading Story Engineering, The Writer’s Journey, Hooked,  Save the Cat or Plot & Structure when we can get Kristen to so all our thinking/plotting for us?

I recall two members of a critique group who attended every week with their crappy writing to be critiqued. Instead of learning, they just barfed down junk on a page and let the group “fix” it. Odd thing was, after over a year of enduring the world’s worst writing, nothing changed. When these individuals self-published? NONE of the writing had changed.

This ticked me off. How many hours had we dedicated to helping, when the writer had zero intention of listening? The critique wasn’t a place to grow; rather, it was a captive audience who had to listen to their dreadful “story” vomit.

Most of us are short on time. We often have day jobs, kids, chores, bills and we have to do social media and MOST IMPORTANTLY we need to be writing more books and better books. It’s easier to tread water if we aren’t dragging a PVCP anchor around our necks.

The PVCP Test

1. Is the writer touchy. Does she want every bit of feedback to be handed with a box of chocolates?

2. Does she attend regularly? Or does she always have an excuse of why she can’t be there—great-nephew’s birthday party, helping a friend’s garage sale, washing her hair?

3. Does the writer actually READ? Does she read fiction and LOVE storytelling? I’ve met writers who claimed they wanted to be NYTBSAs, but said things like, “Well, I just don’t like to/have time to read.” Reading is FUNDAMENTAL to what we do. A writer who doesn’t read is like a musician who doesn’t listen to music. TIME WASTER.

4. Does the person give back? Critique partners should be partners. I’ve had writers who took and took for months. They wanted me to plot, then re-plot, then they had a new and BETTER idea they needed “help” plotting. Never once did it occur to them, that we hadn’t talked about my book in months.

5. Does this person ever grow? Or do they keep making the same newbie errors over and over? If they are? They aren’t listening, so move on. This is a PVCP. RUN.

What are your thoughts? Have you been the victim of a PVCP? What did you do? How did you handle it? What are your horror stories? How did you stake the PVCP? What might be some other ways to spot a PVCP? What might be some good resources for finding a good CP? I recommend trying http://www.WANAtribe.com, join RWA or attend conferences. But, maybe you guys have some better suggestions!

BTW, Image number two courtesy of best movie ever Army of Darkness.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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  1. #1 by Yvonne Hertzberger on March 13, 2013 - 10:13 am

    Hi Kristin. I wanted to share this on my website on wordpress. I thought you had a ‘press this’ link but I don’t see it there now. Was I mistaken?

    • #2 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 13, 2013 - 10:14 am

      WP rearranges the furniture ever so often. Let me check and see. Thanks :D.

      • #3 by Yvonne Hertzberger on March 13, 2013 - 10:18 am

        Thanks, Its there now. I could swear it wasn’t a few minutes ago. Grrrr.

    • #4 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 13, 2013 - 10:16 am

      Below in all the share buttons, you will see the WP logo and that lets you PRESS THIS. Hope it helps.

  2. #5 by Marilyn Hudson Tucker on March 13, 2013 - 10:18 am

    This came at just the right time for me. Someone wanted to join my private group, but I knew he would not fit in and would become a time-suck. Thanks for giving me the courage to say no.

  3. #6 by Les Edgerton on March 13, 2013 - 10:21 am

    Another terrific post, Kristen. I’d like to chime in with my two cents and also recommend writers of all stripes join and attend RWA chapters and their meetings. I don’t write romance novels and I don’t read them–just not my particular cup of tea in reading tastes, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve appeared before many groups and writing conferences and the like and can attest that RWA folks are without parallel when it comes to understanding writing and the business of writing. These folks are pros! I suspect that may be one of the reasons they’re the single biggest-selling genre. They simply know what they’re doing and they’re incredibly generous about sharing their knowledge with anyone. And, they have an immense body of knowledge. Besides exhibiting a decided mastery of craft, more than any other group they seem to understand how publishing works and if for nothing else, going to their events will expose a writer of any genre as to how to navigate the world of publishing/agents/et al, successfully.

    • #7 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 13, 2013 - 10:26 am

      I am SO glad you commented. I forgot another FAVE craft book, HOOKED. I own four copies and have bought copies for so many writers. Another great resource. And I know that isn’t why you commented because ur awesome like that. Just want to make sure your book is on the list of MUST-HAVES.

