In my quest for critique partners (CPs), I often felt so excited to connect with other fabulous writers, I never actually took the time to sift through my needs.
CP Connect is happening right now. Also, check on Twitter #CPConnect.
That’s the perfect time to be asking yourself critical questions when looking for your future CP:
- Do you write the same kind of books? Look at the category of age, the genre, the pace and the mood. Someone who writes YA will not be very helpful for your MG novels. Someone who likes dark might not be able to help with humor. Someone who writes romance might not connect with someone writing thrillers. Someone writing urban fantasy, which has a fast pace, might not like the slower pace and descriptions in other fantasy stories. Even if someone reads wildly, they might not know how to help you with the category, the genre, the pace, or the mood you’re trying to write.
- How much experience do you have with writing? If you’ve been writing for some time and you’re meeting with someone who just started, you might end up being frustrated because you do not have the same concerns and do not see stories the same way. Maybe you are trying to figure out your story structure when the other person is way past this stage and is more concerned about shadowing or voice. Most likely you won’t be on the same page.
- Are you looking for a beta or a CP? Many people want someone to encourage them to finish their current novel. While they only have to offer a first draft, you might be in the final draft of your novel and need a sharper eye. It’s also a good idea to figure out what you do best: helping with a first draft or polishing a later draft.
- What is your working pace? Do you want to exchange chapters or full manuscripts? How many times per week/month do you want to exchange feedback? Do you have a fast or slow turnaround? Are you ready to swap now?
- What sort of feedback is right for you? Structural? Voice? Grammar and sentence structure? Plot? Tone? Characters? World-building? Pick one or two, not all of them. Do you want a very detailed report or just general comments? Do you expect a lot of praises or an honest feedback? Communicate your expectations. It’s better to know what your strengths are and your weaknesses. Once you know what you’re good at, it’s not very hard to find out what you need help with.
All in all, make sure that your needs match your potential CP’s skills, and vice versa. Also, I figured out that asking only for two things that work and two things that do not work builds a better relationship. Think sandwich critique: one good thing followed by two things that work less and one sentence of encouragement at the end. Be patient because life happens. And do not assume anything about your potential CPs. Give them some guidelines.
Where to find a CP? I asked the members of The Winged Pen how they found their CPs. Here are their answers:
Kate Manning: I’m in an in-person crit group that formed after a local kid lit writing class. We’ve met monthly for three or four years now. We trade ten pages at a time. We are MG and PB writers. I’ve also found beta readers through Absolute Write and Write On Con.
Richelle Morgan: I have 4-5 people around the world who read for me. Sometimes it’s a couple of chapters at a time, sometimes it’s the entire book, depending on what I need. I found all of them online. It took me a long time to find the right partners, people who get what I’m trying to do and whose critiques really help me improve my writing. I’ve exchanged with many people — in person and online — who just didn’t click with me for one reason or another, and I really despaired of finding anyone.
Michelle Leonard: I have a couple of great local CPs and about 8-10 online CPs. I treasure them all. They each offer unique insights to make my stories better and help me with everything: concept, pitches, queries, chapters, and full manuscript reads. A few gems have even read a whole manuscript more than once.
I met my CPs through writing retreats, conferences, and Write On Con. I think it takes time to find good matches––people who get you and what you write, people who want to help your story improve. But most importantly, you have to be ready to emotionally detach yourself from criticism to get the full benefit of a critique partner. I think this gets easier with experience.
Halli Gomez: I have two CP’s that have been with me from almost the beginning (Eva and Rebecca). Eva, Rebecca and I met on the SCBWI discussion boards and clicked right away. The best advice for someone looking for a CP is to hold out for someone you click with. And that doesn’t mean they like all your work. It means that they can tell you it stinks and you are okay with that because you value their opinions.
Kristi Wientge: I have 3 Full-time CP’s (one being Richelle Morgan). I found them online at the very beginning of my for-serious-writing-journey and I could tell from our first exchange that we clicked. I met some through CBI Clubhouse and we just never clicked. As far as advice for people looking for CP’s: suggest a sample swap first– a couple chapters of something you have and get a feel for each other. Make it a no-pressure kind of thing.
Julie Artz: I have two trusted critique partners I met through a writer’s workshop, a couple of new CPs from Pitch Wars, and some that I’ve met through my local SCBWI chapter as well. I also have an in-person critique group that meets once a month. It took me a LONG time to find a trusted team of CPs. My advice is to start with a smaller chunk of pages when you’re trying out a new CP and make sure your personalities and styles jive. Some people are light commenters, some only focus on big-picture and some are heavy commenters (me). Everyone doesn’t respond the same way to these different styles, so don’t be afraid to politely admit it’s not working and move on!
Gabrielle K. Byrne: My very first CPs I met at a conference. One of them is still a trusted critique partner. Over the years, I’ve tried on lots of CPs–a few have become trusted go-tos, and dear friends. Two or three get everything, including every thought, concern, or neurosis. Others get pieces, or phases. Not everyone gets everything, and as I’ve gotten to know each CPs style, I’ll send to people that I think will have an eye for each manuscript’s weak spots, or who write something very different and will, therefore, be able to offer a different perspective. I’ve met CPs through contests, conferences and online, and I’ve found that critiquing for others is a great way to continue to grow my own writing.
Sussu Leclerc: You can find local writers’ groups in every town. My library has a group. A local university offers retreats and courses. Some bookstores offer meetings. A quick internet search brought up many choices by local writers.
Writing associations might be the very place to start too.
Romance Writers of America < https://www.rwa.org/ >
Mystery Writers of America < https://mysterywriters.org/>
Historical Novel Society < https://historicalnovelsociety.org/ >
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America < http://www.sfwa.org/ >
Sisters in Crime < http://www.sistersincrime.org/ >
Horror Writing Association < http://horror.org/ >
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators < http://www.scbwi.org/ >
National Association of Writers < http://www.nationalwriters.com/page/page/1963103.htm >
Good luck with your search.
Lee, Stacey. “Critique Partner Connection — Time to Meet Your Match!”< http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2016/02/12/critique-partner-connection-time-to-meet-your-match/ >
Yardley, Cathy. “40 Places to Find a Critique Partner Who Will Help You Improve Your Writing.”< http://thewritelife.com/find-a-critique-partner/ >
Hedlund, Jody. “5 Tips for Finding a Competent & Compatible Critique Partner.” < http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/2013/04/5-tips-for-finding-competent-compatible.html >
Gurnett, Kelly. “16 Facebook Groups for Writers You Don’t Want to Miss.”< http://thewritelife.com/facebook-groups-for-writers/ >
Knapp, Lorena. “Want to Join a Writing Group? 8 Places to Look.”< http://thewritelife.com/join-writing-group/ >
“Writers Associations: Local And National Organizations For Writers.” < http://writersrelief.com/writers-associations-organizations/ >