How to Choose Critique Partners

Photo credit: Steve Rhodes on Flickr
Now that we've discussed the importance of having critique partners, I thought it an appropriate time to go over an equally important (and related) topic—how to choose the wonderful writers who will critique your work.

As fantastic as critique partners and beta readers usually are, they're only helpful if said partner knows how to give constructive and insightful criticism. And as nice as it is to receive comments like, "I like it" and "this was good," that type of feedback doesn't qualify as critique, nor does it fall anywhere near the realm of "helpful."

So how do you choose a critique partner who will help you to improve?
  1. Find potential critique partners. There are many different places where you can search for a good critique partner. Part of a writer's group? Start asking your fellow writers if they’d be interested in swapping critiques. Have a Twitter/Facebook/Google+/LinkedIn account connected to other writers? Start networking and see who might be interested. As I understand it, there are even websites dedicated to helping writers find like-minded critique partners. The resources are out there—use them.

  2. The testing grounds. Once you've found a writer (or a couple writers) interested in swapping WIPs for critique, it's time that you do a trial run. While you could hypothetically send off your whole WIP right at the start, it's generally a good idea to start small and just trade a couple pages, or the first chapter, or something of the like before diving into a full critique. This will allow you to a) see you're a good fit and able to critique their work as well (because chances are you'll be swapping critiques) and b) see if your new critique partner’s insight works well with you. If you give a thorough critique and your new partner only mentions things he likes or gives vague, "this is cool"-like comments, it might be a good sign that you should find someone else.

  3. Dive in. Was the critique slightly painful and mostly helpful? Did you enjoy reading the other writer's work and give helpful insight? If you answered "yes" to both, then it looks like you've found a good partnership and it's time to work in larger sections. However you decide to spread out your critique is up to the both of you, but make sure you lay out the rules and timeframe at the beginning (i.e.: what type of critique you're looking for and how long you expect to take). Once the details are settled, it's time to get to work.

Now it's your turn: What tips do you have for finding good critique partners?

24 comments:

Kyle van Rensburg said...

Hey Ava! Great post. Will really come in handy for me when I'm at the-sick-and-tired-of-writing-this-novel phase. :P



Just like to add something to the people who only tell you "Yeah, this is cool." and so on, is that people on the OPPOSITE side of the scale, are just as annoying. They are even more annoying, IMHO.



Even if they give you details on what you did wrong, somebody who always bashes and tears your novel to shreds, it really doesn't help you in your progress.

In fact, it ticks you off, and you really don't want to write anymore because it seems like you're doing everything wrong.



The best critique partner is somebody who tells you how GOOD and BAD your novel is, and gives you a detailed description of both.



That's just what I would like when I get to the phase where I am starting to send my novel to agents and need to make it better and so on....when I get to that phase. XD

E.J. Wesley said...

Great suggestions! Finding a critter can be painful. But it's also essential to good writing.

Ava Jae said...

I agree--there definitely has to be a balance between "this needs work" and "this is great" while critiquing--too much of either starts to become less than helpful, as you said, so great point!

Ava Jae said...

Agreed! Thanks for stopping by, E.J.!

Grace Robinson said...

One thing that I would add to this list would be to find a critique partner (or partners, or group) that also sort of fits your genre. While a good critique-partner will recognize good or bad writing regardless of genre, it can be a little challenging (both parties) if the writer has to explain their work before the critiquer has read it.

Yes, your work should stand on its own and shouldn't be explained beforehand--but I say this, because I recently had an experience in a critique group where I submitted an installment of my fantasy novel, and one of the members of the group had to ask me what fantasy was. Apparently he had not only not ever read a fantasy story, but hadn't even seen a fantasy movie (or sci-fi or superhero, or anything). He gave me some good insights on my pacing, wordiness, etc--but the critique still felt awkward. I feel like I might have gotten a more in-depth and accurate critique if my reader had at least read (or watched) a fantasy story at some point in their life. I'm writing this book for readers of the fantasy genre, after all.

Great post, as always, Ava. Thanks for working so hard at covering every aspect of being a writer! :)

Ava Jae said...

That is a fantastic point, Grace! I'd actually meant to include something about genre, but evidently it slipped my mind. Oops.


