I’m going to preface this by saying that I don’t currently have a critique partner. I’ve had one in the past, and I’ve been part of a couple of critique groups, but I’m currently writing solo. I know several people who don’t have them, and that works for them, but critique partners have their place, and I’m so thankful for the times I’ve been blessed with them. For a new or unpublished writer, a critique partner can be invaluable.
You might consider finding a CP if you…
- Keep getting form rejection letters (or no response) from agents and editors
- You get the same feedback every time you enter a writing contest
- You’ve already self-published some books, but you cant seem to get more people to buy them
If either of these sound like you, then it might be time for a CP, but probably not for the reason you think. Having someone help you see what’s wrong with your book will definitely help, but the real growth comes when you learn to open your own critical eye. Here are the three greatest lessons I learned from working with a CP.
- Relationship: Contest comments can help. Paying an editor will definitely pay dividends. But neither of those situations let you develop a long-term relationship with someone you can trust with your manuscript over the long haul. Once you develop a relationship with your CP, you can ask questions, brainstorm, and troubleshoot together.
- The Student Becomes the Teacher: I wrote and studied fiction for five years before I finally joined a critique group. It only lasted for a few months, but my skills improved exponentially during that time. It’s hard to see the errors in your own work, but when you start critiquing someone else, you start recognizing how to identify those weaknesses. Once you learn how to tap into that critical part of your brain, you start to see your work through that lens and those weaknesses become more obvious in your own writing.
- You Learn to Critique with Love: Many new writers – myself included – critique their first manuscripts with an excited red pen. The mind set seems to be, “I can’t wait to show you how much I know!” Every single mistake is marked and rewritten. As you receive more critiques from your partner, however, you start to realize how damaging and unhelpful those remarks can be. Eventually your motivation turns from “I’ll show you how smart I am,” to “how can I help you make this a better story?”
You won’t always need a CP, and you won’t always need to be one, but the lessons learned from critiquing and receiving critiques cannot be replaced. Don’t wait – find a CP at start learning!