The value of creating relationships with critique partners.

Creating a critique partnership is worthwhile. Here’s my experience:

When I finished the first draft of my novel, REASONS, I was fortunate to have a retired English teacher as my neighbor. He graciously and patiently gave me his time and his wisdom… and helped me to improve my writing.

I remember the feelings of vulnerability and nervousness that came with having someone read my novel for the very first time. But my excitement and desire to make my book the best that I could make it outweighed these early timid emotions.

It was time to turn a roughly written draft into a book I’d be proud to share with the world.

My neighbor and I worked side by side for a long time. And when we were done, I had a much improved book. I had a finished book. Well, almost finished. The time had come to find an audience with fresh eyes, people who would be willing to read and critique my book. It was time to create relationships with critique partners.

To find critique partners I:

  • Joined the Canadian Author’s Association.
  • Researched and joined two local writer’s groups.
  • Became an active member of Critique Match online.

By joining these varied groups, I was able to meet other writers, share my writing experience, and learn from theirs. In time, from within each group I was able to find wonderful critique partners.

Here are a few of the things about critique partnering that I’ve learned along the way:

When creating a critique partner relationship, it’s important to start by sharing a sample chapter with your potential partner, to see if the two of you are compatible. Sometimes critique styles are too different from one another, or experience levels are too far apart.

Be sure to tell your critique partner exactly what type of critique you want, and what type of communication you expect. Do you want proofreading? Copy and line editing? Plot or character critique? Some of us want anything and everything a critique partner has to give, while others want a more narrow and specific type of critique. It’s important to be direct with your critique partner, and to be clear as to what he or she expects from you. For example, I enjoy being able to engage in a dialog about certain critique comments that seem to have misinterpreted my writing intentions, or seem noticeably subjective. For me, the point of a discussion is always to improve my manuscript.

During my critique partner experience, I’ve had some wonderful discussions that led to fantastic improvements to my manuscript (or to my critique partner’s manuscript). Other times, an open and courteous discussion led a critique partner toward a different point of view. But some critique partners have the view point that the writing should “speak” for itself, that any critique that is a misinterpretation of the work, is the fault of the writing. These particular critique partners are often not open to discussion. So, it’s good to have an upfront conversation about your critiquing style and your expectations.

Be open, and stay open to your partner’s critique. Remember, your goal is to improve your work. So, set your sensitivities aside. Sit with a critique for awhile. Let in settle. Very often, there’s something to be gained even if, at first glance, the critique seems off base or too harsh.

It’s okay to change critique partners. Sometimes we just don’t click.

Sometimes our work habits are just too different from one another, or our skill levels are too far apart. It’s better to politely end a non-productive relationship early, rather than get too far into the process to comfortably back out.

Always be courteous. There’s absolutely no good reason to give a mean-spirited critique. To do so is hurtful and off-putting. Even the most difficult of critiques can be balanced with what is working. Don’t be that critique person who only looks for what’s wrong. Critiques are as much about supporting what is working as they are about pointing out what needs improvement.

A good critique partnership is one where each person is encouraged and inspired to keep writing.

Critique partners give us a fresh look at our work. Speaking for myself, my manuscript improved in ways that only happened because I chose to participate in critique partnerships, and because my critique partners were a wonderfully varied group. Each partner gave me something worthy and unique. It’s not easy putting your work out there to be judged. But the end result is most often well worth the initial uncertainty. And remember, if your first critique partnership turns out to be a negative experience, the next one is a whole new opportunity. So, shake off what didn’t work and go into your next partnership with a mindful heart and mind.

Not every critique has to be accepted. Some critiques are simply subjective opinions. If, for example, you disagree with an issue your critique partner has presented, you can just let it go and move on, or you can wait to see if your other critique partners provide a similar critique… and then make the appropriate changes. In the end, you’re the author. It’s your book and your decision.

As a critique partner, your own writing skills will improve through your critiquing of your partner’s work.

Whether you’re critiquing grammar, sentence structure, character development or plot structure, you will steadily increase your own knowledge of the art of writing. This is a wonderful and often unexpected benefit.

There is great value in creating relationships with critique partners.

In this post, I’ve tried to describe some of this value as I have experienced it. Frankly, I personally had no idea just how valuable the critique partnership was… until I encountered the benefits for myself.

I hope your experience is as rewarding as my has been. Keep inspired, and keep writing. Creating a critique partnership is worthwhile.

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