How Did You Find a Critique Partner?

A very nice gentleman (*see below for details*) contacted me a while back with some basic questions about the writing process. We’ve exchanged emails about various aspects of writing these past few weeks, and I was able to answer all of his questions with except one…

What is the best way to find a critique partner?

This one stumped me. I told him the stories of how I’d found both of my critique partners (huge hugs to both of you…you’re the best and make my writing so much better!) and how helpful they were, and I had some basic suggestions as to how he might find one (take it to Twitter, advertise on Writer’s Digest, etc…) but nothing ever came about from those ideas.

So now I ask on his behalf…

How did you find a critique partner?

*He’s writing a memoir about his EXTREMELY interesting life, keeps to an 8 hour a day writing schedule, and has written over 40,000 words so far.

*When I say EXTREMELY, I’m not kidding. This man has lived through some very extraordinary times and has a very unique take on some very public and prominent events in America’s history. I’d say more, but I’m not sure how much he wants to divulge at this point.

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19 thoughts on “How Did You Find a Critique Partner?

  1. Critique partners are found in the most unusual places sometimes. My partner in crime for the past ten years was discovered at a garden club meeting. Another was met through a writers group.

    I suggest your friend attend a writers group or go to where writers gather, such as a book launch. But don’t look only in these places. Writers are everywhere, at the grocery store, in the barn and on the beach.

    The key is to let others know you write. That might sound like a no-brainer, but many of us are closet writer or we don’t go around spreading the word we write. The person you sit beside every week at your daughter’s sport’s function may be a writer looking for someone to share her work with, but if neither of you tell each other that fact then you’re both left in the dark.

    So spread the word. Strike up a conversation with your neighbour, the parents of your child’s friend, the man who cuts your grass. Tell them you’re a writer. You’ll soon learn if they’re interested or not. If not then move on to another subject.

    A lady has lived across the street from me for 14 years, but we didn’t know each other wrote until this spring. All those years talking about horses, the weather and the children could have been intermixed with writing.

    • Diane,

      I hadn’t thought to tell him to look to a writing group, what a great idea!

      I’d love to hear more about the conversation where you and the neighbor finally both realized the other wrote. I’m curious, do you exchange pages now that you both know the other’s interest in the written word?

      I loved the part of your comment where you wrote, “You’ll soon learn if they’re interested or not.” I sometimes forget not everyone cares about me and my stories 🙂

      Thanks so much for all the great advice to my new writer friend. I know he’ll appreciate your ideas.

      Christi

      • My writing neighbour and I don’t exchange writing pieces, at least not personally. She has joined our writers group and has attended a workshop where we’ve shared our writing.

        Although we both love to write, we just don’t seem linked to exchange writing. It’s hard to say why you can easily exchange with one person and not aother; it’s like being on wave lengths: some are on the same level, others aren’t. We do however, discuss writing and the writing business.

        Sometimes when I’m talking about writing to people, I see their eyes glass over; I know they don’t give a hoot about the subject or don’t understand what I’m saying. Some do generally are interested in learning more but are not interested in writing.

  2. I agree with Diane in that critique partners come from the most unusual places sometimes. I also agree with her in that one of most important things to do is TALK about what you’re doing and that you’re shopping for a critique partner.

    At the same time though, DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY IT’S NOT WORKING FOR YOU. When you start exchanging your work with other writers, you get this amazing insight into just how different everyone is. And sometimes, you’ll find, your two styles clash.

    I didn’t have a crit partner for years. It wasn’t that I didn’t need one, I was just unsure of how to go about it, unsure of what to do if things didn’t work out, unsure of everything. So I just muddled along on my own and utilized feedback from family members (a no no in most cases, but my family is VERY capable of saying ‘nope, it sucks’ so I did get valuable feedback) until finally, I sent a (very bad) fantasy to a friend of my mom’s.

    I got some very good feedback (the story is still awful for now) and it felt great. Then I sent the same lady a second manuscript and…. it was terrifying. I mean, she wasn’t mean. She wasn’t wrong in her critiques. She was informative. She had good things to say. But. Well. It was all very scary. I still have trouble articulating WHY it was so scary, but it was. Instead of looking at the holes she pointed out and thinking ‘this is going to rock when I fix things’ I looked at the ms and thought ‘this is a train wreck to rival the Old 97 and it’ll never work.’

    And then I ‘met’ the crit partner I have now *cue epic love music*

    I say ‘met’ because we’ve never seen each other in person. We met on Blogger! She’s on one side of the country, I’m on the other. She’s married and has (awesome) kids, I’m single and have horses. I write fantasy (among other things), she doesn’t. BUT WE WORK!!! And that’s the ONLY thing that matters. She can tell me that an entire passage is a piece of crap that needs to be thrown in the regenerator, and I get EXCITED about it. That’s what a crit partner who is the ‘right fit’ can do. They have the ability to tell you, in their own way, when something sucks, when it’s awesome, when it’s just plain weird, and you understand what they’re telling you without being intimidated, or upset or put off. I would not trade my crit partner for a spot on the Ark in the next great flood. That’s how much I love her 🙂

    So, don’t be afraid to say when something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to embrace it when it IS working. Don’t get hung up on things like ‘but they don’t write what I write’ or ‘I write for kids and they write for adults’. If your writing improves with your partner’s feedback, and you get excited to send stuff to them, then nothing else matters.

