The whispery thrumming of a million tiny bowstrings?
Because Cupids everywhere are practicing their aim, shooting arrow after arrow, getting ready for the day where I love you finds its way onto the package of every shelved piece of chocolate.
Valentine's Day. It's almost here, ladies and gentlemen. Which means it's the perfect time to prepare your own tush for a literary arrow by finally taking that dive into the CP Sea.
So what is a CP?
A CP is a critique partner. And a critique partner is that friend in middle school who kept you from walking over to the boy or girl of your dreams because you didn't realize your fly was down. They make sure you're absolutely ready to jump into that hey-I-like-you-do-you-like-me-back world of finding the perfect agent. And if you are, your CP will be your champion, cheering you on from the corner of the playground.
But if you're not, you better believe that your CP will hold you back.
Okay, fine. *zzzip* My fly's up. What now?
A good CP needs to be more patient than you are. Because, let's all face it, we may still not be ready. Sure, we're buzzing with excitement to show off our brand new manuscript, but it may need some work. Your CP is going to spend some time with your pages and characters. And, folks, if there's a serious problem with something, he or she is going to let you know. Notes are going to come pouring in and some of them may sting a little.
This is where thick skin comes in handy. Your CP may have genius story-strengthening suggestions that you've never even thought of. And if you find that that's the case, be sure to reach through that computer monitor to give him or her a big ol' hug. However, some of these suggestions may just not work. Which is exactly why you need to have a solid grasp on what story you're trying to tell.
The thing to remember, though, is that every suggestion should be considered. At first glance, it may seem like it's totally unneeded. But if you let it marinate for a few days, you might find that it points to a problem you didn't even know existed.
How much of this torture do I have to take?
You and your CP need to establish guidelines. Sort of like an editing safe word. Do you both need to have a manuscript ready to be CP'ed? Is it okay for just one of you to need editing? How many pages do you send at a time? I won't lie—finding a good CP is a lot like dating. I've had a few CPs that just didn't work out. But I've also got a select few that I've connected with so well, it was almost freaky.
When you do find your better (editing) half, talk a little bit. Think of it less as a business relationship and more of a true friendship. Because it really should be. You and your CP need to mesh. You need to click. No, you don't need to fall in love, but you do need to like each other. You're going to be putting your words in front of him or her so that trust has to be there. And if it's not, then maybe it just wasn't meant to be.
So where do I find a CP?
A good place to start would be Twitter. There are so many amazing critique groups on there and a lot of them might just be looking for more members. Groups usually congregate in either genres or categories (MG, YA, NA).
Another place to do a little CP searching would be local writers groups. Organizations like SCBWI usually have local chapters as well.
There are also some amazing sites out there to find your one true literary love. A couple of fantastic ones are:
How About We CP
Fine. But I'm still scared.
That's okay. And totally normal. Writing's tough. But letting others read it can be even tougher. I promise you one thing, though: when you find your CP, it'll change your life. No joke. Your CP will become your biggest fan, your toughest critic, a shoulder to cry on, and an ear that'll be there to listen.
Sure, the notes he or she sends back may not always put a smile on our face. They may make you cringe, whimper, or flat out ugly cry. But I promise, not matter what your CP sends you...
It was sent with a heart full of literary love.