The Critique Partner from Hell, or
One Hell of a Critique Partner
Copyright 2002 Terescia Harvey
See my reprint guidelines.
Many requirements of a good critique partner vary from person to person, but some are important enough that you should always look for these characteristics in anyone with whom you are considering becoming partners. Building a good relationship with your critique partner is vital to maintaining a productive relationship.
What makes a bad critique partner?
- Is that her husband you hear laughing in the background when you ask her what she thought of your latest efforts?
- It takes two months to get back a 5 page scene you sent her. And even then the remarks are sketchy.
- Okay, let's clear something up: Critique partners should make suggestions, not demands.
- And of course, when she demands you make changes, and then gives an example for you to follow, you fight an irresistable urge to laugh. Don't all the how-to books say you shouldn't use dialogue tags to describe character emotion?
- She can dish it out, but she sure can't take it!
What makes a good critique partner?
- She never lets others see your work, even under the threat of torture. If you can't trust each other, what's the point?
- You read something she sends you and you are amazed. The witch writes twice as good as you do, even in your dreams.
- A basic grasp of grammar and punctuation never hurts, since one cannot always depend upon one's own ability to tell a semicolon from a comma at three in the morning (one of the best times for writing, in my opinion).
- She is firm in her belief that you are a good writer, but she is never hesitant to point out ways for you to improve your craft.
Do you like this person? I mean, you don't have to, and that's a fact, despite what some people might say. However--and this is a big, big however--if you don't like this person, the first time she (or he) gives you a critical analysis of your work that you don't agree with, you will be tempted beyond belief to chalk it up to what you perceive as this person's character flaws. So if you don't like this person, think long and hard about taking her on as a critique partner. You have to really believe you will learn something from this person that you couldn't learn from anyone else.
It doesn't matter what genre or category your critique partner writes in. No, seriously, it doesn't matter. What matters is what genres or categories your critique partner reads. You want someone who knows what your readers will expect, because let's face it, romance readers have certain expectations, whether they're regency period readers, romantic suspense readers, or Harlequin Blaze readers. If your story doesn't meet those expectations, you aren't going to have much luck (if any) finding a buyer for that book.
Don't be afraid to try people out. No one (normal anyway) will mind if you want a trial period before you make a partnership official. It's worth the effort and time involved to find the right person. When I found my current critique partner, the quality of my writing improved, and I started writing twice as much as I was writing before I met her--my competitive spirit kicked in (and having someone eagerly waiting for the next chapter sure didn't hurt). And now, I can honestly say, my critique partner is one of the best friends I have.
Writing is hard work, and every good writer deserves one hell of a critique partner. So get out there and find one, and by the way, don't be afraid to dump that critique partner from hell--just don't forget to change your email address before you do it...
© Terescia Harvey
Please do not copy, reprint, or redistribute this article in any way without permission. Thanks.