  4. #8 by Rich Weatherly on March 13, 2013 - 10:22 am

    Thanks for the excellent advice.
    I’m afraid PV’s are all too common.

  5. #9 by Monique Headley on March 13, 2013 - 10:28 am

    Unfortunately, Kristen, you are correct when you say the only way to find a critique partner that fits is through trial and error – painful, sometimes debilitating trial and error. I’ve been lucky to have some amazing people read and critique my work. Their insights and recommendations pushed me to be better, made my work better! Invaluable! I’ve also had some terrible I-only-want-to-talk-about-my-work partners. The head hopping reference made me laugh because I’ve worked with some people who say “But I’ve read several NYT Bestsellers that head hop. *shakes head* Even though every experience with the PVs wasn’t stellar, I have to say, I learned something each and every time. What I want in a critique partner, clearer insight as to what “doesn’t work”, or even just growing a thicker skin.

    Working through the PVCPs is totally worth it in the end. Once you find the right ones for you, you’ll feel like you’ve struck gold. Writing and friendship GOLD!

  6. #10 by mitzireinbold on March 13, 2013 - 10:30 am

    I was in a critique group when I was working full time; it met at one member’s house. We would either order or bring supper, chat and then critique. I usually had something every time we met, some didn’t. One of the first members of the group would rarely bring anything but was ready to critique everyone’s work. I dropped out when I had to miss too many sessions because I was doing overnight traveling for work. No one wanted to critique through email. Maybe it had become more of a social-thing for them.

    Unfortunately I haven’t found another group. The trust issue (mostly because of something that a member of the group did to me personally) is a big one with me now. I muddle through on my own but every so often I think of looking for a critique group and then, I remember my experience. I need my energy to write and enjoy my life, not to deal with group/individual drama.

    Mitzi

  7. #11 by sheilaenglehart on March 13, 2013 - 10:33 am

    Well done. I’ve also known PV’s who do things to sabotage others doing better than they are. You know, the people who are actually doing the work. Writing is rewriting. If you’re not going to rewrite it, there’s no point in putting it down in the first place.

  8. #12 by David Erickson on March 13, 2013 - 10:34 am

    I’ve been a member of Critters.org for over a decade now and I’ve known writers like that. What really amazed me is one writer who wasn’t getting better and would post stories that needed intense editing. I did a few critiques for him, but after doing two in great depth I realized he was expecting us to do the heavy lifting for him, so I quit critiquing his submissions.

  9. #13 by Melinda S. Collins on March 13, 2013 - 10:35 am

    I can’t imagine being a writer who doesn’t read. I know there are many out there who don’t read, but it just doesn’t compute for me. That’s how we not only learn, but it’s also a much-needed break from reality. :)

    I’d like to 2nd the RWA Chapter comment. I recently joined one earlier this year and one meeting alone more than pays for the cost of membership to both RWA and the local chapter. Last Saturday the meeting was solely around self-publishing with 3 successful LOCAL self-pubbed authors. How can you pass that opportunity up? :)

    Thank you for another great post, Kristen!

  10. #14 by Wendy Reis Editing on March 13, 2013 - 10:38 am

    Reblogged this on Wendy Reis Editing (Blog) and commented:
    This one is phenomenal!
    In ALL walks of life you will encounter these emotional blood suckers.

  11. #15 by Teri Foreman Brown on March 13, 2013 - 10:39 am

    I’ve joined several critique groups and it’s difficult to find the right fit. The one I joined as a newbie was instrumental in my growth as a writer. Unfortunately, it imploded over jealousy. I have had several Cp’s, and some were quite good, but sometimes over time, needs change. Plus, I am quite prolific (major deadlines) and need the work fast. So I ended up hiring an editor, who turned out to be like a really good CP… since I hired her I don’t have to crit her work back and for this time in my life, it really works. No doubt I will go back to having a regular cp some day, but right now, this takes a huge load off my shoulders.

  12. #16 by susielindau on March 13, 2013 - 10:42 am

    That sounds frustrating. I am still looking for critique partners. Since I am new at all of this, I expect criticism. It may be harder for those in the writing profession for years and years to take it. Pride may get in the way for them. I still have a lot to learn.

