Why Every Writer Needs a Critique Partner

20 Jun

Current Status: Caffeinated

Food Consumed: Caramel latte & cake batter ice cream w/ cookie dough

On The iPod: Poison in our Pocket; Whitley

Word Count: Oodles of pages!

Before I found my amazing critique partner I never thought I needed one.

I wasn’t convinced by the benefits of a CP, and I certainly didn’t relish the idea of someone I didn’t know picking apart my baby before it was ready for prying eyes to see, and likewise I didn’t relish the idea of picking apart someone else’s baby. I tried it, just to be sure, and after a few emails back and forth I decided that I was right to think that this CP business wasn’t for me. I was a loner writer and I would stay a loner writer until I was published.

Wrong!

I met my new critique partner on Twitter, of all places (I’m actually starting to think that Twitter is the new tool that every writer must utilise, but that’s a topic for another blog post!). We bonded over injuries that left us unable to laugh or sneeze without pain, and even though my view of critiquing was still in the back of my mind, when Ali mentioned shooting a few pages off to each other for a ‘tester’ critique I thought, “why not?” We seemed to just click in those few, brief conversations on twitter, and once we’d both returned our critiques we knew we were onto a good thing.

Since that first critique I don’t think we’ve gone a day without offering each other a few words of support, a few pick-me-ups of “yes, you can do it” and “the blocks will pass.” It has been a fabulous learning curve and has certainly increased my enthusiasm for writing in general, and the benefits of having someone there who really “gets” you, and this craft. Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely ambition, and I’m only just figuring this out.

Now that I’ve found my one-and-only, amazing CP, I think everyone should have one of their own.

Critique partners are invaluable to the writing process, if only to just be there in the midst of a draft, when your brain is fuddled and you think your latest paragraph is a piece of poo and you can’t seem to get past it until you make it better, you can shoot the p in question off to your CP and get an outsider’s perspective. It really helps the sanity levels, I can tell you!

I must stress that a CP is NOT an editor!

This is something Ali and I worked out in the very beginning – we weren’t there to be an editor to each other. We were there to be test readers, in a sense. The way our relationship works, in the critiquing sense, is that we “read” a chapter, and then we give our “thoughts” on what we think works, and what doesn’t. We don’t lay down the law and say, “This section MUST be changed.” We don’t say crap. We don’t say terrible. We just give our opinion, as a reader, and lay down ideas on where we think changes could be made to the manuscript. But these are just ideas, and we both know this (thought pretty much 99% of the time we agree that these changes need to be made and we make them).

Trust is a must. If you find another writer, or even an avid reader who is ready and willing to give their opinion on your work, and you trust them, then chances are you and your chosen CP are going to work well together. It’s that simple.

So, for all those writers out there who haven’t taken the plunge yet and scored themselves a critiquing partner, what are you waiting for? Why not put out the feelers, and see what you find? And if you do find someone and you don’t gel, don’t worry about it. There are plenty of willing readers out there to choose from – find the CP that is right for you, and I guarantee you’ll never look back.

And you may just find a new best friend along the way. I know I did.

Has anyone else had experiences with a CP? If so, what did you like/not like about the experience?

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12 Responses to “Why Every Writer Needs a Critique Partner”

  1. averyoslo 20/06/2010 at 10:47 am #

    I have several, and they are invaluable. I often call them geniuses, because they can spot the exact thing in the story that when changed completely makes the entire thing.

    I would offer some advice on this as well and say that your abilities and skills as writers don’t have to be commensurate. It’s good to have crit partners that have written far more than you have, and crit partners that are serious, but closer to novice than you are. They will spot different things in your WIPs that just don’t work or feel wrong for the piece.

    What is key though, is that you enjoy at least something about the types of things they write, and vice versa. It’s miserable doing this for someone whose work makes you stabby-feeling.

    • thewritingant 20/06/2010 at 3:58 pm #

      I agree, Avery! Ali and I write in very different genres, but I think this works even better because we’re not stagnant in our own areas and it’s a nice break away from our own words (that’s what we’ve found works for us, at least, but everyone is different).

      You definitely have to enjoy the work of your CP, and vice versa. It won’t work between the two (or three, or four of you, depending on how many you have) if you don’t enjoy what they’re writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. sonia 20/06/2010 at 11:17 am #

    I don’t have one, but I want one. I have had mixed results with group critiques. I think it depends on the group. I hadn’t thought of finding one on twitter.

    • thewritingant 20/06/2010 at 3:55 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Sonia!

      I have no experience with group critiques myself, but I imagine they would mostly feel like an attack coming from all angles. That’s probably just the scaredy-cat in me (it was hard enough for me to take the leap and get a one-on-one CP, I was that scared of rejection of my words!)

      Twitter is a great way to meet like-minded writers. I’ve got a blog post about this brewing, so keep an eye out over the next week, it should be posted in a few days.

  3. miss ali 20/06/2010 at 1:39 pm #

    aawwwwww she’s making me blush! It’s true though- finding the perfect CP can take a while, and you may have to say or hear ‘yeah this isn’t working out’ once or twice, but honestly once you find the right CP it is worth it!

    As averyoslo has said, sometimes just a little thing picked out by your CP is like flipping a switch and you think ‘You are so RIGHT! LEGEND!’ And enjoying each others work is a must- we right very different styles, but in genres that interest us, which I think keeps it interesting and it’s a pleasure to read.

    @sonia- I’m not sure about group critique’s either. some people rave about them, but being a more one-on-one person in “real life”, i prefer the intimacy of one-on-one critiquing. I think you are also better able to really get involved when it’s just one other person, and hopefully they will do the same for you.

    having the new best friend is like the cherry on top! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • thewritingant 20/06/2010 at 3:59 pm #

      I also prefer the intimacy of one-on-one critiquing. I’m so glad I found you! I feel like my writing has stepped up a notch since I have, and it’s great because it definitely keeps the muse interested for longer! xx

  4. jannatwrites 20/06/2010 at 3:57 pm #

    I’m glad you found a CP and it’s working out for you!

    I would love to have a CP, but at the moment, rely on online groups. I don’t post a whole lot of my work there because I don’t know who I’m dealing with, but I do read other postings and critiques (and add some comments of my own), which directs me to things I may need to look at in my own writing.

    • sonia 21/06/2010 at 9:37 am #

      thewritingant – i will be sure to keep watch!

      and I would like a CP, too. Someone who likes and is familiar with my genres. Someone whose work I like and someone I can always bounce ideas off of.

      • thewritingant 21/06/2010 at 11:22 am #

        Yes! That’s a recipe for a GREAT critique partner there. And it doesn’t have to be someone who writes in the same genre as you – in fact, for me, an opposite genre works even better, because it’s a nice change from my manuscript, which can get quite tedious at times.

        Good luck with your search! x

    • thewritingant 21/06/2010 at 11:23 am #

      For JannatWrites:

      Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Yeah, online groups can be tough when you don’t know who you’re showing your work to, but I’ve heard they can be quite handy, too, if you get the right group of people. And it’s always good when we can give someone else a tip and find that it’s actually helpful for our own work, too.

  5. sonia 21/06/2010 at 12:11 pm #

    The good thing about groups is that you get a wider variety of opinions. Also, I found that critiquing others is as, if not more, helpful in finding problems in my own work. So I guess I wouldn’t rule them out, but an everyday CP would be better in lots of ways. Maybe I would get best results with both.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. When The Inspiration Fades « The Writing Ant - 24/06/2010

    […] tweet or email or text or call – or all of the above! – my critique partner and let her know where I’m stuck and ask for suggestions. Sometimes the best medicine for a […]

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