Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Good Critique Partner

The subject of Critique Partners seems to be overflowing the blogosphere lately, and I have to say that it's been on my mind as well. What really makes a good critique partner? Is it someone who will rip you to shreds? Is it someone who is an expert in the compliment sandwich (compliment, critique, compliment)? Or is it something more?

This answer probably differs from person to person, but here is what qualifies as a good critique partner in my mind --

Someone Who Will Help You

I know, simple, right? But really, I think this needs an explanation becasue I don't think it's clear to everyone. A critique partner who does nothing but rip on your work is not helpful, nor is someone who does nothing but tell you how much they like something. To be a truly helpful critique partner in my mind, there needs to be a balance of both.

source


Let's start with an example --

CP1: This sentence is really weak, and I hate everything else about this chapter.

CP2: There is something off about this sentence but I don't know what. By the way, this is the best book ever!

CP3: I had to read this sentence a few times to fully understand it. Perhaps if you changed the wording to something more like (insert sample sentence) then I would understand it better.

Now you tell me, which partner do you want? I want #3. They are being honest with me without being rude, and they are giving suggestions so that I have an approach on how to fix it.

Which brings me to another point, I want a critique partner who is willing to brain storm with me rather than tell me something is wrong. I know there are things wrong with the book, that is why I am asking for you to help review it. You can't just point out a mistake without giving me suggestions for improvement. Otherwise, I'm stuck.

What else would you add? What makes the best critique partners?


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On a completely separate note, feel free to go vote for the beginning of my book in the Project Writeway contest here. Really, go ahead and go. Now.






34 comments:

Joanne said...

There's an element of trust, too, in a critique partner, that makes you eager to hear what they say ... good or bad. You just know that talking issues out with them always makes for a better story.

Ava Jae said...

I have a critique partner like your third example and I have learned so much. Good, honest critique partners are invaluable to the writing process and can really help you improve as a writer as well as improve whatever WIP they're critiquing.

Angela V. Cook said...

I've had all three at one time or another, lol. Amazingly, they were all helpful, but I agree with you--I like a CP3 partner the best :o) I just think there's a way to be helpful and constructive without being rude and hurtful. Great post!

L.G.Smith said...

A really good critique partner is hard to find. I agree with Joanne that it takes a level of trust with someone to get the most helpful, honest feedback. Someone who is willing to offer suggestions or explain why something doesn't work for them is the best sort of reader for me.

Cassie Mae said...

My cp's are the best people in the world! Not just because they are all #3 cp's, but because they are my friends. I know I can just send them some random email and they'll respond with just what I need... whether it's an uplift, enlightenment, or a laugh.

Plus, they are the most supportive people ever!

Ruth Josse said...

Yep, I'd take number three. And I want to BE number three.

Nisa said...

Talking it out is definitely a quality I would want. My husband is my go to man for this. We can hash it out until we come up with something that works, but he's creative, too, and sometimes does things a little differently than I would so it's always nice to have more than one person you can talk it out with. (Another woman...cause you know how men are about romance. At least, most men. Haha!)

David P. King said...

I'd pick #3, too. I like to be #3. That's the only way writers can improve, having someone give you the perspective you're lacking. It's too bad houses and agencies can't provide this most of the time. Kind of a bummer being rejected and you don't know why.

Great post, J.A.! :)

Theresa said...

My cp's are #3's and I feel so fortunate to have them. They become more than your cp's they become your cheerleaders, mentors, and therapist :)

Angie Sandro said...

My cp's are also #3's, so am I. However, they're all unique and have different areas in which they excel. One finds all my echos, another my plot holes, etc. Combined, they whip my wip into shape. I couldn't do it without them.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I don't necessarily want someone to tell me how to fix something. That's really my job--at least once I'm confident enough about my writing. I want people who can tell me what works or doesn't work for, if there were places that were awkward to read or were unbelievable.

For example, my book has been through many betas and my critique group. When I was visiting with my daughter and her family, my son-in-law finally mentioned that one scene wasn't believable for him. No one else had been troubled by it, but it was an easy enough thing for me to tweak so that the story continued as it needed to but did cause him grief. That's why I like input from a variety of sources.

Five members of my online critique group read my ms. I took their suggested edits/comments and merged them all into one document. It was very telling when I could read for several pages without a comment and suddenly four or five of them all commented on a paragraph. It really didn't matter what they said. I knew there was a problem there.

