The Revolving Door of Critique Partners

Check out any writer’s Twitter or blog, and you’ll invariable hear them gush about their critique partners. CPs, as they’re colloquially known, are super beneficial to anyone looking to publish. Having several other sets of eyes can elevate your manuscript above where you can on your own.

I have to confess that I’ve always been super envious of  people with a couple really great CPs. It didn’t actually occur to me to have them until I began pursuing publication with The Recruited, and I had no idea where to search as a result. Any number of people helped me get The Recruited up to querying standards, but very few–if any–fall under the traditional CP heading.

Two of my creatively-minded friends read through an early draft and gave me excellent notes. A fiction writing teacher I had sophomore year of college–also a member of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop–read the draft in about two weeks and wrote me a four page, single-spaced, double-sided edit letter. Once I stopped panicking, I began conceptualizing her notes and applying the changes. Other late-stage readers included a woman I swapped crits with through the forums on AbsoluteWrite. And though I know this breaks every rule in the book, I did ask my parents for help.

There was only one major issue with all of the people who read my manuscript. Though the help they provided was invaluable, none of them were actual CPs. Most of them were people with their own lives and responsibilities, who I wasn’t really able to call on for later read-throughs. A few people were good for a one-time review, but needed more time to work on their own projects.

I’d begun to feel like someone on a speed-dating game show, where you shuffle through table after table of interested parties, only to find that they’re not quite right.

Then, a month ago, something miraculous happened. A woman I follow on Twitter put out a call for people who’d be interested in forming a critique group. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I threw myself out there one last time. A couple small issues coordinating logistics later, and we have a great, varied group of MG, YA, NA, and occasionally adult fiction writers with great ideas and super editing skills. We have a schedule that everyone does their best to stick to, and for the first time I feel like I might have some people for bouncing ideas off of. Maybe it’s too soon for me to be so optimistic, but I’m really excited to finish reading what these awesome ladies put forth.

What about you guys? For those of you who write, where do you turn for critiques? If you have CPs, how did you find them? Let me know in comments.

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6 thoughts on “The Revolving Door of Critique Partners

  1. Ellen, I let my parents read the first manuscript I queried too! Haha. I definitely didn’t know about CPs when I queried that first one, and the readers (don’t know if I’d call them CPs, per se) for the manuscripts after that one have had such valuable advice.

    I love our crit group! I had one “real” CP outside of it before joining — she reads all my awful first drafts and is kind enough to tell me I’m not terrible :). But it’s been so fabulous to find other like-minded people! So looking forward to reading more of your work.

  2. Glad I’m not the only one! My folks gave me really solid advice, but it’s so largely frowned upon to get help from your parents that I always feel awkward bringing it up.

    I love our crit group too! And I have to say, having you guys politely tell me that you’re interested in my work and I’m not hopeless is super reassuring. 🙂

  3. It’s great meeting aspiring novelists in their early twenties like myself 🙂

    Great post.
    For me, I’ve had my work reviewed/critiqued by several writers I’ve met through networking, HOWEVER, when I think of CPs, two come to mind. Maybe because we’re both into historical fiction, and because we were both interested in each others’ works, we became long-term critique buddies. They got me through thick and thin, through my querying journey, and through my decision to to rewrite my manuscript from scratch.

    CPs, in my experience, are therefore people that not only critique your work, but really support and encourage your during your times of insecurities – and insecurity with my writing is something I went through countless times.

    I hope to hear more about your critique group experience!

    Cheers,
    June

    • oh, and to answer your question, I met my CPs through: Fictionpress (back in the days when this was popular before the outbreak of plagiarism incidents) and Authonomy

    • No kidding! Nice to meet you too! (Although I confess to having read portions of your blog when you contributed to LTWF, so I guess it should be ‘nice to talk to you.’)

      It’s funny how good CPs become more like friends than some business arrangement–regardless of whether you’ve met in real life or not. I’m hoping to develop those kinds of relationships with the people in my critique group. So far they’re all very friendly and talented, so that’s a good start. 🙂

      That being said, hearing you mention FictionPress makes me wish I’d been technologically savvy enough at a younger age to post my earlier work on there. I’ve heard it was quite the community before the plagiarism became such a problem.

      Thanks so much for the comment! I hope your novel rewrite is moving smoothly.

      • Oh the LTWF days! Good old times… lol

        But yes I totally agree with you – CPs end up becoming more like friends, mainly because they end up sharing your vision of the story.

        I’ll be dropping by often! 😀

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