Article: Critique Partners

Critique Partners

by Melissa Alvarez

If you’re like most writers just starting out in the world of writing you’ve wanted opinions on your work. But where do you go?

As a writer you’re going to want to know specifics – did the storyline flow or were there parts that didn’t make sense? Are the characters interesting and did the reader care about what happened to them? Did the plot keep the reader turning pages? So where do you go to get these answers?

Family and Friends

This is a good place to start but you may not get the feedback that you desire. Believe me when I tell you that family and friends will ALWAYS love your work because it is your work. If you get an objective critique from a friend or family member you should consider yourself very lucky. Most of the time you will hear how great the book is but not the details that you may want if you can get them to take time from their busy schedules to even read the manuscript. So where do you go from here?

Critique Partners or Critique Groups

In my humble opinion you will get more in depth feedback if you seek out a critique partner or a small critique group. I personally prefer working with two or three individuals as critique partners on an individual basis.

When you work with another writer you get the benefit of their writing knowledge and they will point out things like sentence structure, story elements etc. I feel that a good critique partner is an asset for any writer.

What will a good critique partner do?

If you are doing a critique for someone there are certain things you should keep in mind. These are things you will want done for you as well.

First the person doing the critique should always remember that the purpose is to help another writer improve their skills. All writers are at different skill levels but we can all help one another. Our critique should be given in a positive manner and with reasons for our comments. Always try to begin and end on a positive note and if you find parts of the manuscript that you love then tell the writer! There’s nothing better than finding out something worked! Of course there will be negative aspects that arise but still try to deal with them in a positive manner so the writer learns from the critique. Don’t just say “You shouldn’t have done so and so.” Tell the writer why you think they shouldn’t have done it.

Ok – you’re the person getting critiqued. Remember the person critiquing your work knows this is your baby. There comments are being made in order to help you grow as a writer. Please try not to take the comments personally. A critique is not an attack against you (and honestly, if the critique is like that you need a new partner) but are suggestions for writing improvement. If you get angry because of the critique – don’t send a vicious response back to the person who did your critique. Take some time to review it and decide if the suggestion really will work. And know too that it’s a suggestion – you don’t have to do what the person said if you disagree with it. This is your manuscript and it has to feel right for you.

And lastly, I think it’s a good idea to create a list of questions that you would like answered along with your critique. Then you have your specific issues with the manuscript addressed and you’ll get a good honest opinion. For example if you’re worried about how your characters come across then ask “Do my characters seem like real people that you are interested in or do they lack development?” If both parties approach the critique process with a positive, learning, attitude then it will be a good experience for all involved.