Critique Partner Connection
1. Have chemistry
Stacey: Stephanie and I met through Pitch Wars, Brenda Drake’s annual contest connecting writers with agents (and if you’re looking for an agent, we highly recommend this particular contest, which is in its 5th year.) We were both mentors. Stephanie was receiving all the pitches, and I remember thinking, who is this girl? And when we started emailing more regularly, and then meeting up in person, it was pretty clear we were almost the same person. We share so much of the same sense of humor and sensitivities, that she’s become like a sister. A sister shares life experiences with you, so that when you need help teasing out the story, she knows what you’re trying to do and will help you. A sister makes time for you, and isn’t afraid to tell you when you’re wearing your shirt inside out. This is why having a great CP is worth a cadre of beta readers. A CP means a deeper connection, and a deeper investment in your story.
Stephanie: Side note to that story: when I first met Stacey, I was unpublished, and I hardly knew any writers—I still have no idea why someone as cool as Stacey would want to be my friend—but I am so grateful she reached out to me!
2. Be clear about what you want
Stacey: Some writers only prefer a critique after the whole manuscript is scrubbed shiny, while others need input along the way. Sometimes, it depends on the project. For Stephanie and I, we get into each other’s business at most steps of the way, from idea to pitch to story to jacket copy.
Stephanie: Usually when I send a story to Stacey I’m in the early stages of writing it and I want the honest truth about what works and what doesn’t, because I’m building my foundation and I want it to be as strong as possible. But sometimes, usually when I’m further down the road and my agent or editor has already vetted my book, I might have someone read my story over to make sure that it still makes sense. But maybe, at this point, my book has been ripped apart (multiple times) so even though it could still use more work, I might just be looking for a more supportive and encouraging critique, because let’s be honest, we all need reassurance sometimes.
3. Be respectful of time and boundaries
Stacey: This is also true for any relationship ever.
4. Do point out what’s working, along with what’s not working
Stephanie: One of the reasons I enjoy having Stacey as my CP is that she makes it fun to read her comments. She gives me so much positive feedback that I feel energized to tackle the problematic areas!
I’m a firm believer in the sandwich method. I like to say something nice, something critical, followed by something nice. And usually when I’m sending someone back their MS, I’ll write an email where I only say kind things and then I’ll attach the document with my more critical comments—that way I’m never blindsiding someone with an email that they might not be ready to read.
If you want to participate our critique partner connection, leave the following in the comments:
- Email address
- Category and genre(s) you write in
- Category and genre you critique/don’t want to critique
- Info about your writing background, e.g., how long you’ve been writing, whether you have or have had an agent
- Yourself in five words
- Strengths as a critique partner
Participants agree that leaving their info in the comments means others are welcome to contact them about making a Critique Partner Connection. We highly suggest exchanging a few pages or chapters of your manuscripts before committing to anything further.
Also, like dating, it’s entirely possible that an apple that seems *perfect!* at first blush will turn out to be mushy when you get to the center. Only time will tell, and therefore, let time do its job.