Sunday, December 17, 2017

7 Facts About Critique Partners (For Writers!)

So you think you’re ready to publish your story? Or maybe you’re not there yet. Maybe you’re just looking for an editor. Did you know even editors like the manuscript as polished as possible? (Deep down, we’re all lazy human beings…) Have you considered having a critique partner go over your story?

What is a critique partner, you might ask? Well, they’re usually fellow writers who can look at your story objectively. Not to be confused with editors or beta readers (who look over more polished drafts and have fewer responsibilities), critique partners have the mindset of a writer and are there to help you improve the structure and logic of your story. Here are just a couple of facts writers should know about critique partners, whether they’ve had them before and need a reminder or in case they’re considering taking some on.

1)      Critique partners do not have an initial emotional connection to your story.

For many writers, their story is like their child. Critique partners, usually other writers, are like teachers. If they don’t like one element of the story, many writers may take it as a personal attack. Please allow me to set something straight. Dear writer, your story is not a human being. You’re going to be okay even if somebody doesn’t like it.

Instead of treating critiques like a personal attack on your favorite pet, treat critiques like an editing exercise. Yes, it’s hard. No, I don’t have it mastered. When I’ve been getting critiques on my story, I often have to take a step back and remind myself it’s not a personal attack. It’s an exercise to build and improve my story. Sure, I vent to one or two of my writer friends if there’s a particular issue troubling me, but I can’t let it rule me.

Don’t let somebody’s critical comments rule you.

2)      Critique partners don’t like to read first drafts.

Nobody likes to read first drafts. Rough drafts are inconsistent word dumps. They’re messy. Why would you put somebody else through that?

Perhaps one of my favorite pieces of writing advice is to write your first draft just for you. Keep it secret. Keep it safe. Hone your story through at least one round of rewrites and edits. Then you can burn the original if you want.

You get back what you put in. If you don’t put a lot of effort into at least making your story readable, your critique partners aren’t going to put a lot effort into commenting let alone reading.

3)      Critiques are subjective.

Did you know, critique partners are human too? That means their word is not always law. Take what you need, leave what you don’t.

It’s like any book review. Take your top books for example. Maybe you gave it 5/5 stars, but you’ve seen a lot of 4/5-star and 3/5-star reviews, maybe even some 2/5 stars. It’s even more difficult when such a review comes from a friend or family member. How could they not obsess over the same book you do!?

Remember, everybody has their own opinions, likes, and dislikes. I don’t like romance, but that doesn’t mean all romance books are poorly written. They’re just not my preference.

So if you receive comments about how your critique partners didn’t like a certain element, it might be the reader.

4)      At least two critique partners are optimal.

A second opinion is great. A third opinion is better. Remember how I mentioned that critique partners are human too? Even they can miss things. Maybe your first partner is great at identifying character development and points out inconsistencies. But the second partner points out how you skipped over Sunday or that your protagonist hasn’t eaten in 48 hours.

Having more than two people look over your story can give you some well-rounded commentary.


5)      More partners doesn’t always mean better.

Wait a second, didn’t I just claim at least two partners are good? True. But, if you have two or more people in a room, you’re going to have some disagreement. Try putting ten people in a room. Or twenty. Then ask them what they’re favorite color is and try to figure out why it’s not the same as yours. 

The same goes for your novel. You want to have as many well-rounded opinions as you can get, but you have to stop somewhere. The necessary number of critique partners can differ from story-to-story, but I would recommend two or three. After all…

6)      Critique partners might even disagree with each other.

Because I live in Europe, it’s hard to find fellow writers who speak English and have time to look over my stories. So I joined an online critique group, Critique Circle, where you can get feedback on your story and give feedback in return. And I was so excited for complete strangers to tell me what they thought. Until they started contradicting one another.

One reader would enjoy a particular chapter, saying they liked the description and the thought while another person would say they were bored. Wait, what? How was I supposed to make a story better if one person was happy with the chapter and another person was bored?

But such critiques were helpful. They taught me how to improve my story even more, identifying the weak bits and building on the strong ones.

I also learned that when two partners who tend to disagree with each other actually agree that something needs work, I better listen!

7)       In the end, it’s still your story they’re commenting on.

You can’t please everybody. While it’s important to consider others’ opinions to build and improve your story, it’s still your story. No story is perfect. So you might as well write the story for you. After all, who else is going to read it over and over again until they want to set it on fire? If you enjoy your story, you’re less likely to do so.

Remember why you started writing your story. Keep the essence if it’s important to you. Tell your story. The world is waiting to read it!

Let’s chat! Has your story been reviewed by any critique partners yet? How do you find them? Do you hunt them down in your local library and bribe them with chocolate or do you find them lurking in the woods?

Looking for a critique partner for your story? Look no more! Join a critique website or comment below if you want me to look over your story. Check out my Treasured Books page for a list of books I consider excellent. I look forward to hearing from you.

Write on!


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