Monday, February 28, 2011

Critique Partners: Finding a Good Fit

Here's what I've discovered:

1. Finding a good fit with a critique partner is essential
2. Having multiple critique partners is essential
3. Staging your critique partners is essential
4. Providing thorough critiques in return is essential

Today, let's tackle #1, and then tomorrow we'll address #2, and so on.

What is a "good fit" and how do you find it?

First, you really need to establish critique styles. If you are brutally honest and your potential partner is passively nice... the relationship could be painfully short lived. You need to agree to the format of the critiques. Frankly, I prefer giving and getting the brutally honest feedback. I figure, how else can the ms be improved if there isn't honesty? Now, understand, as the author, you don't have to agree with the opinions of others, but I think you need to at least consider it.

Second, you need to test the waters of your writing styles. Sometimes authors with completely different styles can make excellent partners, but sometimes not. So, before committing, read writing samples of the potential partner and share some of your writing samples with them. If he/she writes with long flowery descriptions and you barely write any descriptions, your two styles may drive one another crazy and prove to be counter productive. But, on the other hand, if your personalities mesh, you may be able to utilize your differences to strengthen each others writing.

Third, observe some of your potential partner's critiques of other people's writing samples. If you like what they have to offer, pursue the opportunity.

So... where do you find these potential critique partners?

I've tried several methods, but I have found the "Weekly Chapter Challenge" Group and the "Critique Corner" Group at http://community.writersdigest.com/ to be the best resources for critique partners. So, check the site out, post some of your writing samples to be critiqued, and critique other samples. Then pursue potential partnerships with people you connect with there.

Another useful place to find critique partners is at writers' conferences, especially ones where you get a taste of their writing abilities, but again, you need to follow the steps above, because even if someone is an excellent writer, it doesn't mean they'll be an excellent critique partner.

Where did you find your critique partner? And, what is your best tip for finding a good fit?

11 comments:

  1. I consider myself lucky in that I found a critique *group* right on campus! From that group, I made a friend and we bounce ideas back and forth before either of us write. From this, my favorite thing about my critique circle is that I know them all as friends as well. My best tip is to find someone close to home so you can have emergency meetings to discuss a new ideas for the current WIP. Or at least find someone easy to contact who is quick to respond.

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  2. K- Perfect! Thank you for mentioning local critique groups. I didn't even address that! I chose not to participate in a local group, because I'm not sure being brutally honest in person is as easy as doing it via email. :-)

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  3. I met my CPs at an online writer's workshop. There were only a few in the class so we got to know each other through the 2 months and continued with our partnership after the class was over.

    I'm like you, I'd rather know something isn't working and don't want to deal with passive critiques.

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  4. I have a few different groups of critters, and I love them all for their differences and what I get out of them. We don't all write the same things (some of them don't even write, and are beta readers who help me with big problems in the first draft) but we are all brutally honest with each other, and I like that. After all, an editor is going to be brutally honest, and you don't want to give them the stuff that your critters let pass because they didn't want to hurt your feelings.

    I found my critters through NaNoWriMo and the Fiction Groupie blog.

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  5. I have been extremely lucky with CPs - they are all awesome and I don't think I could survive this business without them.

    Two of them I met at my very first conference and it turned out we lived near each other. Two I met online, one in a writer's forum and one through the blogosphere. One I met at my son's preschool.

    Receiving constructive criticism is as essential as receiving support and encouragement. You can't fix something if you don't know what's wrong.

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  6. I found some through a conference, a couple on Absolute Write, and one amazing CP from being blogging friends. Can't wait for #2, etc.!

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  7. I haven't had a critique group in years, but a dear friend of mine and I exchange writing from time to time. I value her honesty and insight.

    Great post!
    Jen

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  8. Margo this is a great post! How are you? Hope you're well.

    I've found my critique partners through blogging but it's true, it can be difficult to find a keeper. I found that the best ones are the ones who write the same genre and are open minded to the type of ideas you have. So similar personalities help. I've also come across ones where I do all the work and they don't end up reading for me. What's that all about? Hmmm. Tough business.

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  9. I agree. Honesty is essential. It's a critique. Its supposed to be just that. You can be nice about it sure, but I need to know what blows and what flows. You can't take it personal. They're only trying to help you and show objectivity to the story that you cannot have. I just showed my story to my first beta. She's been great. Now I just need more when I'm finished....again.

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  10. I don't have a CP yet, but I've been doing chapter swaps. Hopefully one day I will find a good match and then more. For people like me who can't attend conferences or join an organization, all I have are online writing communities.

    About honesty, I do agree it is essential.

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