I’m a day late posting this, but I have a good excuse! Yesterday was a crazy busy, absolutely wonderful day, because I finished my latest round of revisions on my manuscript. The kernel of this particular story popped into my head nearly two years ago. I started a draft, got a quarter of the way in, and realized it was totally wrong. I restarted, slogged through it, and finished the first draft about a year ago. Then I realized that although the idea and characters were good, the entire plot was wrong. So I restarted again. Fifty thousand words in, and a brilliant new idea struck me—an idea that forced me to restart. Again. This past winter, I finished again, but it was a mess. I cut out two points of view, thirty thousand words, and a few unnecessary plot lines, and then it was time to pass it off to (bum bum bum) critique partners. Working with their suggestions, I overhauled the manuscript yet again, deleting characters and adding scenes and polishing everything to the best of my abilities. Then it was time to find a few more critique partners (who are now reading this latest draft).
I really cannot overstate the importance of getting readers you trust. A good CP can also be a friend to bounce ideas off of, squeal about the latest episode of The 100, and get book recommendations from. Being a writer is hard—don’t go at it alone!
Since I’m so entrenched in the critiquing process right now, I thought it would be a good time for a series on critiques. Welcome to part one: how to find a critique partner.
It’s great to have family and friends read your story (especially if they read widely in the genre you write), but there’s something wonderful about a reader who’s also a writer. Another writer will probably be more aware if your main character’s motivation isn’t clear or if the conflict doesn’t ramp up at the right pace. Though readers are often able to identify that something feels off, sometimes it takes another writer to articulate what the exact problem is!
Here’s who I chose to read my story:
- English teachers I’m still close to
- Teenagers who read YA
Here’s who I chose as my critique partners:
- Friends from writing sites
- Writers I met through authors’ blogs
- Peers from creative writing classes
I’ll break down each of those here.
Friends from writing sites
Years ago, I was an active member of KidPub (if you’re still young, consider this a not-so-subtle plug). It was a great place for me to try my hand at poetry (spoiler alert: it’s not my forte), short stories, and of course, novels. With a team of friends/young writers cheering me on, I finished my first book. Their praise, advice, and suggestions helped bolster my confidence and improved my writing tenfold.
Fortunately, I’m still in touch with some of the friends I made here. I trust their feedback and know they will be both honest and supportive.
Though I was never a particularly active member of any other writing sites, I know many aspiring authors swear by Figment and Wattpad. I’ve heard good things about Scribophile. Others love the tumblr writing community. If you’re interested in getting to know other writers, try finding an online community that works for you. If you really mesh with another writer’s style, reach out to them and see if they’d be interested in exchanging work.
Writers I met through authors’ blogs
Authors know how important a good critique partner is. For that reason, a number of them set up ways for writers to meet one another. I found three critique partners so far through Maggie Stiefvater’s Critique Partner Love Connection. Susan Dennard has a forum on her site for finding a CP. I’ve also seen CP match-ups on Publishing Crawl.
Though these forums may be dormant right now, there’s no harm in shooting an email to someone who posted. The forums get revived every once in a while, so keep checking back. I find authors’ websites to be a great resource, because if you and your potential CP both love the same author, you already know that your tastes intersect.
Peers from creative writing classes
Okay, here, I’ll just admit to being really lucky. I’m fortunate enough to go to a college with an awesome creative writing department. This past year, I got to take classes on fiction, creative nonfiction, fantasy and sci-fi, and best of all, YA. My YA class was a small workshop, and I was stunned by the stories some of my classmates produced. Luckily for me, I made some friends who were willing to keep reading my stuff after the class ended.
I realize not everyone can be fortunate enough to take a class like this. But you don’t need to be a college student with a convenient spread of classes to choose from to find a critique partner. Tons of cities have creative writing classes and workshops. Check out what’s available nearby, and see if you can meet any like minded writers—and learn something while you’re at it!
I hope this helps ease some fears about the daunting process of finding a critique partner. For the next segment in the series, I’m going to talk about how to write a good critique, so be sure to check back in for that!