  13. #17 by Nicole Grabner on March 13, 2013 - 10:48 am

    YES! I’ve had a horrible experience with feedback. In a general sense, I most always prefer someone who doesn’t like my writing because I get more out of their feedback than someone who says, “It was great. I like it.” So, basically, I wanted to convey that I can receive negative feedback, but what I don’t appreciate is someone who does so unprofessionally and spitefully. I was once in a group where I was basically told that I was plagurizing (myself?) when I used a writing prompt to write a short story. If that wasn’t bad enough, the man then went on to say how unprofessional I was and that I should be ashamed of msyelf and started calling me names. Needless to say, I take this moment for the experience that it was, and now know what to expect when I’m around people like this. Frankly, most everyone who I have ever met in our writing world are humble and humerous – I’ve never been spoken down to just because I haven’t published and I’m new. So this guy was the abnormality, thankfully.

  14. #18 by annerallen on March 13, 2013 - 10:56 am

    This is pure brilliance. And so spot on! Were you listening in on my critique group?

  15. #19 by Jai on March 13, 2013 - 11:03 am

    This is a great post. I joined a critique group where the leader was a PV. It took me a couple of months to figure out what was going on before I left.

  16. #20 by hcfbutton on March 13, 2013 - 11:09 am

    This is such a fantastic description and a great way to figure out how to know what works for you, or what only works for them. As a problem solver by nature, I’ve learned when to stop offering advice. The people who are “no to everything” I just stop commenting on. (This is in general). For friends I realize sometimes it comes down to not being ready, so I wait. For others who want to take advantage, I just slowly get quiet. And move on.

    Really like the tidbit on whether people are paying for advice. That’s a pretty tell-tale sign.

  17. #21 by gretchenwing on March 13, 2013 - 11:15 am

    Yup, I can relate. In my old critique group there was one writer who continually distributed work that was full of grammatical errors. Much as I tried to tell myself it was a waste of time to fix them, of course I couldn’t help myself…but week after week, the same errors reappeared. I finally decided it was a matter of basic courtesy (or lack of), and left the group.
    A related issue is the critique group member who only gives compliments. Much as I love praise, that is not why I join a critique group, and when praise is given in the absence of constructive critique, it is, well…not constructive.

  18. #22 by Alice Abel Kemp on March 13, 2013 - 11:25 am

    Great post. One thing I love about RWA and my chapter here in New Orleans is the generosity of the members, helping you, cheering you on. It’s marvelous. Join and come to the national convention – July in Atlanta, will likely fill up.
    Good critique groups and partners are worth their weight in gold.

  19. #23 by Rhenna Morgan on March 13, 2013 - 11:25 am

    I’m so blessed. I have GREAT critique partners. They push me constantly, but do it with a smile. Even better, we’re there for each other on a consistent basis.

    • #24 by Coleen Burright on March 14, 2013 - 8:37 pm

      I love you too, Rhenna!

      Anyone in need of a critique group might want to try RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal special chapter. They have a database group called “The Mud Puddle” for critique exchange. It’s the place I found my fabulous critique partners (of which Rhenna is one).

  20. #25 by zbpublications on March 13, 2013 - 11:48 am

    Great Post. I have had to try hard to finding critique partners. I have met some awesome critiquers and some that left much to be desired. I never considered joining RWA, maybe I will give that a shot.

    One way I have found specifically to spot a PV is they are not happy for your (or anyone else’s) success. They bad mouth successful authors and heaven forbid you sell a story, because they start making back biting comments.

  21. #26 by patricefitzgerald on March 13, 2013 - 11:51 am

    I used to learn a lot from writing groups, but now only use one CP occasionally. I’ve been writing novels for twenty years, and I find that there are some who can’t write, but are good at critiquing, and some who can’t critique but are good at writing, and some who can’t do either. Many times, unpublished writers are just diddling along for many years rewriting the same book. I don’t fault them for their pace, but I don’t want to re-analyze and improve the same chapters over and over. Further, they either say of my work, “It’s great!” or they find typos and have very small comments on the level of line-edits when I’m at the big picture plotting stage and know that so many things will change it’s not worthwhile to nitpick about typos. Yet.

