Tips For Finding the Perfect Critique Partner
Finding a critique partner (CP) is easy.
Finding the right CP is the challenge.
It’s a bit like dating. In fact, if some industrious app developer out there wanted to, I bet they could make decent money designing a Coffee Meets Bagel for CPs.
But alas, such an app does not yet exist, so we are left to navigate these waters alone. And in my experience, these waters can get a bit choppy.
Extended metaphors aside, finding the right CP is an important step in writing the most polished drafts you can. A good CP helps you flesh out your plot, brainstorms with you through character issues, and acts as a sounding board when you simply need someone to talk at as you weave closed that pesky plot hole.
And you of course reciprocate in kind. It’s a relationship, as implied above, and that’s why it can be so hard to find Mx. Right.
If you don’t have a CP, or if you don’t feel that your current CP is the right CP, don’t panic. Just take a deep breath, and then take a few minutes to read below. It may not be a CP Finder app, but it should help.
How to find the perfect CP
If you’re just starting out and have no idea where to find a CP, or even fellow writers, I’ve got two words for you: Social. Media.
I found all of my writing friends on Instagram and I know there’s a thriving “BookTok” community on TikTok. First follow the authors you love, and then search hashtags like #writersofinstagram to peruse posts and follow who you’d like to connect with. Both of these communities are very welcoming and you’re likely to get a lot of follows in return. The next step — and this is crucial — is to engage. Relationships take work, and CP relationships are no different. You can’t know who you’ll click with if you’re just standing on the sidelines watching. Get in the game!
Side note: I am an introvert. I know joining things and talking to random people can be scary and uncomfortable, so go at your own pace. Test the waters (and someone take these metaphors away from me).
Once you’ve found folks you connect with and talked broadly about your works in progress (WIPs), you’ll have a better idea who might be a good match for you.
But Stephanie, how will I know?
Great question, reader. And the answer is communication.
CP Relationships Take Communication
CPs don’t necessarily need to write in the same genre as you, though it’s very beneficial if they at least read your genre. They don’t even need to write at the same pace as you. What’s most important is that the two of you communicate well. Not just about what books you like or how often you write, but about expectations.
If you have a complete manuscript you need critiqued and your prospective CP only has a chapter, that might be fine as long as you are both honest about your expectations. Give each other desired timelines (“Can you read this 80,000 word manuscript by the end of the month?”), and be honest with each other about your availability and energy levels (“I have a lot going on this month, how does middle of next month sound?”).
Just like with dating, communication is extremely important. If you have these conversations and it feels off to you, or if their availability and energy levels don’t meet your needs, that’s okay! Let them know that you don’t think it’ll work out and then go back to talking about books and video games.
If you do find a match in availability, the next step is to exchange a short sample of work. There are two reasons for this: you want to get a flavor for their writing because you will be reading a lot of your CP’s work and you also want to give each other a flavor for your critiquing. Some of us are brutal and blunt and some of us are flatterers but we all need a CP who is a bit of both; how much of each is a personal preference. When you exchange samples, you’ll get to see their style. Again, communication is key. If it’s not a match, politely say so. You can even use those words. “Sorry, I don’t think we’d be a good match as CPs.” And if they use those words on you, no hard feelings.
Once you’re passed the sample stage, congratulations! You’ve got yourself a CP — and hopefully the right CP. If you figure out later on they’re not the right one for you… well, come back next month and I’ll tell you how to break up with them.
Editor’s Note: We also found Twitter pitch contests to be a plentiful place to find potential CPs!