WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A CRITIQUE PARTNER
When I first started writing, I belonged to a couple of critique groups and while I found them VERY helpful I also found a large group to be a bit overwhelming. Personally I’ve found that having at least two (but no more than four) crit partners to give different perspectives to be the best scenario for me. So after nine years of writing, here are a few things that I’ve found to be the most important aspects I look for in good crit partners…
Honesty: You need a critique partner who’s going to be honest with you. And no I don’t mean, one who’s going to say, “Your story sucked!” 🙂 No, I’m referring to a person who’s not afraid to tell you if something doesn’t work for her…and ‘why’ in a constructive manner. Being honest with your CPs and having that honesty returned is critical to establishing a beneficial, long term critique partnership. Sure we can complain to our CPs that they just tore our book to shreds, BUT I’d much rather ‘fix’ the issue now then have an agent or editor reject the story or a reader call me on it later.
Responsiveness: This is very much a two way street. Now it’s true we need to give our CPs enough notice that something is coming for crit, but sometimes things happen. Having a CP who gets crits done in a timely basis (whatever ‘timely’ means to the two of you) is important in keeping a rhythm going between you and your CP. Some CPs prefer to crit a chapter at a time. I prefer chunks or even better…the whole book. I prefer this because I can also look for continuity and catch issues easier if I’m reading the whole story without time lagging in between (because that’s when you forget the details).
Similar writing skill level: Obviously we’d like to have someone who is more skilled than us, but each critique partner brings her own skill set to the table. For instance, one of my CPs has 3 other women who crit for her. Between the four of us, we each find something different. Every time! *g* All of our different perspectives helps her craft a well-rounded novel in the end.
Reading for several aspects at once: I prefer to do a line for line crit. Other than grammar, I also look for plausibility, logical scenarios, time line consistency, appropriate point-of-view shifts, world rules consistency, passive vs active, telling vs showing, pacing, descriptive details (ie, do I ‘feel’ the scene), and characterization development. All these things tie into making the story an overall ‘good read’. Every CP will have their strengths in critiquing your work and that’s why it’s important to have more than one CP. They will each find an different aspect in how to improve your story.
Likability: While this doesn’t seem like it would be something that’s important in the critting process, THIS is very important during those times when you have to “be honest” with your CP about something in the story not working, especially if you end up having to call on the phone to explain where you’re coming from because email just doesn’t cut it. That said, with every crit, it should be understood that it’s not your manuscript and the author can take or leave your comments as she sees fit.
How did I find my crit partners?
I found my first crit partner via an on-line message board. I got lucky and we hit it off right away and we were at the same skill set level. My second and third crit partners were authors that were at the same publisher with me. I now have three crit partners and I find each of these ladies brings different aspects to the table when they crit my work.
I highly recommend working with critique partners. Good ones are worth their weight in gold. They will help you improve your work because they care about the overall product…almost as much as you. After all, they had a bit of input in the process!
I’ve received several emails recently asking me about how to get published, so I decided to create a Writing Links page. Hopefully you’ll find the information helpful.