In the past few months, I’ve been able to work with four critique partners. No, they’re not the same as beta readers. The difference between the two is that beta readers share their experience with you (did they enjoy your novel?) while critique partners identify strengths and weaknesses and are able to suggest ways for addressing an issue, because they’re knowledgeable about the craft of writing (why or why not was your novel enjoyable? And how can you make it better?)
Below are the top five reasons you should get a critique partner.
I’m sure there are many who will back me up when I say it’s worth paying for an editor; I have hired a few myself to arrive at my final version of a manuscript. However, an editor is usually in it for the money. They may have been a writer back in the day, or are still writing their own work now, but they will not have the same relationship with you as a critique partner. The difference is in the name. A critique partner is spending their valuable time helping you improve, but you’re also going to be doing the same for them. In this exchange, both of you are volunteers with a common goal and shared values. You want to make your book the best it can be in an atmosphere with trust and ambition. These are the bonds that tie, not money.
If you’re not sure where to find a critique partner, try social media pages or put up a post in your Facebook or Twitter group. There are likely other writers looking for this same resource/relationship and will be happy you brought up the topic. Some people don’t know what a critique partner is, so this is also a good time to ensure whomever you’re working with understands the expectations and that you understand theirs. Communication, as with any relationship, is key in a CP interaction. My worst fear is always that I’m not giving the author what they need from me, so I ask lots of questions upfront to ensure I’m focusing on the things that matter to them. Perhaps they’re excited about their plot but really want someone to give them a hands-on approach in identifying how to pick up the pace of their story or give opinions on how well they’re doing going back and forth between timelines. They also let you know what’s working. Maybe you didn’t know that you’re really good at writing dialogue, and now that you do, you can spend more time heavily editing something else!
If you’re always on the same page (no pun intend), you and your critique partner will be satisfied with each other’s feedback more often than not.