Critique Partners: 7 Things to Consider

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Many years ago, I joined one of my first writers’ groups.

In this group were writers of various ages and professional backgrounds. Some were stay-at-home moms. Others were teachers, nurses, social workers, and office managers. We also had a company president or two and a smattering of business owners. Some were published authors.

While we were all at different stages in our writing careers, we shared a common interest and a mutual goal: our love for the creative arts and the desire to grow in our craft.

Our monthly meetings were a great time of fellowship and learning. It was a “safe” environment where we let down our hair and talked about our works-in-progress. We discussed writing mechanics, industry changes, and anything else related to our craft.

As our group grew in number, new friendships formed. Some of us clicked with those who would become our critique partners.

In fact, that’s how I found my first critique partner. Though she eventually moved out of the area and away from writing, I enjoyed our time together and my writing improved. Our working relationship stretched me and nudged me beyond my comfort zone.

There are, of course, some authors who prefer to go it alone, though, I just don’t know of many. The creative process is challenging enough without wondering if our stories are connecting. Even seasoned authors use critique partners to peruse their work.

Does the plot intrigue? Are our characters realistic? Are there any timeline discrepancies? And oh, my gravy, what about grammatical issues?

These are things critique partners can spot easier than we can. When we’ve looked at our own work a thousand times we’re no longer objective, and often, we’re too bleary-eyed from the process to completely care. Well, we care, but the truth is we may tire of our own words. (There. I said it!) Too, we may recognize there are holes and issues within our stories, but we just don’t know how to fix them.

That’s where our awesome, stupendous critique partners help.

It may take time to gel with the right individuals, but once we discover each other, it’s a beautiful thing. These are the folks who become our coaches, cheerleaders, mentors, and friends.

Now that we’ve talked about critique partners and their importance, what criteria should we look for in those connections?

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Let’s consider these seven things:

 

  1. Are they like-minded? Are they believers? Doctrinal issues aside, do our life philosophies mesh? In other words, I love Jesus, sticky notes, and Starbucks. Those last two are negotiable. Now, casting stones and holier-than-thou mindsets? Sorry. Those don’t work for me. They make me break out in hives.

 

  1. Do they write in similar genres? Our critique partners may write in different sub-genres, but underneath the inspirational fiction umbrella. They’re aware of the vast differences between CBA and ABA guidelines. Likewise, if we write for the secular market, we best choose those who have a knowledgeable grasp on the industry.

 

  1. Are they well-read? Our critique partners might write to a specific audience, but they enjoy reading a variety of stories. In other words, they’re experienced readers.

 

  1. Do our personalities mesh? I’m a see-the-glass-half-full, Pollyanna kind of gal. I love to laugh and have fun. I’m an encourager. I’m candid (but tactful), down-to-earth, and unpretentious. I recognize I’m not perfect. While our critique partners have their own special traits, it’s important we share common ground.

 

  1. Are they aware of the changing market? Do they stay abreast of industry news? This is a must because as times change, so does the publishing world. Our crit partners help us discern what changes might affect our work and what could influence editors’ decisions regarding it. They understand the importance of staying on top of market demands because they’re writers, too.

 

  1. Will it be a mutually beneficial relationship? While friendship is often a prerequisite, our relationship with our critique partners should be a give-and-take scenario. In the ideal partnership, strengths and weaknesses are addressed, shared, and dealt with professionally (and lovingly).

 

  1. Do we feel safe? Do our partners understand the importance of trust and confidentiality?  The best working relationships are fueled by those two factors.

 

***

What things do you look for in a productive partnership?

How have you benefited from critique partners?

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Cynthia writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. She loves to connect with friends at her online home. “Cindy” also hangs out on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. For love, fun, and encouragement, sign up for her monthly newsletters.

 

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7 thoughts on “Critique Partners: 7 Things to Consider

  1. I couldn’t do without my writing buddy, Graham. We don’t always write in the same genre. He likes devotionals and short stories with a punchy message. My non-fiction is biographical and I also write fiction. Nevertheless, we see eye to eye, are fairly blunt with one another’s writing (which we both appreciate) and love the ‘safe’ objectivity that comes from having someone you trust, and whose writing ability you appreciate, look over your work. We’re both stumbling through the marketing minefield, though, as real rookies in this area.

    • Hi Dave, sounds like you and your critique partner make a great team.

      Concerning marketing, are you referring to social media? Just the word can sometimes send us packing. We know we must do it, but I think the trick is to not make “marketing” feel like marketing. When we only interact to sell ourselves or something we’ve created, that’s when marketing becomes distasteful.

      Interacting on social media channels (not all of them, only those you’re more comfortable with and have time for) is a key way to engage friends who will eventually become your readers, or your “tribe.” When we make engagement a little more personal and about others, that’s when marketing becomes palatable, and even fun. Naturally, your readers will want to know more about you and your work. Does this help?

      • Thanks, Cynthia, for your prompt reply. Yes, I know what you mean about being relational and let your readership grow from there. My problem has been more on the technical side — how to set up the social media scene (as you will probably note from my very basic blog) and to get any giveaways etc. up and running with places like Mailchimp. What is said to take a couple of hours takes me days. Anyway, as you say, the fun part is connecting with people like you. Blessings, and thanks for your posts.

  2. Thank you for the excellent points about critique partners. I hadn’t thought about #5…aware of the changing market. That would be valuable for evaluating a story. Your tips for compatibility are spot on. I worked well with a former critique partner because we both had the same balance in our writing journey. Finding the right partner takes time. Thanks again for your thoughts, Cynthia.

    • Sherida, so true about compatibility. There needs to be just the right mix to make it a great working relationship.

      Change is an ever-present reality in today’s publishing dynamic. Also, I don’t think it’s a good idea to write to trends, but we have to be aware of them. Being market-savvy and staying up-to-date concerning industry news is always wise. Hands down, I think we have to write the stories of our hearts and write them well.

      So great to “see” you here!

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