Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 4, 2017

Your Perfect Critique Partner

Finding a critique group/partner (I call them 'critters') is one of the most frustrating things about being a writer. Then, when you find the perfect one, and life intervenes, and they drift away. 

Don't you hate when that happens?

So I thought it might help if I laid out the rules for a  perfect crit partner, for those who don't know them.

  1. Choose someone who writes in your genre - After all, who knows the tropes, style, and rules better than them? Unless you - Choose someone who writes in a different genre - In my original crit group, the Sci-fi author taught me world-building. The Action/thriller author taught me tension and stakes. The WF author taught me conflict.  

Bottom line: You'll learn something either way - don't let this be a barrier,

      2. Choose someone waaaaay better than you - you get a lot out of it. Until they get bored, and tired of getting not much in return.  In which case you - Choose someone who's a rank noob - and they get a lot out of it. Until . . . you get the drift.

Bottom line: Try to find someone just a bit better than you are. If you both feel this way about the other - it's a match made in heaven!

     3.  Make sure you can meet in person - unless they live across the country. Then you - Skype, Call, crit via email, send owls, whatever. 

Bottom line: No reason in this century for logistics to be a barrier.

My first crit group. Some may look familiar...

         4.  Choose someone who is a fan of your writing - because how can unmitigated praise be bad? Unless you actually care about the quality of your work (and isn't that what critting is about?) in which case, choose someone who doesn't think you're all that.  

Bottom line: All that's really required are manners and mutual respect.

          5. Be true to your story and your vision, regardless of feedback - I've seen more than one story lost because the author heeded every single bit of advice. Unless you - Ignore wise advice. You're the author, and you know best. In which case, you're wasting your critter's time. Oh, I see, you just came for unmitigated praise!

Bottom bottom line: NO writer can put out something worth reading without feedback. We know what we meant to get on the page, but we don't have the objectivity to discern if we accomplished that. Finding your perfect critter isn't easy, and when you do, there's no guarantee it's permanent.

It's normal to be transitioning at all times, into and out of critting relationships. Don't be afraid to get out of a bad one, and continue to take risks, getting into new ones. Trust me, it'll be worth it.

Because a perfect critter is as rare and elusive as a unicorn,

but wow, are they worth the search!

So tell us, how do you feel about your critting relationships - the good, the bad, the ugly!

*     *     *     *     *

About Laura

Author Headshot SmallLaura Drake is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women's Fiction and Romance.

She sold her Sweet on a Cowboy series, romances set in the world of professional bull riding, to Grand Central.  The Sweet Spot won the 2014 Romance Writers of America®   RITA® award in the Best First Book category.

Laura began a video blog for writers, answering their burning questions. You can watch all the episodes HERE. If you have a question you'd like her to address in a future episode, leave her a comment!

Did you know Laura teaches craft classes? Check out her upcoming ones, both online and in person, HERE


41 comments on “Your Perfect Critique Partner”

  1. I think this is a really important stage in writing and one of the hardest. Accepting any sort of criticism about something you already think you've sweated blood and tears over is going to be painful.
    But for those who get something from it and are open to that advice then it is very worth while.

    1. You're right Rosie. I know multi-pubbed authors who don't put anything up for critique until they're all done - because criticism when they're still in creation mode, stops them cold.

    2. And you touched on what makes this so hard - when we ask for feedback on prose we've already slaved over, we're leaving ourselves uncovered - our heart is out there.

      Which makes harsh feedback even more devastating. Thanks for the reminder, Rosie.

      1. And publishing is a business that REQUIRES feedback. We'll get it from editors and I think one of the most important purposes of a critique group is to help separate that heart that hangs out there nekkid from the final work that goes to print.

  2. I am so grateful to my critique group. We talk online nearly every day sharing writing and everyday news, announcing book contracts, signings, and unmitigated disasters. Then we read a chapter or two every two weeks, send comments back and then gather through Skype to talk through our comments. Though we all write some subgenre of romance, I am the only historical fiction writer. I've gotten great feedback on everything from tension and conflict to "too much history here. I got bored and skipped over it." And I really liked that historical nugget, by the way. I cut it...okay, most of it. I don't like criticism but I know these ladies come from a place of love and respect for my work and my growth as an author. They have given me much more that critiques. They have given me confidence when something is good and buoyed me up when the scene just didn't work.

    1. We ALL want to see a pretty unicorn. My favorite part of the latest Despicable Me movie was Agnes and her unicorn. The rest of the movie was pretty flawed, but Agnes and her unicorn joy? Perfect!

