Critiquing is a critical part of the author’s journey. Whatever your writing, beta readers and writing buddies are a must. If you don’t ask for feedback, you’re not going to produce your best product. So, put ego aside and get psyched to find yourself a stellar critique partner, one who is willing to be honest, yet respectful, and is dedicated to helping you make your book shine.
Conferences, classes, associations, book clubs, writer’s groups, bulletin boards, virtual meetups, social media, and industry networking are the most common ways to find a critique group. It’s emotionally challenging to find a person, or group of people, who you know, like, and trust and are willing to share your precious work with. That’s why it may take a couple of tries until you make the connection. You may need to try out a few folks before you settle into that partnership. That’s okay. This is a beginning of a beautiful friendship.
To help you make your match, my author friends and experts share advice on how to find good critique partners.
“I believe it’s beneficial for writers to establish and maintain a robust literary community. In the early stages of my writing journey, I joined a local writer’s circle. Honest feedback from the group helped me hone my craft. In 2019, I joined a book club for aviation professionals, eager to share and discuss books with fellow jet-setting bibliophiles. While prepping for the release of my debut romance novel in 2020, I searched for websites and social media pages geared toward readers and writers. These pages offered invaluable insight and wisdom to brand-new authors like me.
After completing my second novel, I asked my book club to critique the manuscript. Since the members have diverse backgrounds and preferences, their feedback helped me tailor the book to achieve broad appeal. I don’t think there’s a perfect formula for the number of beta-readers/critique partners a writer should enlist; it depends on several factors, including whether the book broaches sensitive topics. My second novel addressed racial injustice, homophobia, and systemic oppression. I wanted as many critique partners as possible, to ensure no theme was presented in an inaccurate or dismissive manner.” ~ Lisa Wilkes is a licensed social worker (LMSW), flight attendant, animal rescuer, and author of two acclaimed romance novels and Mid-Flight.
“We place our hearts on our pages. Consider that visual and now imagine whom you would want to care for that heart. The most courageous thing a writer can do is consistently allow their heart writing to be critiqued. A critique partner is saving you from bad Amazon reviews. A critique partner is nudging you to go further with that title choice. Also? Pay attention to your body’s reaction to feedback. I know I’ve found an ace of a critique partner when there is warmth in their voice (this allows my whole body to exhale and become open to the process).
I also politely shut up and let them do the talking… I don’t try to explain, I simply absorb their words. (And by the way, once a reader has your book in their hands, you won’t be there to explain anything!) It doesn’t matter if it’s two or twenty—there is no perfect number of critique partners, but if you bring in a crowd, expect the myriad feedback to send you in circles. I have found success when a critique partner thoroughly understands my genre (I’m a Flash/Short-Form writer) and brings a calm voice to the table. We are not meant to be everything for everyone. But with the right critique partner, we can connect to our readers and get to the heart of the story.” ~ Kelly Q. Anderson is an award-winning short-form writer, word artist, and the VP of Off Campus Writers’ Workshop.
“I was asked to start a critique group at a local Barnes & Noble, have been involved with critique groups, and used to teach my students how to become good critique partners. I’d love to participate with your Author’s Journey column about Finding a Critique Partner. (I have to tell you that just yesterday, I came across the handout I used to give my students, thinking, I should write about this again in one of my blogs. Synchronicity? I’m a big believer in it. 😉
Having good critique partners, good beta readers, finding a good editor or becoming one yourself is part of that path of building an expert network, IMO. I’m all about surrounding myself with people who inspire me, people who support what I’m doing, and people who emit positivity.” ~ Award-winning writer, Diana Stout is a screenwriter, author, former English professor, and has served as a contest judge for Hollywood organizations and various organizations’ writing contests.
“Finding a good critique partner can be a challenge. What I’ve found most useful is to join writing groups, develop a rapport with other authors, and ask to critique their opening chapters in exchange for them doing yours. If you both share a similar writing style and genre, and most importantly, you enjoyed what you’d already read, ask to see the full manuscript. Not all exchanges will work out, and sometimes it’s hard to find someone who you click with. As a natural introvert, my biggest problem was finding the courage to make that first request. Once I got past that fear and worked through critique swaps that ultimately weren’t meant to be, I found a few authors who have been invaluable to me. Just keep trying, and with enough time and effort, hopefully, you’ll find a good critique partner. ~ Amber Daulton, author of the romantic suspense series, Arresting Onyx.
Finding a good critique partner takes some effort and investment of time.
But once you’ve found yourself a partner, rest assured you’ve got a valuable resource to help you build a book others want to read. Be grateful. Not just in words but in action. Build on these six ways of being a good critique partner and strive to forge a professional friendship that is not only mutually beneficial, but sustainable. Because good, and great, critique partners are hard to find.