You're right that working with a critique partner who writes in a similar genre (or at least enjoys reading in your genre) is hugely helpful. That's not to say that it's impossible to work with a critique partner who isn't well versed in your genre, but it's harder to critique a work when you aren't familiar with others like it.


And thank you, Grace! ^__^

E.b. Black said...

A good web-site to find critique partners because I'm pretty shy about asking people directly to critique my work is: agentqueryconnect.com/ I love that site and it's where I've found all my critique partners. Many of them are published, too.

Ava Jae said...

Good to know! Thanks for sharing! ^_^

-Ava Jae

Angela Anderson said...

I've found a couple of great crit partners through Ladies Who Critique (http://www.ladieswhocritique.com) It's hard taking that first step to get your work out to a reader (the horror!) but it's so worth it to get valuable feedback that improves your writing.

Hildred Billings said...

This is always a great topic to cover. I've only managed to find a couple crit partners that "get me" and what I'm doing so far, but I'm always looking. I've been on both ends of receiving "It was fine" (that's it!!) and "here's everything awful about your novel" without a single encouraging comment. While we could argue the latter is technically more helpful, it's not to me. If you don't tell me what IS working, then I might completely change it thinking it's crap! (Because everything else was, right? RIGHT?) Oh, CPs.

RoweMatthew said...

I'm here. Returned from my hiatus, now that I actually found a purpose for my blog. Writing critiques! Yes! I would still be a passive sentence nancy if it weren't for writing critique partner type people. For the record I am totally up for doing this with any slightly not normal fantasy/sf/mystery/supernatural type writer. I warn you though, my best critiques were harsh, so I tend to be a little blunt in my critiques too. But I mean we'll and its the best way to grow. A good critique partner is someone who can tell you your flaws and you don't want to punch them in th efface or run to the hills.... Or both.

Vicki Orians said...

The best thing I ever did was find a critique partner. Seriously. My book would be no where as good as it is today if it wasn't for her. But let me tell you - it was difficult to find a good one. A lot of people are afraid to be honest because they don't want to hurt your feelings. In this industry, though, you have to have thick skin. And agents are going to tell you like it is; you have to be able to take the criticism and make something good out of it. So when I found a critique partner who wasn't afraid to tear my story apart, I was in heaven. Not to say she doesn't say nice things too, but I was grateful to find someone that told me like it is.

Ava Jae said...

Another link! That's fantastic--thanks for sharing! :)

Ava Jae said...

A balance is absolutely essential, and it's not always easy to find CPs that fit well with you. The search, however, is absolutely worth the effort because when you do find great CPs, you can really help each other improve. :)

RoweMatthew said...

here here!

Emilyann Girdner said...

Hey. Those are great suggestions. Thank you so much for these suggestions, they will make a big difference for me. Hope you have a lovely day :)

Ava Jae said...

Welcome back! Hearing about your flaws from anyone can be difficult to take (and make you very easily want to run for the hills and take your manuscript with you), but critique partners are an essential part of the growth process for writers and a good one can help you improve in leaps and bounds.

Ava Jae said...

Finding the right critique partner can definitely be a challenge, but as you said, when you find the right one, it is so extraordinarily helpful. You need someone who isn't afraid to (respectfully) rip your work apart so that you can make it even better.

ArkAngel said...

I don't even know where to start looking for a critique partner. As long as I've been writing, I'm new to actually sharing and indulging with others. I just started posting bits of one of my WIPs online so I could get anonymous reviews.

Ava Jae said...

I'm not sure if you have a Twitter account, but if you do, I've found Twitter to be a great place to connect with other writers and find potential beta readers. Otherwise, there are some great links in the comments that people have mentioned and recommended. :)

Robin Red said...

You wouldn't happen to know any good critique sites, would you? The one I found has a premium membership thing going on, and I just want to polish my manuscript.

Ava Jae said...

Ummm, I know of sites that are for finding critique partners, but I don't use websites that are for online critiquing, if that's what you mean, so I don't know of any offhand. If that's what you're looking for though, you can ask on Twitter and tag me at the end so I see it, and I'll RT it for you to see if anyone else knows. :)


Or, if you're looking for websites to find critique partners, I can point you in the right direction.

Robin Red said...

Ah, that's what I meant. I seemed to have cut out "partners" in my original post.

Ava Jae said...

In that case, I most certainly can help you. In fact, I have a whole post dedicated to finding critique partners. :)

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