    Mostly, I find that my work benefits from a single vision of my own rather than a committee-level critique. People I’ve known in these groups have not been nasty (with one exception, years ago, and his book sank like a stone when he finally put it out), they have been very well-intentioned… just not very helpful. My time is better spent writing.

    • #27 by Karen on March 13, 2013 - 1:28 pm

      Gotta agree here–not sure how hopeful critique groups are after a certain point.

  22. #28 by Chuck on March 13, 2013 - 11:58 am

    This is a serious eye-opener. You can’t wish away bad habits and you really cannot stop learning a craft that is as nuanced as fiction writing or writing professionally. One piece of advice I shall always remember is this: A good book tells you a good story, a bad book tells you a good deal about the author. I suppose that holds true with editors and critique partners as well. (please delete the previous post with error)

  23. #29 by Becky Fyfe on March 13, 2013 - 12:22 pm

    I am fortunate in that I have found some great critique groups. But I must admit that I am often the one who can’t show. I try and take part with my on-line groups and get to my local groups when I can. And I read and critique the work that is turned in. If I don’t show, I also don’t send anything in. I don’t expect critiques when I am not present to also give critiques.

  24. #30 by Dennis Langley on March 13, 2013 - 12:33 pm

    I recently escaped a group of PV’s and am looking for a new group. Thankfully, I have a couple of dedicated friends who are happy to read and critique my work. Unfortunately, they are not writers. The search goes on.

  25. #31 by J. F. Smith on March 13, 2013 - 2:13 pm

    Hi Kristen!
    I loved this quote: “Does the writer actually READ? Does she read fiction and LOVE storytelling? I’ve met writers who claimed they wanted to be NYTBSAs, but said things like, “Well, I just don’t like to/have time to read.” Reading is FUNDAMENTAL to what we do. A writer who doesn’t read is like a musician who doesn’t listen to music. TIME WASTER.”

    A writer who doesn’t read is like a human who doesn’t breathe, IMO.

    I’m looking for a new critique group, and I have no idea where to begin.

    • #32 by stephscottil on March 13, 2013 - 3:38 pm

      I did some basic google searches for writing groups in my area and found several groups that met at local cafes, a library, and a very organized local group that puts out a literary journal every year. I ended up going with local chapters of two national organizations: RWA which Kristen mentions, and the children’s book society SCBWI. RWA has been really great b/c the local chapter is so active. Other people I know online have had more success with different groups. I started out at a local library group which was good initially, but like this post mentions, I wanted to find writers who were professional or working toward that, not just hobbyists.

      • #33 by J. F. Smith on March 14, 2013 - 10:43 am

        Hi Steph! Thanks for the reply. I’ve done a couple of basic google searches but it’s hard to distinguish between those who are serious and those who are not. I’m a member of SCWBI so I should check out the Boston chapter of that because I know how reputable that is. Thank you very much for the reply. :)

        • #34 by Daniel Escurel Occeno on March 14, 2013 - 7:04 pm

          There are on-line groups. I looked up RWA and I ended up reading about the on-line since I cannot travel. Living at the Philippines it gets too expensive by corporate jet and I do not have one. SCWBI, I used to belong to while living at America and I wanted to go to their conferences at NYC and Hawaii; but I never did even though I had the money saved up. Probably NYC, I am more impressed with high rises with air-conditioning at concrete jungles than sandy beaches. I already have a tan. Because of reading stuff from Kristen’s E-newsletter from the blog, I subscribed to the Writers’ Digest of their junk E-mail. I used to read the paper magazine at libraries and asked to keep the old ones they were going to dump in the trash. WD’s junk E-mail promotes a lot of conferences and groups and teaches things like getting agents, which many have responded to me that they do not represent writers for children. A suggestion was to get an agent for a novel and tell the agent to send my stories for children for picture books to RANDOM HOUSE for KIDS division. I still do not have an agent so my stories for children have not been published by Random House.

  26. #35 by alicamckennajohnson on March 13, 2013 - 2:21 pm

    I just want to make sure I can be professional and still get stroked ;) I’ve had really bad critique partners before, ones where you took a deep breath before talking about their work and had to hold up a shield as they “critiqued” aka were vicious and mean when going over yours.
    I can also see how I can be a better critique partner, not only by learning more so my writing improves but also so I can be more helpful!
    Thanks Kristen
    And yes one of the best movies ever.

