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5 Things to Look For in a Critique Partner

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Guest Columns, Revision, What's New.

Writing can be a very solitary profession. And most of us like it that way – huddled at our vintage desks or curled up on our couches, muttering to ourselves while our coffee grows cold.

But once that draft is finished…then what? Well, I suggest you don’t run a quick spell check, type up a query and then send that puppy to agents the next day. What I do suggest is you find yourself some critique partners, other writers with whom you can trade manuscripts and feedback. I can say, without a doubt, that my critique partners were a key ingredient to my success at landing an agent and a book deal. Without them, my chocolate cookies would be hard. My cake wouldn’t rise. My soufflé would be flat. My…well, you get the idea, right?

But not all critique partners are created equal. Here are the top five things you should look for in a critique partner.

GIVEAWAY: Megan is excited to give away TWO free ebooks of her novel to random commenters. Comment within 2 weeks; winners can live anywhere. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: rampmg and meetmilena won.)

 

make-it-count-novel-cover-erickson      megan-erickson-author-writer

Column by Megan Erickson, who’s got a couple of tattoos and has a thing
for gladiators. After working as a journalist for years, she decided she liked
creating her own endings better and switched back to fiction. She lives in
Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids and two cats. Her novel is
MAKE IT COUNT (William Morrow Impulse, June 3, 2014, Bowler University
Series #1), a new adult romance about college student Kat Caruso
crushing on her boyfriend’s gorgeous best friend, Alec…who just so happens
to be her brand new college math tutor. (Who knew nerd was so hot?)
Find the book on Goodreads, Amazon and Amazon UK. Find author
Megan on Twitter and Facebook.

What to Look for in a Critique Partner:

1. They offer a good mix of praise and critique. You don’t want someone who only showers you with praise, because then how will you get better? But in the same vein, they also need to point out what isn’t working – is the dialogue stilted? Is your pacing off?

2. They actually critique. If they find your romance unbelievable, they need to tell you why. If a situation seems forced, do they give a suggestion on how to change it?

(Agents share their query letter pet peeves.)

3. Their writing inspires you. Part of a critique partner agreement (usually) is that you trade works. My critique partners have inspired me to ramp up my tension and work on my characters’ internal monologue. Even now, when I edit, sometimes I can predict what they think won’t work, and I’m able to fix it quickly. That’s so important, to read others’ works that inspire you.

4. They like your voice. This is a tough one, and it’s why a good critique partner is hard to find. They don’t have to write the same genre or category. But they have to love your voice and your themes so that when they do offer critiques, they don’t try to change what makes you the writer you are.

5. They get the journey. Publishing, no matter what stage of the journey you are on, is a roller coaster. There are ups and downs and twists and turns and you usually don’t have a safety bar. So having critique partners that understand the highs and lows and can coast you through those is priceless.

Ultimately, while writing is solitary, the journey of publishing isn’t…and shouldn’t be. Critique partners will thicken your skin before your manuscript gets in the hands of agents, editors, and readers. And they will be there with you along the way to pick you up when you need it and pat you on the back when you deserve it. I’m hoping for more of the latter than the former.

(Will a literary agent search for you online after you query them?)

GIVEAWAY: Megan is excited to give away TWO free ebooks of her novel to random commenters. Comment within 2 weeks; winners can live anywhere. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: rampmg and meetmilena won.)

 

What could be better than one guide on crafting
fiction from wise agent Donald Maass? Two books!
We bundle them together at a discount in our shop.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

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13 Responses to 5 Things to Look For in a Critique Partner

  1. rampmg says:

    I’ve been a part of a couple groups, but ended up feeling like I had been mixing with vampires – all the creativity was sucked out of me. I have found one writing partner who meets all of the criteria you mention, and I feel very fortunate.

  2. betty g says:

    Thanks! I have also noticed that people critique different things — for example: grammar, continuity, facts, etc.
    So it helps to have more than one critique!

  3. DRZ says:

    Good thoughts, thanks for your tips. But how do you go about finding a critique partner? Imagine you live in a foreign country, so it’s unlikely you’ll go to a conference or join some sort of writing group and find the Right Person who also speaks your language as his or her mother tongue.
    Suggestions, anyone?

  4. meetmilena says:

    Thank you for these great tips!

  5. “I can say, without a doubt, that my critique partners were a key ingredient to my success[...]” Agreed 150 – no, 200%. Without my critique partners, I never would have made it past chapter 6 of my novel, and in the unlikely event I had, I would have ended up with a completely different novel that nobody would have liked. Finding the perfect critique partners isn’t easy, but if and when you do find them, DO NOT LET THEM GO!

  6. meetmilena says:

    Great tips that I’ll definitely keep in mind now that I’m looking for a CP interested in MG/YA/NA.
    Thank you!

  7. meetmilena says:

    Great tips that I’ll keep in mind now that I’m looking for a CP (particularly for YA/NA).
    Thank you for the chance to get a copy of your book!

  8. meetmilena says:

    I’m grateful to have stumbled up on this article, as I’m just getting started with my search for a CP (particularly for YA/NA writing). The chance to get an ebook copy of your book is just a bonus! Thanks!

  9. kbrigan says:

    Sorry, but you left out the most important thing — whether or not you have the same goals, ethics, and methods of working. In my case, I’ve found I simply cannot work with any beginning writer whose goal is to be self-published. We’re not living in the same world, and are working to entirely different standards and purposes.

  10. jsparrow says:

    I am beginning to write and this article has given me things to think about that I haven’t considered…now off to find that writing partner. Thanks so much for the post.

  11. burrowswrite says:

    great points. Thanks for the column you gave me something to think about.

  12. Debbie says:

    Great tips. I may just use your five points as “interview” questions to see if my possible partner passes the test. After all, without honesty, we could be blindsided. Our hard-working dreams deserve more. Thanks again.

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