Guest Post: On the Importance of Working with the Right CPs by Mary Kate Pagano

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr
Critique partners: critical to the writing process. But we all know that by now, don't we?

I wanted to talk about finding the right critique partners for you. Specifically, how important it is to ensure you're working with critique partners who are familiar with the kind of stuff you write.

I took a writing class not too long ago that was simply called "Novel Writing", so the students were people from all walks of life, writing all sorts of things. Each week we critiqued one person's submission; we went around the room and everyone said what they did and didn't like about it, and at the end, the writer got to ask questions.

It wasn't a terrible format, except that with the wide variety of people in the class, some of the critique I got was...less than helpful.

"I don't understand why anyone writes in the present tense," said one person. "It doesn't make sense to me. You're writing a story that already happened, so how can it be happening NOW?" 
"Your tone is too conversational," said another. "Like a kid talking." 
"I hate the first person," said a third.

There were some other criticisms, but you get my point. These people were not helpful, because my piece was an excerpt from a YA novel. And these people had never read YA literature.

This is an extreme example--though some of those people did reach out to me after the class was over to see if we could continue CPing, and I foolishly said yes because I didn't have any CPs yet!--but it just highlighted to me how hugely important it is to be working with CPs who know what you're going for.

I didn't last long working with those people. And it's clear to me now why.

YA literature isn't so drastically different from adult literature that I'm saying someone who reads or writes some adult can't be a good CP. They just need to also be familiar with YA. A category in which the first person and present tense are OF COURSE acceptable. Where the voice of the novel may sound conversational. Where coming-of-age themes are important.

Needless to say, I've been a bit pickier about who I work with on a CP basis now. And by the same token, when people reach out to me for CPing who write in a genre about which I know little (i.e. erotica, or someone even asked me once to critique a child's picture book), I think it's much better for both of us that I (nicely) turn them down.

How about you? Did you also make mistakes when first working with CPs? What have you learned?

Mary Kate Pagano has been voraciously reading and writing since she learned how, but it's only in the last six years or so that she's drummed up the courage to actually attempt to publish a novel. She has three finished YA manuscripts under her belt and will be querying all once she's satisfied with them (which is taking some time :) You can find her writerly and readerly musings over at and also catch her writerly and readerly (and sometimes random) tweets at

Twitter-sized bite:
Working w/ CPs is important but @wandrlstywriter talks abt why working w/ the *right* CPs is essential. (Click to tweet)

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