  27. #36 by treewithroots on March 13, 2013 - 2:21 pm

    “Psychic Vampires will always feel renewed and refreshed, namely because they just sucked the life out of their victims (us).”
    I’m in 2 critique groups, and learn so much from them both. We have been together for a long time, and in both groups we have grown to trust and believe that our critiques are given with the wish of helping one another grow as writers. I feel supported and I feel energized when I leave them, and I believe the other group members feel the same.
    I have been in critique groups that were populated with PVs, though. Leaving them, I always felt “drained.”

  28. #37 by renée a. schuls-jacobson on March 13, 2013 - 2:29 pm

    Kristen. Yes. My name is Renee, and I had a vampire critique partner. (I think you know who I’m talking about.) She called all the time wanting to talk about her stuff. I helped her beyond the point of helping. And when I see all the parts if her book (now self-published) that I actually wrote, I get I mad at myself. Why didn’t I put all that energy into my own book? When did I think she was going to start helping me? When she ditched me, I was devastated, and it’s been difficult to ask other people for help. Luckily, the WANAs are wonderful people — and a few have offered assistance. I wish I had started off with a WANA partner. I don’t think this would have happened. How is your new book coming? Is it almost done? If there is anything I can do help (beyond tweets and linky-love), please let me know.

  29. #38 by stephscottil on March 13, 2013 - 3:32 pm

    The captions on the photos really got me laughing. This is great advice. I’ve turned away a potential vampire CP and felt bad, but I think this is confirmation that I need to also make sure the time I’m giving is beneficial for both of us. I went from zero critique partners to almost too many in a short span of time, and I feel bad for saying no to people. Gotta be cool with saying no sometimes.

    • #39 by treewithroots on March 13, 2013 - 4:29 pm

      I had two real-life critique groups and 2 on-line groups going at the same time. I found it too many and dropped the on-line groups after a year or so. So much time was spent critiquing that it really ate into my own writing time. I agree, you “gotta be cool with saying no sometimes.”

  30. #40 by Rachel Thompson on March 13, 2013 - 3:52 pm

    Ive seen a lot of bad critique groups and partners. One leading member needs to take control and eject problem makers. Someone must set up rules and enforce them. I do a lot of manuscript reviews. Most have gone through critique and very often these vetted manuscripts are full of basic mistakes. It shows me how ineffective bad critique groups are. If your group isn’t helping you write better either change the group dynamics or move on. Don’t waste your time.

  31. #41 by Patricia Susan Falck on March 13, 2013 - 4:18 pm

    Thanks. That helps.

  32. #42 by patrickoscheen on March 13, 2013 - 4:32 pm

    Kristen,
    You scared me. Clearly you have personal experience with these types of people, as we all ocasionally do, Growing—no matter how difficult–is important. I enjoyed the pictures and will try to avoid the pitfalls.

  33. #43 by Joanne Stewart on March 13, 2013 - 4:46 pm

    Oh my gosh. You’re talking my language. I’ve had so many bad critique partners over the years it’s not funny. The mean ones. The ones who want to rewrite my book their way (and offer nothing else). I’ve had a ton of psychic vampires, particularly the ones you mention, who “vomit on the page” and want you to fix it, and just keep sending you more of them same. It’s tedious and exhausting. It always took me way too long to realize it was them and not me, because, like someone else mentioned, I always felt terrible for doing having to tell them it didn’t work. I’m in between CPs right now and just had to get rid of two such writers. Thanks from me too for the confirmation that it’s not just me.

    I’ve heard good things about your book. It was recommended to me, and it’s on my wishlist, actually, and I think may it’s time I checked it out! Thanks for a great article. Will add a link back to you on my blog.

  34. #44 by Elizabeth Hein on March 13, 2013 - 5:25 pm

    I’ve been in good critique groups and awful critique groups. I’ve learned through experience to run away screaming whenever I meet a PV. Great advice, Kristen.

