Monday, November 12, 2012

How to Pick a Good Critique Partner

This post is not so much on how to find critique partners. Finding them is easy, but picking good ones is a lot harder. Finding a partner who can give you the kind of feedback you need for your manuscript is just as elusive as trying to find that perfect cup of coffee (or, in my case, that perfect hot chocolate). Everyone’s tastes are different, everyone’s needs are different. You have to find the one that suits you, which means you need to be mindful in the choosing process:

Pick someone who can give you the type of feedback you want. Firstly, this requires knowing what you want. If you want professional level feedback, then it’s best not to go to your family or friends—unless, of course, they have industry experience. If you want feedback that’s mostly encouragement, then it’s best not to go to a busy editor. You need to pick a partner with the appropriate skill level for your needs.

Pick someone with critiquing experience. Sure, everyone has an opinion on what they like and don’t like, but not everyone has the skill to be able to communicate that in a helpful way. For example, knowing what works in the manuscript is just as important as knowing what doesn’t work. This balanced feedback is the best kind.

Pick someone you can trust. If you can’t trust your critique partner, or you’re not comfortable talking openly and honestly about your work, then you’ve wasted everyone’s time, including your own. You’ll need to find someone whose feedback you can trust on a personal and professional level.

Pick someone who understands your genre. This doesn’t necessarily mean only pick writers who also write in the same genre. I’ve found writers of different genres often approach my manuscripts with a fresh eye. However, a certain level of understanding of your genre is necessary for quality feedback since every genre has certain expectations within them that should be met.

Pick someone who likes your genre. Not everyone likes all genres. If you find a critique partner who is a great critiquer but doesn’t enjoy reading your type of stories, then you’ll be less likely to get good feedback, and less likely to hold on to them for long. They may even terminate the job midway through.

Pick someone with good time management skills. Otherwise you could be waiting a long time for any feedback.

My next post will be How to Gain Quality Feedback from Your Critique Partners.

What are the qualities of your favourite critique partners? Without naming names, have you had any bad experiences with critique partners?

--
Announcement:
A New Adult Urban Fantasy with a contemporary sci-fi twist, The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear is the first book in a new series written by M. Pax. And it’s now out!

Graduation from community college isn’t the magic elixir Hetty Locklear counts on for becoming an adult. Her parents, who work the Renaissance fair circuit, insist she spend part of the summer with them. Hetty doubts pretending to live in the Middle Ages will help her find her way.

To make it worse, an entity haunts her at her dead-end job, warning her of a dangerous man she doesn’t know. The ghost leads her to a lover who has a lot of secrets. He pulls her farther into peril and into a strange, hidden world of genetic experimentation.

Available as an ebook at Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords / iTunes / Kobo
Visit www.mpaxauthor.com for more links.

M. Pax is celebrating her latest release with a jousting tournament and contest at www.mpaxauthor.com. Cheer for the knights to help them win the grand prize, and you’ll be put in a drawing to win an ebook copy of The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear. Five will be given away. Huzzah!

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Kyra Lennon's Blindsided is also now available on kindle at Amazon. Her exciting blog tour for this book will be November 26th to December 7th.

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66 comments:

  1. Finding a good critique partner is really hard because not everyone's ways will suit you - but this is really good advice on how to find someonw suitable!

    Thank you very much for the shoutout, I really appreciate it! :D

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  2. All the best to amazing M Pax!

    I guess it's a lot of trial and error! I think my best ones are ones who although don't mince words always, always left me feeling there's hope. I've had one or two however who near enough made me want to give up. :-)

    Take care
    x

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  3. I have the best critique partners, and two of them absolutely rock!
    Other qualities? HUMOR! Comments, criticism, and suggestions go down easier with snark. (As you saw from my IWSG post last week.)
    Familiarity helps as well. My partners had all read my previous work, so they knew both my style and the characters.

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    1. Definitely!! Humour makes the process soooo much easier.

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    2. Just wait until you see my guest post at Ellie's site on Wednesday - even more snarky comments from Cassie and Rusty. Those two could do a whole book!

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    3. I do think it's super cool you're sharing them. It also shows others that being critiqued CAN be a fun experience.

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  4. Excellent post! I had one beta reader that never bothered to finish my book let alone get me any feedback. It is worth taking the time to find people who will do a good job.

