Wednesday Writing Tips: 5 tips when finding a Critique Partner

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So as writers, we always hear “Find a Critique Partner.” Though, when you hear that, it tends to not go hand in hand with what to look for in one, and what a good one is. As a writer we know these are important, and if you are just starting out, you may not have any idea of what to look for exactly.

So here are 5 things to look for and consider when trying to find a critique partner.

  1. Someone at about or above your writing level.

Let me expand on that. You need to find someone that is at or above your writing level. As with anything, this is how you improve. Once you are comfortable with your writing, then yes, take on a critique partner who may be a little behind you, and mentor them. But when you are just starting out, you want to find someone that is able to help you move forward in your abilities.

 

  1. Someone who has experience with critiquing.

You want to find someone who has experience critiquing. The reason is you want them to have that eye. Read like a critique-r (I made up a word, oops), not just a reader. They should be looking at sentence structure, pacing, grammatical errors, spelling errors, plot holes, etc. Someone who may not be experienced in critiquing may not be looking for these things. So make sure you find someone with experience.

 

  1. Someone who is familiar with the genre you’re writing in.

You want to find someone who is familiar with the genre you’re writing in because each genre has its own rules to follow. Bah, rules, I know. But it’s true. Each genre has some very specific readers. They are used to the pacing, the plot points, and can pick up on when something is amiss. Someone familiar with your genre will know these things, and will look for them, both consciously and subconsciously.

 

  1. Someone who is willing to give you more than “This was good” for a critique.

Critiques are important. They help us grow in our craft. So you need to find someone who is willing to give you more than a few words in critique. “This was good” doesn’t help you grow. But say, “This line here flowed a little awkwardly, I think it could sound better if…” and so on. You want someone who can comment on the flow of the manuscript, and make suggestions when they say something isn’t working.

 

  1. Finally, pass it on.

Don’t go into a critiquing situation not expecting to critique in return. That is selfish. There is a reason they call it Partners. Swap chapter for chapter or a few chapters at a time, whatever works for the two of you. And give a critique that you would like to get in return. This is just good sense.

Also by pass it on, offer to be a critique partner to someone just starting out. We all start somewhere, we all need that one person to step in and say “Hey, I’ll help” whether we want to admit it or not. Trust me, I am the queen of not asking for help.

 

So there you have it. 5 things to look for when looking for a critique partner.  Do you have anything to add to it? I would love to hear it!

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On Critiquing

Ok, it’s something we all need as writers. We need to give, as well as get critiques on our writing. And when I say critiques, I’m not talking about your spouse/partner/family reading it and telling you how much they love it. Sure, that can be a good boost, but that’s not what you need.

You need another writer. Someone who knows about structure, plotting, voice. Someone who is focused on the elements of a story that really make it sing. Someone who can call you to the mat and tell you something sucks isn’t working. But with telling you something isn’t working, they offer helpful advise and suggestions.

While your critique partner should never be mean to just be mean, and if they are stop swapping with them; Your critique partner should also not be afraid they will hurt your feelings. As writers we must always strive for better. A better scene, a better description, a better dialog exchange. An honest critique will help you get there.

Here is an example of a very good critique I got:

I like your use of descriptive words here, but I think changing them around a bit will help the flow of the sentence structure. Also, try an avoid cliches, you have a few in this paragraph. Cut them, and see what happens. Does it stop the scene in it’s tracks, or does the scene keep moving forward. Never be afraid to cut something if it’s not working. And right now, I don’t think it is.

Here is an example of a critique that’s nice, but not very helpful:

You did a good job here. I would change a few things, maybe move some things around.

And finally, here is an example of a completely unhelpful critique:

Nice. I liked it.

Now, which one do you think will help me grow as a writer and craft a better story? The first one right? Right. The second was good, it did let me know that there was obviously something wrong and that I needed to look closer at it, and the third, well while it’s nice to get compliments, if that’s all you have to say in a critique it’s not very helpful.

I haven’t gotten any like the third, but I have seen them before. So, when you are giving critiques, while you should be mindful of your word choices, you should never worry about hurting the writers feelings. If you are giving an honest critique with helpful advice, trust me, the writer is not going to string you up. We really do want those kinds of critiques. Not our egos stroked.

And, if you are getting critiques, don’t ever take them personally. They are not critiquing you as a person. They are critiquing the story and the way it is being told, and they honestly are trying to help.