  35. #45 by Daniel Escurel Occeno on March 13, 2013 - 5:26 pm

    At an OWL meeting I bought her latest mystery novel because she taught me plenty at conferences during her lectures or was it from her paper magazine for writers and I subscribed to it, which she allowed submissions on self-help articles and life experiences on the life of a writer. I had money then. But she gave away a free critique and since I won I sent her something (short story), which I quickly wrote without even doing editing or making sure; it was how I really wanted the short story. I do not know. Maybe, I was testing her. She was an editor who became a mystery novelist. I sent it mostly to find out what she would mail back by snail mail. I got my answer. I saw entire pages crossed out and learned that flashbacks should be quick and to the point and I digressed too much in telling my story. Get to the point was the point of her critique.

  36. #46 by hillbillyzen13 on March 13, 2013 - 6:52 pm

    Thanks, Kristen, for the great advice. By encouraging us to avoid PV’s, you also caution us against becoming one.

  37. #48 by MaLinda Johnson on March 13, 2013 - 8:50 pm

    When I run into a PV in my personal life, I cut him or her loose. I’d rather lose a friend and keep my sanity than live with that anchor around my neck.

  38. #49 by Renee on March 13, 2013 - 9:15 pm

    Coming to this great post later tonight, Kristen, another keeper, thanks.

    Maybe I can put it this way: I’m a Rick and looking for a Hershel CP! (characters from “The Walking Dead”)

    I think I excel at “the hard way.” When I think of some of the wrong moves I’ve made in my fiction career, it’s as though I hit bumpers in the pinball machine and knock into every obstacle, “lighting up” and pinging a series of bad decisions – CP’s who took advantage of my people pleasing nature – I became a personal editor and researcher for some folks. Or, there are the inhospitable critique groups, (I think of it in terms of – “Is this a Mars climate? Can I breathe freely here? Or is this hostile, poisonous terrain?”)

    There are the inevitable cliques, too, where you never get seated at the exclusive table, you’re more or less relegated to the one chair next to the kitchen. Or you’ll walk into a room of a few Queen Bees and you’re treated like a servant… even as you check the Declaration of Independence and don’t recall a particular clause about some women being more special than others.

    Maybe I just need to attend remedial Female Relationships 101.

    Joining the RWA is one of the smartest things a fiction writer can do, I will say, however, there are folks in my RWA group whom I can’t click with, for whatever reason. I could offer to walk across hot coals and they still wouldn’t like me. This isn’t uncommon, I don’t think you walk into a RWA chapter, pound your chest and holler: “My chosen people! I love everyone and everyone loves me!” Nope. Ain’t gonna happen. Instead, you seek out like-minded friends.

    It’s an interesting point you raise about Vampires, because I think we women will often blame ourselves for not clicking with other women. I have wrung my hands and paced. “What did I do? Was my brownies snack off-course? Should I have grabbed the store-bought chocolate chip cookies for our meeting instead? Was there a bit of broccoli lodged in my teeth when I smiled?” Or you ask yourself things like, “Is it my weight? That I drive a 10 year old van?” I don’t think Steinbeck concerned himself with such things.

    Let’s give each other a break and admit that we can’t possibly connect with every living female, just because she carries a double XX chromosome. Betty Freidan didn’t care for Gloria Steinem. And sometimes, women can be catty. (Sound the alarms on the submarine! Dive, dive!)

    I’m in a great RWA group and there are four or five people who make the same comments about my work, no matter what I read for critique. I can’t “win” them over. Either they don’t like me personally, which is a possibility, or they just don’t like how I write. Some have been snippy and it hurts. What I try to do, is just avoid them – and then I talk to people across the country who have similar encounters. It’s bizarre. No amount of Norman Vincent Peale-ing can persuade some folks.

    What I will say – that’s been a real boon to me psychologically – is that I’ve befriended four or so people from my chapter and they are godsends. Intelligent, sensitive, funny, talented. You’re so darn-tootin’ when you talk about “you are who you hang with.” I feel honored that I’ve befriended these lovely ladies, and in my Sally Field cloying way, “They like me. They really like me.” (I know, I’m asking to be pummeled with tomatoes)

    I myself did become a Vampire about two or so years ago, and lost a good friend because of my own negativity. She was making progress in her career and I wasn’t. To see yet another friend pass me by – was painful.

