Recently one of my critique partners (CP) and I completed full read-throughs of each other’s novels, and so I have the joy that are CPs on the mind. I’m very fortunate to have two close critique partners that are always there to read my work––including novels, novellas, query letters, and even drafts of articles or newsletters.
While my CPs provide me with incredible feedback to strengthen my writing, that’s not all I get from them. I get support and pep talks. I get updates about industry related news. I get someone to side tangent about favorite books and TV shows. And I get a friend who is as dedicated to and understanding of the crazy journey of an aspiring author, and they get it too.
What is a critique partner?
A critique partner is a writer friend you swap writing with to provide feedback on. Usually, your critique partners are longer relationships that will stick together through either multiple revisions or projects.
How does a critique partner vary from a beta (or alpha) reader?
As the name suggests, a CP is a partner whom you critique with. Thus, it requires a mutual partnership. When you seek out a critique partner, you are signing up to give feedback, criticism, and support to someone else’s writing.
Beta/alpha readers will generally read your completed manuscript and provide holistic feedback of their reading experience. Betas could be writers, but it’s not a requirement. Even if you have a reader who also writes, you are not obligated to read their writing in return.
However, beta reading for someone else is always a good gesture (and can be beneficial to you too!), and CPs can often be born out of two writers beta reading for one another.
What are the benefits of having a critique partner?
- A buddy to keep you accountable – My CP and I exchanged chapters weekly. You better believe I had to make sure I had chapter edited and ready to go.
- Can save you money! – Before you sink cash into hiring a book coach, a CP can provide genuine developmental advice. Since they’re also a writer, they might have a few pieces of advice.
- Built-in support system – say hello to your number one fan! Your CP is your biggest cheerleader and will often be just as excited about your book’s progress as you are.
- An idea springboard – A CP is a great person to bounce ideas back and forth and help get you out of dreaded writing holes.
- Writing advice and solutions – Two brains tend to tackle problems better than one. Being a newbie writer means making mistakes. With a CP, you can learn from each other’s mistakes.
- Enhances your storytelling – Critiquing and editing another’s work make you a better writer. You learn how to zero in and widely observe narrative details and that hyper focus is translatable to your own writing.
Where do I find a critique partner?
- Go to writing conferences
- Join a local writing group
- Visit critique specific websites (I used Critique Circle when I started getting feedback on my writing)
- Engage with social media writing community (like The Writer Community, which is where I found both of my CPs)
For any option, put your intention out there that you’re looking for a CP, or at least someone to swap stories with. Most times, CP relationships just emerge naturally out of reading each other’s work and keeping that exchange going with feedback and discussions.
What are ways to be a good critique partner?
- Be up front – When you start working with a CP, put your expectations out there and let them know what you’re hoping for from the partnership. It will be mutually beneficial to be on the same page at the start.
- Be honest – A CP is trusting you to give it to them straight, especially from the perspective of a writer. Part of the benefit of a CP is that they usually aren’t family or a significant other, so you can put it all out there. But remember, honesty doesn’t require brutality––be nice!
- Build them up – don’t tear your CP down. While honesty is important in the relationship, keep the criticism kind and constructive and support their dreams.
- Be timely and respectful – hold up your side of the partnership and remember to treat your CPs dreams with the respect and excitement you want to receive.
- Don’t be one sided – This is a partnership. You have to give in order to get.
- Come prepared – actually read what you were supposed to and come with notes, comments, and questions ready to go.
- Be creative – one of the best feelings is brainstorming your way out of a writing hole with another writer, don’t be afraid to be that creative springboard for your CP.
How do I know if a critique partner is not a good match?
Trust your gut! Finding a good CP might feel a bit like dating. You both have to have a mutual interest in each other’s projects. You will have to have open and honest communication with one another. You’ll have to commit time to the other person.
So, if you start to feel like your relationship with your CP is like a series of bad dates––e.g., they’re constantly late or forgetful, you feel little to no excitement, you’re doing most of the work, or they ghost you––then you may want to consider calling things off and finding a different CP.
Look for a possible critique partner who…
- Wishes to invest the same amount of time
- Writes in the same or a similar genre/age market
- Is at the same place (i.e. if you have a completed first draft, they also have a completed first draft)
- Has a similar level of writing skill or experience
- Has similar goals
- Shares similar communication preferences
How do I structure my CP chats?
Since I just finished a full read-through, I thought it might be helpful to share the details of how we organized it all.
- We started with an introductory chat, via zoom. I live in Florida, but my two CPs live in Michigan and Georgia. All of our communication is done virtually (and I work with both separately). During the first chat, we talked to get to know each other a little more (having only talked via Instagram before). We gave general overviews about our books and what we were hoping to get from a critique partner.
- From that first meeting, we decided on sending each other chapters (generally 2 or 3) weekly, and having a zoom chat for an hour every Sunday.
- Then our calls sort of developed their own structure.
- We tend to start with a writing “icebreaker” to get our brains working. These have been anything from “pitch your novel” and “if you wrote an alternate ending to your book, what would it be?” to “what Hogwarts house would your characters be sorted in?” and “what’s the dynamic of a family board game night?”
- After catching up on life updates, we dive into our feedback. We alternate who goes first, and the feedback tends to be in the form of questions we have while reading. After we finish the comments for each other, we do predictions for what’s coming.
We rinse and repeated this basic structure (save for a number of rants here and there) until a few months had passed by and we reach the end of each other’s manuscripts!
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