What are They, Why Do you Need Them, and Where Do You Find Them
Be sure to read this article on Beta Readers.
Beta Readers: What You Need to Know
Critique Partner vs Beta Reader
What’s the difference?
- An avid reader who does not necessarily have any writing background, although they can, who reads your entire manuscript after it has been polished. They offer their opinion about what is or is not working in your story based on their own subjective tastes and experiences.
- A fellow writer/author who provides thoughtful and informed feedback on your work, based on their own skill set and knowledge as a writer, in exchange for your own. Critiques can be done in shorter batches, often a chapter at a time, and often at an earlier stage of the revision process. Many CP’s will exchange full manuscripts at the end of the process.
What to look for in a critique partner?
- Unlike beta readers, critique partners should be writers or have substantial knowledge of the craft of writing.
- It is important to note that the person you choose can only provide critiques at their own skill level. A novice writer will provide novice feedback. An experienced writer will be able to offer more detailed and insightful feedback.
- For this reason, it’s best to find a CP who is, at the very least, at your skill level, or preferably a little higher. Someone who will push you to be better but not tear your work apart so harshly that you give up writing forever.
Surround yourself only with people you are going to lift you higher—Oprah Winfrey
- While it’s not essential a CP write in the same genre as you, it is helpful if they have at least read in that genre, and have a basic understanding of details specific to that genre.
- Finding the perfect CP can be hard. As we all know, this business of writing is extraordinarily subjective. So test drive a few. Send a few chapters back and forth to see how this person handles their critique. Are they harsh, wish-washy, do they offer constructive feedback, or speak in generalities that are not helpful. *Stay tuned for my upcoming piece on offering useful critiques. Don’t commit to a long-term relationship until you know it will work.
- Look for someone who is not afraid of hurting your feelings if they offer their honest opinion, but who can offer that opinion in a kind manner. Feedback should always include positive comments along with the criticism.
- Along with identifying specific details on what is not working in your manuscript, they should be able to offer equally detailed suggestions on how to fix those issues.
- This may take a while to develop, but hopefully your CP will have a good grasp on what your “voice” is, and help you preserve that through the revision process.
- Your CP and you should both want the same thing when it comes to how frequently you want to exchange pages, how long you will give each other for those critiques, and how many pages you want to share at a time.
- They should be easy to contact, in case you have questions that need clarifying, whether that be in an email, phone call, or on social media.
How many critique partners do you need?
As with beta readers, it’s probably best to look for at least three.
- When a single person finds something in your work that bumps them, it’s difficult to determine if this is just a subjective comment or an actual problem. But receiving the same comments from three different people about the same part of your manuscript, likely indicates an issue that needs to be resolved.
- If at all possible, look for writers with different strengths. For example, finding someone gifted in sensory details and setting, one who is brilliant at dialogue, and another who is a plotting expert will help you develop your manuscript in all those areas.
That being said, you may find yourself in a situation where, yes, you do have more than one CP, you may even have a critique group of five or more people, but you find yourself gravitating towards one specific individual. It may be because their comments simply resonate with you more, your writing styles mesh perfectly, or because you really, really like this individual.
This is what happened to me. I have several trusted writer friends who offer feedback, but I have one special CP who has become my best friend.
When should you seek out critique partners?
This too, can vary on an individual basis.
- I’ve been in critique groups where some writers are still working on a first draft. They are looking for general feedback early on to help them decide which direction to take their stories.
- Others prefer to wait until they at least have a reasonably polished first draft so their CP’s don’t get stuck on grammar and spelling mistakes.
- Once you have established a relationship with one or more CP’s you may find that having a conversation about your new work, before you even write a single word, can be an invaluable way to sort through plotting issues.
My CP and I often do this, as well as brainstorming solutions to problems in our first drafts. This process has saved me countless hours of future revisions.
Where do you find critique partners?
- Your local community is a great place to look. Search for writing groups who offer critiques through an organization called Meet Ups.
- Check your local paper for listings of writing groups
- Ask at your local library.
- Writing conferences offer the perfect place to connect with other writers, and possibly find someone interested in exchanging critiques
Online: There are countless resources online. Here are only a few:
- Critique Circle:
- The Internet WritingWorkshop:
- Agent Query Connect
- The Reddit Writer’s Group
- Inked Voices
- Maggie Stiefvater has a google group for finding CP’s.
- SCBWI: The Society Children Book Writers and Illustrators. This is a world wide organization that requires a paid membership, and has local chapters in many countries with online critique groups. This is how I met my own CP.
- Facebook: There are many groups on Facebook who offer opportunities to exchange work with fellow authors. You can search for your specific genre as well.
11.) Twitter: Many groups offer CP matching. As with Facebook, you can also search for your specific genre
In closing, I’d like to share what my critique partner is to me:
- She’s a cheerleader who gives pep talks and support when the doubt demons drag me down into the pits of paralyzing self doubt, and who never complains when I do it over, and over, and over again.
- She’s an insightful editor who points out my predilection for purple prose, who recognizes my uneasy relationships with commas, and my annoying tendency to show, and then tell.
- She’s a wise counsel who tells me when the plot bunnies are out of control, and helps me find a way out when I’ve written myself into a corner.
- She’s patient beyond belief, willing read the same scenes over and over, and over again, offering helpful advice each and every time.
- She’s truthful, even when she knows her feedback might hurt, and she always offers that feedback in the kindest way possible
- She’s someone who lifts me up when I get yet another rejection, and who celebrates every win with me as if it were her own.
- She’s a huge fan of my characters, and knows them almost as well as her own.
- She’s a motivator, who pushes me to keep going when I feel like giving up.
About The Author: Leslie Wibberley
Leslie Wibberley is a slightly maddened mother to two outstanding young women and one slightly insane cocker spaniel, and wife to a loving and extremely tolerant husband.
Her short stories and narrative non-fiction pieces are published in online and print literary journals, magazines, and anthologies, as well as Chicken Soup for the Soul. She’s had five top ten finishes in the past four years in Writer’s Digests Annual Competition, including a first place in the genre category last year, and placed first in several flash fiction contests.
She is presently revising her third novel, and along with using multiple sensitivity readers and beta readers, she is blessed to have the world’s best critique partner.