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  5. Thanks for this post, Lynda. It's good timing for me, as finding beta readers/critique partners is something I'm now starting to look into. It's tough to know where to start!

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  6. I cannot stand YA genre, as you know :) So I'd be a bad critic partner probably in this one :) I'd trash and beat the manuscript like there's no tomorrow :) But I'm very good if you want somebody who will check out the moral and ethical aspect of the manuscript and the plot.

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    1. I need to find you some YA you'd like...

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  7. Such great things to consider when looking for a critique partner! It's also good for the writer to trust themselves too. Some comments work and some do not. :)

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  8. That Heather, I mean Hetty Locklear book is getting a lot of publicity.
    This was a good thoughtfully prepared post.you should establish parameters with each other. Honest constructive criticism.
    I critiqued a published author on a new work and that author was appreciative of my efforts. Family and friends are not alkways optimal critiquers.

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  9. I am fortunate that I have a couple of trusted critique partners who aren't afraid to be honest with me (and me with them). I appreciate any feedback they give because I think they're both incredibly smart and talented writers.

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  10. It's unfortunate, but I don't have any regular critique partners right now, but I have had some really good Beta readers lately. I'm grateful to them for their feedback.

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  11. time management skills... something I used to have. LOL! No, your tips are SO important! You DO need someone familiar w/the genre and who likes what you write. Otherwise it's just painful for all.

    Hooray for Hetty~ :D

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    1. lol, I hear ya... my time management at the moment needs a stiff talking to, lol.

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  12. Hard-pressed to find better feedback than what you gave me back in July, Lynnie. Would that all writers could find an author/editor like you to give their stuff a fair read.

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    1. Hugs. Thanks, Suze. Your manuscript was a joy to read which makes critiquing a gazillion times easier.

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  13. I use an online critique group where I've had some fantastic (though sometimes harsh) feedback. Did I mention the "harsh" was necessary?

    Finding partners there was easy, but choosing who to pay attention to is vital. In that kind of forum you risk a mixture of quality. One critiquer insisted that every start of dialogue absolutely had to start a new paragraph. He picked up and criticized every opening quotes that wasn't on a new line, and that was pretty much the sum total of his critique. Grammar police are all very well, but it helps to know your grammar first!

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    1. lol, yeah, I've had a similar experience. Every critique you receive needs to be weighed.

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  14. Amen to all of that! Luckily, I have a perfect CP who "gets" me. *wink*

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  15. Great post, Lynda. I think you covered all the points one should consider when looking for critique partners or a group. It's really important too, that they meet regularly and not haphazardly, as consistency keeps writer momentum going.

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  16. I'm very lucky to have found good critique partners. Before I found them I fell in with an inexperienced and unenthusiastic crowd. These points are so important.

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    1. Yikes! I actually think unenthusiasm is worse than inexperience. So glad you've found good CPs now.

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  17. CP's can take grooming, too. And everyone improves over time. So, I guess, don't expect it to be perfect at first.

    Thanks for helping with the launch, Lynda. You're awesome. :D

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  18. CPs are the heart and soul of a good writer. You just can't make a novel better without them. I love 'em super tough. But they must be constructive, and they can't be mean. Luckily, of my 15 or so CPs, only 2 were truly bad. But then all but 4 were only adequate. Luckily, those 4 kicked my butt and whipped my ms into shape. I NEVER could have gotten published without them.

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    1. Finding good CPs is like finding gold. Hold on to them and treasure them :)

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  19. This is a tough one 'cause not only do you have to find a good one, you have to be good or at least competent as well. Hopefully, your next post will help that too. :)

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    1. Being a good critique partner is a whole other kettle of fish. I may have to write another post next week about that, or see what I can do to incorporate that in Thursday's post... hmmm.

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  20. Great tips. Unfortunately, don't have any CPs, and haven't had much success with beta readers, either. Not that they aren't terrific, but all they've done is cheerlead without offering any constructive criticism at all. Nice to hear, but not terribly helpful.

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    1. Cheerleads are great for early in a writer's career, but once we're more established, we really need helpful tips more than encouragement. This is not to say we don't need any encouragement ;)

      It took me a while to find my critique partners. I hope you don't give up looking.

