Tuesday, February 16, 2021

How to be a Great Critique Partner

 When others talk about writing, and how solitary of a craft it can be, you might be inclined to think about a person sitting alone in a silent room, pouring over their novel. But, at least for me, it's quite the opposite. Sure, if you want to be a writer, you have to get the words out of your lovely head and onto a page for another human to read, but there's so much more to it than just the writing part. Easily, one of the most important parts is having a critique partner. 

A critique partner is the other writing human that reads over your stories/chapters and offers up suggestions based on their own knowledge as a writer. They differ from a beta reader, who may or may not be a writer and are just looking at the story as a whole once it's complete. A critique partner works with you during the project, offering helpful critiques to bring out as much of that story magic as you can.

You've landed yourself a fabulous partner. They read your chapters, give you fantastic suggestions because they really get what you're working on, and they're timely. So, how can you be an awesome partner back? Let's talk about a few things you can do to reciprocate.

1. Read, Stew, Then Reread

We all know how important it is to reread something because the first time you read something, you're simply trying to figure out what's going on. It takes that second time through to pick up on the magical bits that make a story come alive. The same is true when you're a writing partner. Luckily, you're usually moving through a story in smaller chunks, a chapter or two at a time, which should give you plenty of time to read through for story once, and then reread looking for plot holes or other inconsistencies. If you want to take your comments to the next level, give yourself some time (a day or two) to think about the story before the second read through. This will give you time to think about the story on several levels (word choice, plot progression, character development, etc.) before you offer up revision ideas. 

2. Compliment the Parts That are Working

Writing is hard work. As a writer, you're doing your best to entertain as well as connect with a whole bunch of people you've never met. It can be emotionally exhausting. But there are plenty of reasons you should be complimenting your writing partner outside of the sheer emotional costs of writing. 

It's so helpful to reinforce the craft elements that are working in a story. It helps the writer know what to keep doing. Don't let your comments focus only on what isn't working, but throw in some that compliment your writing buddy for what they are doing right. 

You're only seeing the outcome, not the process. In other words, you have no idea how long your writing friends spend on their scenes (unless, of course, they tell you). Compliments not only reinforce good writing techniques but also encourage your partner's efforts.

I use comments like, "I love the emotion here," or "I can tell you've spent a lot of time choosing the best words/verbs."

3. Ask Them What Kind of Feedback They are Looking For

Sounds too easy, right? Most of the time, we as writers, know better than anyone what isn't working in our story. You're writing friend might not want you to spend your time and comments on their character development because they know their story is struggling with imagery. So just ask upfront, "What can I help you with for this submission? What are some concerns you have this time around?"

The best and most basic rule is, of course, to treat your partner with respect. If you're genuinely trying to be helpful, that will help you build a long-lasting and lovely partnership.

What are some other pointers we should add to this list? Comment your favorite critique manners below. 

Happy writing, friends. 


Nancy Gideon said...

I've been in the same critique group for over 25 years (!). Our PotL group has been a constant support system and sounding board and right now, a positive influence on frame of mind. We used to meet in a rotating manner once a month but now because of COVID are doing bi-monthly zooms to discuss our projects, our frustrations and fears and just to connect. We send pages in advance so we don't use valuable "face" time and can get right to the comments. We're all in various stages of publication, in different genres and bring different skills to the table. These are my peeps, my People, who keep me connected and grounded. I don't know what I'd do without them!!

Keri Kruspe said...

I love this article, April. It helps me realize I really need a critique partner. If anyone is in the same boat as I am, I would love to become someone's critique partner in the scifiromance genre!

Mary Morgan said...

Great post, April! I treasure my critigue partners. Often, they see more clearly the story. I write with such emotion and passion, so I require another set of eyes (ones that know my stories) to take a look at the story.

Maureen said...

Great post! I used to have a 1:1 critique partner, but now I'm in a small critique group. Their input is very helpful.