  3. I couldn't have written my book without my critique group. I was the newbie and learned from the ground up with 5 experienced and published writers. Three years before I published and after 10 years together, the group fell apart. It was traumatic for me at first to be out there on my own, but after a while I found a new freedom in my writing. I had become dependent on feedback both criticism and praise. I fell into category 5 above, "heeding all advice." We met bi-weekly and I would rewrite the critiqued chapter after the group feedback, often several times, trying to satisfy everyone. I miss having a writing group and feel my experience strengthened my writing muscles. I think also there is a learning curve to accepting criticism with grace rather than being defensive. After all, the criticism, when it comes from the heart is a reader speaking out loud about something that needs the writer's attention. I'm still seeking the unicorn

    1. Wisdom speaks! Thanks for sharing what you discovered after a crit group fell apart, Lori - it's not the end of the world (although it feels like that at the time).

  4. I've been lucky. After a year of OCC meetings, my first "critters" approached me at an OCC meeting. We were all unpunished, but they knew much more than I did. I learned a lot of the basics, as well as how to find more information. One of us moved away, one's husband became ill, I stopped writing, and that was the end of the group. Nine years later, when I started writing again, i read a notice about a group that was looking to replace a member that had moved. I "tried out" and was accepted--and you know the rest, Laura. For those of you who don't know, Laura and I were both asked to join the group that would become a driving force to take our writing to the next level. Best audition ever!

  5. Laura,
    Thanks for this post! I need to find a critique group. I do have a critique partner. She is excellent, discerning, and analytical. However, I'd like to find a group where I will be able to receive multiple viewpoints and critiques.

      1. You also get a range of different reactions. The things certain people care about and others don't. I guess the trick is to decide afterwards what to note and what to leave.

  6. In the RWA Kiss of Death chapter we have an online critique group called Lethal Ladies 🙂
    I've been a member for three years and coordinator for two and can't say enough good things about them. I highly recommend looking into either our group or one like it within your chapters.

    1. In WFWA (Women's Fiction Writers Assn.) we have a coordinator, who puts together crit groups for members who are looking for one. Works great!

      And if your Chapter doesn't have one? Volunteer to start one!

      1. The only downside of the WFWA critique group is the need to critique a full manuscript every three weeks. That's a lot of critiquing. Like you, I'm incapable of not doing it as a line edit.

    1. I shudder to think what my MS would look like turned in like that...it's one thing to hand over your underwear...another to hand over the ones out of the laundry basket.

      Sorry for the visual.

  7. I'll become serious with my own writing in January. I decided in 2013 I wanted to be a blogger/reviewer because I'd learn so much from what I read. I'm now moving to the next step. Taking a NaNoWriMo 2013 manuscript, editing and adding all the things I've learned along the way. I'll need a critique partner or group. I'm excited about the challenge.

    1. Yay Eileen! Don't wait any longer to get started...I so wish I'd have ignored my negative thoughts, and started writing years earlier than I did. You go!

  8. . . . I was with you until the Unicorn bit . . . I don't trust them things. I mean, come on! They have a horn on their forehead, for FSM sake!

    Seriously, some decent points, but unless I missed it completely, it says to find what works for you. Personally, I would like someone that rips my work apart worse than I can do myself.

    1. Yeah, but they only use the horn for magic, desperser...I mean, have you ever heard of a unicorn goring? I think not.

      Absolutely. We need someone who'll dig deep. No matter how much it hurts.

      1. Heard of it? I documented it. Wrote a story based on true events. Unicorns are definitively evil.

        As for hurting, it's a funny thing. I get suspicious when I don't hear major ripping apart . . . makes me think they're taking pity on me.

  9. Hi Laura, I've been lucky with my critique partners and also lucky that I got over feeling sensitive about criticism long ago. After all, without criticism, we'll never improve. Keeping good critique partners is harder, because we all move on from whatever stage we were at when we began working together, so I'm always on the hunt for new ones.

    1. Yes, great point, ann. Always BOLO for new critters. You may be happy with your group, but when sh*t happens, it'll help you to know someone to ask.

  10. Learning when and how to accept feedback is a huge part of being a writer. I think also, knowing when NOT to accept feedback can also be important. Finding a Crit partner or group who understands and enjoys your writing style is key! Great post!

  11. But knowing the difference is the hardest part! When am I clinging to my (failed) vision, and when is the critter full of . . . critter-stuff? Killer decision. Sometimes I'll give it to friends who aren't my critters to be tie-breakers. Thanks, Sherry.

  12. I love my main critique partner so much that if she tries to leave, I might go all Misery on her, lock her away somewhere, and force her to read my manuscripts and give me feedback. Or I'd at least withhold her wine until she did me a solid.

    I believe in the care and feeding of amazing crit partners too, holding up your end and making sure you continue to both encourage and challenge each other. Because once you find that person, or people, they really will be your best coaches, cheerleaders, and you-can't-get-away-with-writing-that-crap critics. I'm definitely a better writer now because of my "critter." So hats off to her (who should be reading this right now)!

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