    Now, I can’t explain it, but I’m in a different place. I’m genuinely happy for my friends. I’m cheering them on. I’m a Geezer by a young writer’s standards, the Grandma Moses and Harry S. Truman of romance writers. I’ll be dragging across that finish line instead of sailing across it – but I’m in a much better place now. Feels good. Feels good to be positive again and focused on the work, and not feeling sorry for myself. Gotta keep a-chuggin’.

    • #50 by stephscottil on March 17, 2013 - 12:26 pm

      Great point about groups; finding a few people in a group is what is most helpful, and it’s not realistic to assume we will click with everyone. Each person has her own taste and reading preferences. Some genres I don’t click with and likewise, they might not like what I write.

  39. #51 by babedarla on March 14, 2013 - 12:27 am

    I’ve gone back to school for creative writing (in my 50′s, ya gotta love a bitchen mid-life crisis!) I adore the teacher in one class. She insist on us staring with praise, and won’t allow mean-ness or cattiness, so the critiques with get tend to be both helpful and gratifying. Another class? Well, even the teacher can be catty (and he’s a straight male, go figure.) The students in the classes overlap, and those of us who have the positive review class tend to bolster each other when we get torn to shreds in the negative review class. I’m glad we’re there for each other!
    And, btw Kristen, yes! Best movie EVER!!!!!!!

    • #52 by babedarla on March 14, 2013 - 12:29 am

      Damnable sticky typewriter keys: insistS and starTing, not insist and staring…or insistently staring!

  40. #53 by Scott Anthony Kelly on March 14, 2013 - 9:17 am

    Reblogged this on String Two Word's. and commented:
    H’mm very Interesting

  41. #54 by abigler42 on March 14, 2013 - 9:33 am

    Thanks for this post! I haven’t worked with a CP yet and I think it’s time I do. This gives me some good advice. I am intimidated by all of the options and worry that I won’t find a good partner. I guess I’d better try and see what happens!

  42. #55 by Athena Brady on March 14, 2013 - 1:37 pm

    Scary photos thanks for all your good advice I have come across a few of these.

  43. #56 by klcrumley on March 16, 2013 - 2:08 pm

    Boy have I been there…hehehe. I have gone through the gauntlet of several online critique groups, with varied results. One girl had no problem giving passive-agressive criticism and backhanded compliments to other authors, but when she finally put the first chapter of her own “baby” up for critique, she whined and pouted and eventually left the group when nobody raved over it and one brutally honest author had merely pointed out that her main character was a Mary Sue. In the same group, one writer got ticked off at how many people had mistaken his story as Star Wars fanfic, and another guy who expected me to practically ghost write for him. Ugh!

    I really prefer Critters.org, because it is so well maintained and moderated (complete with diplomacy guidelines); however often in that group you spend more time critiquing than writing, due to the way the group and membership is set up.

    Funny thing, one of my former PVCP’s had submitted a few short stories to my (now folded) magazine a few years ago. When I saw her name in the email I had flashbacks, but gave her the benefit of the doubt…Then, sadly history repeated itself when I had to fold the magazine and could not accept any more stories for publication. Some people need to be reminded not to take stuff so personally…

    …Then there’s the guy who told me I wasn’t a “real Christian” because I had to reject his poetry, which didn’t even fit my guidelines at all. :(

  44. #57 by lythya on March 16, 2013 - 2:53 pm

    When reading this I can’t help but just hope I’m not one, haha.

  45. #58 by Grass Oil by Molly Field on March 16, 2013 - 5:23 pm

    Nice post, Kristen. I knew one. I had to kick her to the curb and wear garlic for months but it worked. Not all vampires shy away from the light and live in Transylvania. Some are right out in the open, right around the corner.

  46. #59 by L K (@ffssmh) on March 16, 2013 - 8:02 pm

    One of my best friends is currently acting like this. Constantly demands that I read every little change she makes and rejects critiques. She has outright stated that she hates reading. She is on her first novel and she is already talking about “the movie.” She spent a lot of money on an editor for this FIRST NOVEL. Doesn’t write short stories. All her characters are Mary Sues.

    Oh, and I ask her for her input on one of my characters (don’t know what I was thinking), and she blows me off demanding I search for models for her characters.

    Lately, I’ve been yesing everything. It’s much easier for me. She seems to like it.

