Writer’s Corner: 6 Ways to Be a Good Critique Partner

Writer’s Corner: 6 Ways to Be a Good Critique Partner

Dang! Critiques sting. Whether they’re coming from a coach, a publisher, a friend, or a fellow writer, it’s impossible not to feel the “ouch.” But critiques are necessary when writing. If you don’t ask for feedback you’re not going to produce your best product. So, put ego aside and get psyched to find yourself a stellar critique partner, one who is willing to be honest, yet respectful, and is dedicated to helping you make your book shine. While it’s important to look for the right partner, it’s just as important to be the right partner. You need to meet this individual halfway, or more if you want to be a good critique partner. Here’s six ways you can do that.

Show up for meetings. Conflicts happen. We all experience emergencies. Last minute hiccups are cause for rescheduling but when this becomes a habit, you may need to re-evaluate your professional partnership. If you find yourself making excuse after excuse, it’s probably a sign that something is wrong. Either you’re not ready for this partnership, you’re not jiving with your partner, or you’re not prioritizing this engagement. Then communicate your concerns. Don’t ghost your partner and don’t lie. Be honest and let them know what’s standing in your way of showing up. This could open the door to redesigning a more fruitful partnership. 

Turn in your required work. Excuses won’t cut it in this professional partnership. I recently heard a story from a best-selling author who shared how her first critique partner rarely met the agreed upon deadline for turning in their piece for critique. She went on to say that while it was nice to have the conversation focused on her work, it robbed her from the opportunity to learn. The chance to learn from others writing styles and word choice, and practicing the art of critique, are just a few of the ways you benefit from critiquing others’ work. Being a good critique partner means you’ll respect deadlines and strive to get your work in on time. It’s why you’re there in the first place. To write, produce, learn, and build a better manuscript.

Contribute to conversations. I’ll say it again, this isn’t a one-way street. If that’s what you’re looking for then you want a beta reader, not a critique partner. Critiquing involves conversations, sharing visceral reactions and takeaways, along with addressing any gaps in writing. These are just a few of the key points covered in a critique conversation. So once the sections are critiqued and reviewed, sit back, and discuss what’s not on the page and how your partner can grow in their craft. 

Think like a reader. This is the goal of your partnership, to produce a book that others want to read. Even if the genre is not your favorite, or even one that you might choose to read, put on your reader hat. Become their target audience and imagine yourself selecting this book of the shelf. Do you feel hooked from the start? What about the protagonists? Are they relatable with an intriguing backstory and potential arc? Would this book sell to the desired audience? Give your partner an honest assessment of their work by imagining they’re writing this book for you.

Think like an editor. Certainly, you may choose to limit your critiquing to content and not grammar or style. That’s your choice, but if you’re both willing to stretch beyond beta reading, it’s doubly nice to have as much feedback as possible from writers on all elements of your book—plot, voice, character arcs, grammar, style, and storyline. When you delve deeper into all these elements, you’ll find yourself filling the margins with corrections and thoughts. Don’t hold back and encourage the same level of engagement from your partners. While it may sting to see all those redlines and comments, you’re saving them (and yourself) time, money, not to mention heartbreak. Helping them put their best foot forward when they’re ready to share their work with the world is a gift like no other.

Be upfront on genres. I was recently invited to join a critique group that was limited to specific genres. The reason for this was that genre writers and readers have a detailed grasp of the nuances, terminology, and expectations of genre readers. I get that. But I’d also like to state that it isn’t always necessary to implement these limitations. For years I was part of an incredibly productive and intensive cross-genre critique group, and it went far to stretch my learning and abilities. Also, I am a fan of multiple genres, and like many authors, write in multiple genres, so be upfront as you search for a partner, if you’re open to reading outside of the world in which you write.

Finding a good critique partner takes some effort and investment of time. But once you’ve found yourself a partner, rest assured you’ve got a valuable resource to help you build a book others want to read. Be grateful. Not just in words but in action. Build on these six ways of being a good critique partner and strive to forge a professional friendship that is not only mutually beneficial, but sustainable. Because good, and great, critique partners are hard to find.

Here’s a great expert resource to further your critique partnering success. 

Were all in this together, so please share your suggestions below.

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