Shallee said...

I love my critique partners for a lot of reasons. :) But I love that they have an ability to say, "This didn't work for me and here is why" without saying how THEY think it needs to be fixed. Of course, if I ask for suggestions, they're more than happy to offer some, and they've given some great advice that way. But I like that they respect me as a writer enough to point out what didn't work, but leave me to figure out the best way to fix my own story. It's the best of both worlds, I think. :)

Lynn(e) Schmidt said...

I literally laughed out loud at CP1. That was awesome. My best CPs are ones who tell me where stuff gets icky, or just say 'you lost me here'. Awesome post!

Lynn(e) Schmidt said...

I literally laughed out loud at CP1. That was awesome. My best CPs are ones who tell me where stuff gets icky, or just say 'you lost me here'. Awesome post!

Lynn(e) Schmidt said...

I literally laughed out loud at CP1. That was awesome. My best CPs are ones who tell me where stuff gets icky, or just say 'you lost me here'. Awesome post!

Anonymous said...

Number three is obviously the best option. I don't so much need to compliment sandwich as I want someone to tell me if something doesn't work instead of just saying "Wow! It's great!"

K.T. Hanna said...

I have a few crit partners like example 3, and I am so grateful for them. They help me make my writing improve in ways I didn't realize it could.

I have had a few 1's. In fact, I still have two of those. However, I'm trying to distance myself from the negative non-constructive crit partners. I like my critiques with a side of constructive ;)

Leigh Covington said...

I agree. I like critique partner #3. They're my fave!
And I won't linger cause I'm off to vote... NOW! :) Good luck!

Mark Noce said...

I agree:) If you need another critique partner, just let me know:)

Kate Coursey said...

Yes, I love when my critique partners give me ideas as to how I might fix things. I don't always use the ideas they suggest, but it helps get my creative juices flowing, so to speak.

It's such a fine line to walk....you want to help your CPs, but you certainly don't want to discourage them! I agree #3 is the best.

Angela Cothran said...

Ditto to everything you said, and I would add positiveness is a must!

Catherine Noble said...

I'd love a critique partner like #3, and hope to be a #3 myself! I'll be looking for one very soon, so I'm trying to learn all about critiquing at the moment!

I really dislike the sandwich technique; it strikes me as insincere!

Excellent post :)

Huntress said...

Number Three. Most definitely.

Tara Tyler said...

be honest, be specific, be what you would wnt your cp to be!

Terron James said...

Above all else, don't get involved with a critique partner who is going to school 20 credit hours! They're nothing but a deadbeat... :/

Cate Masters said...

Yep, definitely the third. Honesty, expertise, thoroughness, and a writing level equal to or above your own make for amazing crit partners. I'm lucky to have several.

The Golden Eagle said...

CP3, no doubt about that.

Peggy Eddleman said...

I think you hit the nail on the head-- someone who helps you. And that can be a little different for each person! I think the kind of person who will help you figure out how to fix the problem is the best in almost every situation.

Hope Roberson said...

I left you an award on my blog :)

Gwen said...

I don't really have a crit partner. I used to belong to a writing group, but now moved and don't want to spend the $10 on gas to go once a week...but I've always kept that separate from my bounce idea's partner. Who's my sister, which is a really good deal because she can't get rid of me when I have to drive with her in a car for three hours. ^_^

Shannon Lawrence said...

I agree that is a perfect CP. I figure some people want something different, like a person to just pat them on the back, but I also figure that won't do them any good in the long run.

Jenny S. Morris said...

I agree with everything you said. 2 other things I really like is the reactions as they read. Even if it's personal stuff and has nothing to do with the book. I get to sit next to the reader, it's awesome. The other thing is along with comments that the person didn't understand or like something I also like when they add comments about stuff they really liked. It makes my day. Oh and smiley faces. ;0)

Margo Kelly said...

Along with your points, a critique partner needs to be timely and work with you in a consitent (time wise) manner.

Great post!

Michelle Merrill said...

I agree. There needs to be a balance. And I love it when I get a mixture of all three. One of my crit partners is good for the technical, plot structure, etc. The other is good for the YA appeal. They have different strengths and I couldn't make it without either one! Great post :)