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  21. Excellent advice! Good ones are a blessing!

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  22. I think picking someone who understands your genre is so important. Great post, Lynda.

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  23. You're so right about CPs. Mine are gems. Even if they don't really write in my genre, they understand it and know what I'm going for (like I do with them). The best thing about them is that outside of critiquing, they're so encouraging, supportive and sympathetic. We all need that as well.
    I wish M.Pax good luck on her new book. :-)

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  24. All good advice, Lynda! My CP's are awesome. :)

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  25. My CP's and I were all together NaNoing today and talking about this very subject. We are all so different and we look at each other's word with diverse filters, catching things the others don't.

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  26. I have THE BEST critique partner in the world. In fact, she's getting a shout-out on Friday for Alex's blog hop.

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  27. Thanks for this post. I don't have a critique partner yet although I have a few people in mind. I guess, when I'm ready, I'll just have to jump in and ask them and hope they say yes.

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  28. I'm lucky to have a variety of critique partners to choose from. That way I can pick and choose depending on the story I wrote.

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    1. Yes! That's a great thing to have. It will also avoid burning out your critique partners if you don't send everything multiple times to the same one.

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  29. I've really just started reaching out to find a critique partner and I seem to have found the perfect one by chance. She's willing to pick over things line by line and explains problems in a way that I can understand. A good partner is worth their weight in gold!

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  30. I have a critique partner that is so heck- bent on proving me wrong in my writing style that he does research to try to support his opinion and argues it extensively-- while a professional editor is there telling him he's wrong. This kind of stuff is counter productive in a group setting. That's the problem with a group - you get some Frits that are not helpful. In a one on one situation I will only go back to partners that I've gotten good suggestions from. I need to use my time wisely.

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    1. Yes, it's always important to carefully consider and weigh every suggestion a critique partner makes, even ones that come from those you consider good critique partners.

      And yes using your time wisely is crucial.

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  31. It's so important to pick a critique partner who's familiar with your genre. I know that the times I've tried to critique a manuscript in a genre I wasn't familiar with, I felt like I was no help at all.

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    1. I've had that problem too. I can't tell if there is an overall problem or if I'm just bored by the subject.

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  32. I've been super lucky in my experience with crit partners. Mine are amazing! I've had some not so great ones before-- like in creative writing classes where they were assigned. It's hard to get good feedback if someone doesn't "get" your story or genre!

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  33. It takes time to find a good partner.

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  34. It can take lots of time to find a good critique partner, Stacy. I am always looking for a critique partner who can help me see where the story needs work, where the reader loses interest, and if the voice changes in the story.

    I've found someone whom I trust and is of great assistance in helping me to strengthen my story. The only problem is that she's very busy with her own publishing career. And I need to find a way to reciprocate...besides just offering dark chocolate, that is. Her stories are so good that I rack my brain to give her necessary feedback.

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    1. I don't know, offering dark chocolate would work on me.... ;)

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  35. Great suggestions for finding a critique partner. I have some excellent ones in my critique group. They really look at details, and ask critical questions to make sure that what I write considers all possible aspects of a situation.

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  36. Good advice, Lynda. I like getting views from persons who read within and outside of my genre. Good luck to Mary and Kyra with sales.

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  37. Oh, what I wouldn't do without my critique partners! Good ones are worth their weight in gold :)

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  38. Great suggestions for finding a critique partner, Lynda. And yes, you have to have someone who reads the genre you write in. Then she will have fun reading your work and enjoy the crtiquing as well.

    Nas

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  39. I like the criteria that you present--logical and sensible. I'll have to keep this in mind for future reference in the event that I finish something.

    Lee
    A Faraway View

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  40. Thanks for the excellent advice -- never thought about the time-management skills part.

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  41. I will always be grateful Lynda for the fact that you urged me to get a Crit Partner after I won a 10 page Critique on your blog. Its thanks to you that I have 2 amazing CP's. Great post.

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  42. Yes great advice... I have had so many crit partners... That don't stick around... Some great tips here for when I search for more. Xx

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  43. Excellent advice. Every writer needs to read a post like this before they pick a critique partner. Partners are plentiful, but not always helpful.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  44. My wife insists that she is the best one qualified to tell me that I generally suck. Sigh.

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