Friday, June 7, 2013

My thoughts on Critique Partnerships

Lately I have been searching for good critique partners. The search is going well but has had its ups and downs and frustrations. So critiquing has been on my mind lately and of course around the web-verse. (See Brandon Sanderson's thoughts on writing groups and this great post about critiques.

So here are some of my personal thoughts. I phrased them as if I am talking to "you" - the potential, current, or past critique partner.

Please understand that I have drawn this list from personal experiences as well as research and the experiences of others. Also it is my personal requirements for critique partners. Not everyone is looking for the same thing.

8 Reasons I want to be your CP

  1. You don't take it personally. You listen to everything I have to say, even the stupid irrelevant stuff, and don't take it personally. You appreciate my honesty.
  2. You recognize that my suggestions are just that - suggestions. You discard at least some of what I say because it is not my story - it is yours.
  3. Our opinions differ on some things. And I should add that we are okay with it and still get along. Differences of opinion can spark many an idea and highlight areas that need improvement (or clarification).
  4. I enjoy reading your work. your voice, your style, or the stories you tell. It makes critiquing less of a chore and looking for the little details easier. When I am in a better mood - my comments are not as snarky.
  5. You like what I write. In the basics - not like - ooooo it is so ready to publish right now! But overall you like reading what I write.
  6. You realize that you can learn as much from me, as I can from you. Learning from each other is one of my favorite benefits of critique partnerships.
  7. Reading through your comments gets me excited to write. After reading your feedback (good and bad) I can't wait to get back to work on my project. I itch to fix that problem, and glow over that prose you found so engrossing.
  8. Reading your work gets me excited to write. Reading something that sparks my imagination always gets me thinking about my own writing. No matter if the works are related or not, reading good writing makes me want to produce good writing.

8 Reasons I won't be your Critique Partner

  1. You can't handle the truth. In order for me to help you, I have to tell you the truth. Sometimes I won't like something. Or I will get confused. Or my opinion of a certain passage or character will not match yours. I am telling you my honest opinion. I won't sugar coat it for you.
  2. You think everything I say is gospel. I am no more qualified to identify what makes great writing then you are. Just because I make a suggestion or a comment - doesn't mean you have to do it. I am just offering ideas and suggestions. I won't be offended if you totally disregard what I say. After all it is your story.
  3. You think everything you say is gospel. Basically ditto to number 2 - just in reverse.
  4. You feel the need to respond to my comments. This can either be defensively, or in an attempt to explain. If you are getting defensive please read number 2. If you are trying to explain - don't explain it to me. Explain it to the reader. I like the Brandon Sanderson says that the writer can't speak when others are giving feedback.
  5. You take more then you give. I don't mean that equal give and take needs to be the case all the time. We all are at different points in our lives. I mean from the perspective of attitude. Are you going into this partnership only looking at what you can get out of it? Or what you can give as well?
  6. You are afraid to be brutal. Trust me, I can take it. I want you to be brutal. That is how I learn and grow as a writer. Give it to me straight and I will sort though everything and decide what is best for my story.
  7. You don't read my genre. There is some wiggle room on this one. But mostly, I find the most helpful suggestions come from people who read my genre. Especially since I write fantasy. This is because people who read fantasy have certain expectations (or lack there of). We are just kind of like that and it is hard to explain to non-fantasy readers.
  8. I don't read your genre. Chances are if I don't read your genre - it is probably because I don't like it. And so I will be slanted that way from the beginning - just because I don't usually read your genre. This can also go for point of view and writing style, but on a lesser degree. It's nothing personal. It's just my preference as a reader.


  1. I need to start looking for critique partners soon. All these points are totally understandable. Some people take the idea of "perfect crit partner" in the complete opposite direction.

    1. So true! Thatvis why I think talking about your styles and doing a trail run are important when looking for crit partners.

  2. Fantastic list! My best crit partners have hit on all your good points. I second your thought that it helps to read in the same genre (though it's also very insightful to get opinions from outside the genre too). My friend once had a non-fantasy CP who struggled to understand some fairly basic magical/fantasy terms. She wanted the author to explain them more...but doing so would have been off-putting to avid fantasy readers.