    • #60 by L K (@ffssmh) on March 16, 2013 - 8:09 pm

      Forgot to add that this unhealthy dynamic is helping my own writing. There is a lot of value in reading the crap stuff. It is actually getting my creative juices flowing!

      Still don’t see this ending well, though!

    • #61 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 16, 2013 - 10:01 pm

      Run.

  47. #62 by Hong on March 17, 2013 - 11:36 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    So far, I haven’t had any bad experience with critique partners. But your post will help me identify these psychic vampire CPs ;)

  48. #63 by melissajanda on March 25, 2013 - 12:06 pm

    I am new to writing and didn’t know what a CP was at first. Yeah, I’m that new. Once I deciphered the acronym then I hit another wall. How do you find one? I’ve been searching the internet and reading blogs and forums in my quest but hadn’t made much headway. Thanks for another helpful post. BTW, I always read the comments too. Your followers give such good advice! I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog Kristen!

    • #64 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 25, 2013 - 12:35 pm

      Great to meet you, Melissa. I might recommend joining our social site WANATribe. There are a ton of writing groups and that would be a great place to start that is free. Cannot recommend conferences or a local chapter of RWA enough. RWA is amazing and filled with generous professionals. Even if you don’t write romance, I still recommend joining.

      • #65 by melissajanda on March 25, 2013 - 2:13 pm

        Can I just say I love you? I don’t mean that in a stalker-ish, “single white female” sort of way so don’t freak out. But what you’re doing here is amazing. I love your blog. The helpful advice you provide for aspiring authors like me is priceless. I recently joined RWA and joining the local chapter was next on my list. I will join the WANATribe as well. Thank you so much!

        • #66 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 25, 2013 - 3:56 pm

          LOL. I have stalked many great writers (and still do) to gain this wisdom, :D.

  49. #67 by Denna Holm on March 25, 2013 - 6:05 pm

    I used to run into the same sort of problems when it came to teaching people to ride and show horses. So many students wanted me, or any trainer, to magically fix everything so all they had to do was put the horse in auto and they would ride a perfect test. Of course when it didn’t work, it was usually the trainer who was at fault. Listening to others is important if we want to get ahead. Accepting criticism and working with it instead of feeling threatened is how we learn and go forward. I’ll never understand people who want all the glory, but with someone else doing all the work. Writing, riding, it’s all hard work. I would love to get a chance to learn from you. :)

  50. #68 by Anna on March 29, 2013 - 11:17 am

    sounds like playground bullying all over to me.. perhaps you’d better spend all that time you have for such great unique ideas you have rather than victimising others…

  51. #69 by Anna on March 29, 2013 - 11:37 am

    ..the sad irony is, it sounds like you are feeding off the upset you are clearly causing to this apparently anonymous victim, making them feel weary & defensive. If you REALLY knew how to critique others work constructively they would feel very grateful and fortunate to have your feedback. No artist is so narcissistic that they don’t care about their art and don’t want to continue their journey at all. I don’t like to think how they feel when they ‘stumble upon’ this blog. No hard feelings an’ all, hope you don’t feel touchy about a bystander pointing out the blatantly obvious…

    • #70 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 29, 2013 - 11:49 am

      I speak from experience on all ends. I was once that touchy writer who couldn’t take the heat. I wanted to hear all my words were gold. I didn’t want real feedback, and, as a consequence, I didn’t grow. I was new, insecure and more interested in ego-boosting than growing.

      I’ve also been the narcissist who thought I knew everything, so how could I learn? Sure, I point out other examples, because I ran critique groups for SEVEN years. I’ve taught at countless conferences and met all these archetypes. They DO exist. And if someone is going to be explosive and touchy in critique? How will they respond to a one-star ticked off review from an angry reader?

      There is a lot that goes into this business other than “art.” And I don’t “cause” upset. Everyone has a choice. Get defensive, cry and go home, or suck it up, learn to dismiss what isn’t salient and press onward.

      This business isn’t easy, and some people just aren’t cut out for it (even if they possess talent). There are elements beyond art and talent that contribute heavily to success.

      And maybe when they stumble on this blog it hurts. But maybe it also shows them how to toughen up and rise to the challenge. Wimps who give other people control over their feelings won’t last long, and they won’t ENJOY their career. They will be too tied to other people’s opinions.

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