Friday, January 20, 2012

Critique Partners: Am I ready?

There comes a point in every writers life where they ask:

Am I ready for a critique partner?

There is no right or wrong answer.

In fact, for some writers, the answer is NO, and they'll never get or need one. They are a pretty secluded group though.

A few questions to ask yourself:

Have I completed a book? Some might disagree, but personally, I don't think you should get a critique partner until after you've at least finished your first draft of your first book.

Have I taken steps to learn the craft of writing? Have you read books on the craft? Gone to writing conferences? Studied other books in your genre? Not only does this help your own work in progress, but it develops skills that will make you valuable to a critique partner.

Is my book the BEST I can get it? Not only do you need to complete your book, but you should edit it as well. It is a waste of a critiquers time if they spend it all correcting things you could have easily fixed yourself.

How thick is my skin? Getting tough feedback from a writing peer is HARD. It can break the strongest person's writing will. So make sure you've worked that skin up and developed some callouses so you can take that feedback and apply it without becoming too emotional or bent out of shape.

Do I have the time? Not only are you devoting time to your own writing, taking on a crit partner also means you'll need to make time to edit THEIR material. It's a two-way street. Count the time costs and engage appropriately !

So... if you've decided that yes, it's time to make the crit partner leap, where do you go from there? Stay tuned for my next post in two weeks titled Critique Partners: How the heck do you find one?

If you've decided that nah, not to that point yet, good for you! Keep working toward that goal! You can do it!

Discussion: Do you have a crit partner/group relationship? Have you had one in the past? Share your experiences! If you haven't... why not?Are you just not ready or having trouble finding one?


Anonymous said...

This is something I've wrestled with. I've been in a couple of crit groups, one large, one small. Neither felt right to me. I have a fabulous critter who makes my stories come alive, but her time is sparse and I always feel guilty asking for help. :) Plus I feel like she is so much better than me...I'm not much help to her. I guess I should read more craft books and BE a better critter. Ha!

Jeanne T said...

Krista, you bring up some things I haven't considered. I never really thought about waiting until my wip is completed before seeking one out. I think I can see value in that. :)

As a fairly new writer, I've been very fortunate to meet with a friend who is much further along this writing journey than I am. She looks over my work, and helps me to make it better. Having gone to a couple of writing retreats has helped me immensely learn writing craft, and to meet other writers. Do you think critique groups could meet for different purposes?

Thanks for giving me some food for thought.

Casey said...

All really good questions, Krista and so many that I have tossed around as well. I believe I have finally found a crit partner that fits me. What she sees in my writing, I struggle with. And what I see in hers, she finds valuable to her edits. Makes a huge difference for that kind of working relationship. Great post!

Lindsay Harrel said...

Good post, especially since this is something I'm currently considering...and trying to figure out how to find one who fits what I need. I eagerly await the post on how to find one. :) It seems a lot of my online friends already have them, so that's kind of where I'm at!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Well, as you know, I have the best crit partners in the world. ;) But let me just say, I jumped into a crit partnership before I finished my first m/s and boy, was that a waste of time. For them and for me. So I totally agree with your advice on that one! And I also agree with the craft advice. It's pretty hard to be a good critiquer when you haven't learned how to be a good writer yet. :)

Angie Dicken said...

Good points, Krista...although I haven't really followed many of them! HA! Actually, I have an awesome crit partner ;) If I had waited until the end of my WIP to get her opinion, then I think I would have a TON of rewrites to do...whereas, having her there during the writing process, she helped me figure out character arc and plot issues so that I could apply it as I developed my story. But perhaps, this is because I am a pantster? Anyway, I agree with editing it before you send it!! :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks Krista,
After just completing my first manuscript worthy of pursuing publication, I am really wanting to find a crit partner. I'm glad I waited, too, because, like you said, I have gained many skills from writing books, conferences, and blogs and feel I could be a partner.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

These are great tips, Krista! I found my critique partners after I'd written several novels and I really felt like they knew a lot more than me. I'm thankful they were able to help me so much in my writing because without them I wouldn't have grown as much as I have.

