Do you have them? Critique partners, beta readers? People who will read your rough work and hold you accountable for what it can turn into?

If you don’t I’m genuinely curious about your process, and rather jealous that you can tighten and polish your own work until it’s seamless.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there are people who don’t have them, and who just edit and edit and have an amazing eye for detail themselves. Usually these people also have an editor for their books, or an agent who will look it over and provide feedback – but there are GREAT self editors out there.

Personally? I am a good self editor. But I am definitely not a great one. My biggest weakness is sensory detail in my own work, and I have a CP who has this exact strength. My strength is characterization, and this is often that same CPs weakness. See how that works? A great relationship with benefits for everyone and the possibility to flourish and improve.

I have other critique partners, I’m just using that one as an example. We all benefit from each other’s strengths. It’s that simple. And because we learn from each other, our weaknesses become less so. We grow together.

Sure, you can hire an editor to give you critique (which, don’t get me wrong, I do this. I love to critique and watch people improve). But honestly – I’d really just love people to have critique partners. You will learn from them in ways you never realized you could.

So – what are the main reasons to go hunting for critique partners?

  • You wrote a book. You’re very proud (and so you should be), and you wonder if it’s good enough to send out.
  • You think you might like to send it to an agent, but you’re not sure about the whole query process, or if there are things in your book you’ve overlooked.
  • You’ve edited your book to the best of your ability and your mom/husband/best friend loves it, but you have this uneasy feeling they’re just being nice. (Caveat – yes, sometimes you can have a critique partner who is also a best friend)
  • You’ve done some research and realize that while you’re damn proud of your work, it’s a first draft and is very likely only the beginning of a LOT more work.

If you fit any of these categories, then you should probably hunt for a critique group/partner. Further – if you just really want to practice and improve, you should probably look for one too.

Maggie Stievater does a critique partner matchup once a year. It’s March, so the comment string is already fairly long. But there is every chance, if you dig through, that you’ll find someone to approach that has a genre close to yours.

So I’ll leave that link above there for a start.

If you don’t have critique partners or even beta readers, then I urge you to consider. It’s one of the most rewarding relationships I’ve ever had. I love my CPs.

I’ll post more on where to go to find them next week, and then on how to work with their critiques.

Remember – everything is subjective – even this!