April 13, 2011

critique partners

I cannot stress enough how important it is for a writer to have a critique partner. If ever I’m quoted for anything writing related, it will be something about critique partners. They’re invaluable.

Working on my steampunk project has so far been an experience of fear, doubt, giddiness, and exhaustive research. I finished the first major scene just the other day, and this constant doubt took over. Is it any good? Am I wasting my time? Oh, I know it must be terrible. I’ve never written steampunk before. I should quit now before I waste any more time. No one will want to read this garbage.

I’m guessing most writers face this at some point or another.

This is where critique partners come in handy, our little personal writing cheerleaders. I just happen to have the very best critique partner – my dear friend, Darby, who, by happenstance, asked me to review her debut novel Griffin Rising some odd months ago. Out of that, a friendship spawned.

When I was still working on my first book, she cheered me on and gave me positive encouragement to write each day. When I wasn’t doing well, she was there to lift my spirits, and when my last hope with that first novel was cruelly obliterated, she was there to give me a virtual hug. She actually compared me to the cheese inside of a chile relleno.

One day, we were talking about gardening and raking leaves leftover from the fall, and I pitched her the idea of doing a steampunk novel. She encouraged me to try. The next day, I came up with the title and the first sentence and sent it to her, and she fiercely demanded that I start writing on it immediately.

So, I did. If it wasn’t for her gung-ho attitude and encouragement, I’d probably still be wallowing around in my sad, first novel.

A few thousand words later, I finished the first chapter and sent it to her. Her response not only made me smile ear to ear, she gave me the reason to keep writing. Because of her enthusiasm and positive comments, I realized, Yes, this story is good. I’m not wasting my time. It isn’t terrible. So what if I’ve never written steampunk. I should quit procrastinating and write more. And at least one person wants to read it, so it isn’t garbage.

Even if her response hadn’t been so enthusiastic, she could have told me what I needed to work on, what she loved about it, and what she didn’t.

Critique partners are invaluable. They’re our cheerleaders and our nit-picky aunt at the same time. They’re the ones that will love our story just as much as we do, because they’ve been there since the beginning. They’re the ones that will buoy us up when we're in a writing slump, the ones that will champion our writing when we don’t feel like it, the ones that will threaten to send us a box of bees if we don’t send them the next ten pages as soon as possible.

And, oh yeah, they might actually help us with our books, too.

I have the most fantastic critique partner in the world, and without her, I would be a lesser writer. That’s a fact.


  1. I can see the value of a critique partner even though I've never had one. I've never known exactly how to ask somebody else to read thousands of words of material. So many of the writers I know are so busy with their own stuff that reading, much less offering an opinion on, somebody else's work in progress would be a very time consuming and schedule-disrupting problem.

    Glad you have somebody who knows what you're trying to do and can read your copy to help out.


  2. Sounds like an awesome partner! I need to find one too… it's been a one-man slog thus far.

  3. All awesome points :) Sometimes people think CP and just think editor--but a CP is also often your first cheerleader and a real friend who "gets" the struggles of the writing life :)

  4. Oh, Brooke! You made my day with your sweet words. Seriously, people, Brooke's new work is AWESOME BEYOND BELIEF. You heard it here, folks!

  5. First a question: how did you find your critique partner? I've got several good beta readers, but no one that I feel comfortable talking to in the early stages of a story.

    Second a complaint: you're fast passing from the realm of good-natured teasing into all-out torture. Every post makes me want to read your book even more! :)

  6. @Reece: Darby contacted me through my blog asking for me to review her debut novel, so we kind of stumbled on one another. We really clicked on a personal level, and then we started trading writing material. Chance brought us together. As for finding your own, I know that some writing websites offer a place to sign up for a critique partner (for example: http://letthewordsflow.wordpress.com/cps/). You could probably find one through twitter or some sort of writing forum too (like here: http://forums.nathanbransford.com/viewforum.php?f=16). Good Luck!

    As for your complaint... ;P

  7. Actually, gang, Brooke is a much better critique partner to me than I am to her. But now she's stuck with me! Bwwwahhhhhaaa!