Krista Phillips said...

Sherrinda... you're an amazing writer! Be confident in what you have to offer, my friend! Yes, read those craft books, but don't doubt yourself!

Krista Phillips said...

Jeanne, YES! Critique groups can serve so many purposes. There are SO many different "types" and there are different types of people too, so what fits some ( or most) doesn't always fit ALL.

I'll get into that more in my next post!

Krista Phillips said...

Casey, SO SO SO glad you found a good fit! Happy dancing for you!

Krista Phillips said...

Lindsay... that IS hard! Something I really struggled with until recently too! Hang in there... there's hope!

Krista Phillips said...

LOL, Sarah. *wink* I'm sure your partners are great... but I think mine is the best personally, so :-p

Krista Phillips said...

Angie... I'm a panster too:-) And my first novel had a LOT of rewrites too, ha! I think, for me, writing that first one "by myself" helped me find my voice a little bit without having it muddied by rules being drilled into my head or someone elses opinion overriding me and confusing things.

But... I'm sure it's totally worked for people too, and I've heard several stories where it has, such as yours!

And YEAH for great crit partners!

Krista Phillips said...

Mary... happy dancing for your completed manuscript!!!! YEAHH!!!!!!!

Krista Phillips said...

Cindy, that is AWESOME that you find someone(s) that could help you along and help you learn! I had a few of those early in my journey as well and I'm SO SO SO SO SO thankful for them!

Angie Dicken said...

Oh, Krista, so true!! I didn't have a crit partner until after my first novel...which I would never show anyone!!

Rae said...

Am I the only paranoid nut who's afraid someone might steal my ideas? Does anyone else fear that? I live in a rural area so the chances of meeting someone in person who could be a crit partner are slim. I'm not sure I could trust someone I meet online. It's a conundrum.

Pepper said...

Great questions to ponder. I'm afraid the only crit partners I can take are on a case-by-case basis. I LOVE the Alley Cats who are willing to read a chapter here and there of my work, but as far as asking someone to read the entire thing? I'm afraid to ask because I do not have the time to reciprocate like I want to do.

And I can't just give vague crits back. I have to go into detail. I wonder if there is a way to learn how to crit-lite? :-)

Krista Phillips said...

Ang... you know you want to show me! HA!

Krista Phillips said...

Pepper... time IS a conundrum. I think all crit groups/partnerships work in different ways. It's good that you have some(people) to send stuff to as you need! My first crit group I was in, we sent a chapter at a time. It took about 6 to 10 months to get through an average sized book. I liked that we all did the crit at our own pace so it wasn't a big deal if it took a week or two to get the chapter done.

And I'm sure whoever you crit for on occasion welcomes a detailed critique! Those are the BEST!

Krista Phillips said...


Yes. You are. *grin*

First thing, it is the rare author that finds a local critique partner. Some do, and that is FANTASTIC, but it's rare.

Second, I guess it's not something I've worried about. I mean, not sure I'd send a chapter to a random stranger (see my next post in 2 weeks on finding a crit partner/group) But the point of being in a partnership is to help each other. There are so MANY ideas...even if they "stole" your idea, they'd write a completely different book than you. And considering the slim chance of publication we all have...

Anyway, my point is: Fear doesn't do any good. And the potential benefit outweighs the risk. You run into the same thing when you enter contests too. Or submit to an editor or agent.

What's stopping an editor from seeing your submission that has a super good story idea, but maybe the execution isn't the greatest, from going to their best selling author and saying, "Hey, what about writing a story where _______ happens and they do _________?"

Then answer: Nothing, except integrity.

But... if you don't query agents and editors and take that super small risk... you'll never be published.

And I don't think most agents/editors are doing that:-)

Rae said...

Hmm, I never thought about agents and editors stealing ideas before. Now I have that to worry about too?!
I'm kidding. I see your point. I know a crit partner is necessary. I'm just wary I suppose because I have been a victim of plagiarism before and it turns me into a giant rage ball.
I look forward to your post about how to find a partner. Thanks :-)