    • Artemis,

      I too suffered through some critiques that made me shudder before I even opened them, and they made me wonder at my pursuit of publication. The comments were helpful, but had a way of taking all my confidence in my work and leaving me me a shivering pile of “Crap, I suck as a writer and shouldn’t be doing this. Why am I continuing to waste my time?”

      Thankfully, I’ve found a FANTASTIC critique partner, one who totally gets me and my writing style, and has no problem giving me a nudge when I need to dig deeper, a poke when I have a fact wrong, a lovely note when I’ve done something well, and an all around sense of “Keep going! You’ll get there someday!”

      😀

      Thanks for the great advice about critique partner!

      Christi

  3. Christi, this is a sensitive subject for all of us. The advice given above is great and your gentleman friend would do well to try some of them. In the end, it is as much a labor of love as the work we do. Each time we think we have found the perfect match, we come closer. Each time, we learn about someone else, learn more about the give and take of the CP relationship, until one day, like our work, we find that moment.

    Some get frustrated with the process, but I call it a labor of love becuase we should enjoy meeting each new group, find something good in each new partner. I am blessed with two main readers, one a friend who also runs our monthly book club, the second an on-line friend with whom I intend to venture into some interesting projects in the next year.

    Also, finding you and PK was much the same. Although the three of us to not critique for each other, a bond has been created that I cherish. A CP can stretch your reading limits and introduce you to new worlds … much life the blog … I am grateful for each new friend.

    I would tell the gentleman to enjoy the process of finding the perfect fit and before long, he will find, as so many of us have, that he has found the perfect CP for him 🙂

    • Florence,

      Again, I have to send out a big hug your way for introducing me to the concept of having more than one critique partner. I hadn’t thought of doing such a thing before you, and I’m so glad you gave me the advice!

      You are my first, and very cherished, “writing friend” and I’m so glad we’ve continued our talks over these past years!

      Thanks again!

      Christi

  4. Um, my reply will be much less articulate then the three before me. I found my crit partners on Absolute Write. I went to the Beta/Mentoring thread, posted that I was looking for a crit partner or Beta, and viola!

    Actually, there was an interviewing period, if you want to call it that. We exchanged work to see if the other’s style would work for us. Now I work with two extremely talented women. We don’t write the same style, but like Artemis Grey said, “we work”.

    • CL,

      I totally agree about the “trial period” where critique partners try each other on for size and see if they can work well with each other, and for each other.

      I hadn’t heard of that forum over on Absolute Write, thanks for sharing that bit of advice. I’m wondering if you found both of your partners on that site?

      Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a bit of critique partner wisdom!

      Christi

  5. I just kept asking, everywhere I went. Eventually a staff libratian told me about a critique group that was great! I had tried 2 out before I found one that worked for me. I know a few writers found their partners / group at writing workshops.

    • Jennifer,

      A big shout out and hug to all the librarians out there! I love that they helped you connect with a group!

      I belong to a writing critique group that meets at the library every two weeks. I know the librarians know about it and can only hope they would recommend us if someone expressed interest in connecting to other “writing minded” people.

      I’ve been to two writing conferences, and I met some really great writing friends I still keep in contact with to this day.

      And now I show my ignorance…Is a workshop the same thing as a conference? 🙂

      Thanks for visiting and sharing your ideas!

      Christi

      • Well, a writing workshop is basically a course on a specific topic (be it charectirization, plot, short stories, voice, etc) you register for, that is either intense over a day or weekend, or over a period of several weeks. A conference is more involved, usually over a weekend, where you spend full days in various workshops, and also involves networking. I’ve done both, both are great. Conferences are much harder for me to participate it as Montreal doesn’t hold any and I have to travel…

        • Jennifer,

          I live in a small town and find any conference worth attending to be cost-prohibitive. By the time traveling costs and conference attendance fees are taken into account it is way too much. But, I’ve learned so much on the internet and from fellow bloggers…makes all the time online worth it 🙂

          I like the idea of doing an online workshop. Have you done one of those types, or only traveled to them in person?

          Thanks for the info!

          Christ

          • ugh I know what you mean!!! 😦

            I’ve done a few workshops in the city, but none on line. I’ve heard only good things though. It would be def worth looking into. Good luck!!!

  6. Christi, you are the most amazing talent i have ever come across in my life. I loved your response to the slander threat, and i think it worked to shut that idiot up. When we were threatened with a lawsuit in my day, we asked the question, “How can you sue a man from the grave”? Stopped them every time.

    • Peter,

      Wow! Thank you so much for such a lovely compliment at the beginning of your comment 🙂

      As to the rest, I’m thinking you meant to be on my book trailer site?

      Christi

      • I don’t know what to say, except I not only goofed, but I also used an improper ending word in my how to handle a lawsuit sentence. This could be a problem unless I get a male critique partner who has been around the block a few times.

        The comments on your blog are very helpful, and indicate when I advertise for a partner, I must make it clear I am writing for an adult, open minded audience.

        See!!! This old guy found the right place, and if you do not mind he will stay. Meanwhile he will stick to emails talking to you personally.

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