Finding the Right Match in a Critique Partner (CP)

Today, we’re talking about how to determine who the right critique partner is for you. We’re going to skip over the avenues of which to go down to find a critique partner because we have a CP Match post right here. This post is meant to dig deeper into what comes after you’ve made use of the avenues available to link up with other writers.

So you’ve emailed a possible critique partner. You both have swapped the first chapter or a partial and are now working towards giving feedback in a timely manner. Now’s the time to find out if you click with each other’s writing, notes, and overall CP styles.

On your end, you need to determine what you are looking for in a CP and what notes you are specifically looking for with the WIP/MS that you sent your prospective CP. On the other end, you also need to make sure the prospective CP that you’re trading work with has enough of an understanding of the genre that they will be reading in and vice versa for the best possible critical eye as possible.

While it certainly is helpful to have readers who may not necessarily read in your genre or age category primarily, perhaps this type of reader is more suited for a beta rather than a CP. Both of these kinds of feedback are extremely valuable. In the long run though, it is worth having a CP who is well-versed in the structure and tropes of your genre because you can’t break the rules and get away with it if you don’t know them in the first place. Having a trained eye for your genre on your work will give you better insight as to what you’ve pulled off well and what marks have been missed, why, and possibly what can be done to correct it. Ask your prospective CP who their favorite authors are as well as what their favorite movies and TV shows are. See if their taste aligns with yours and/or your WIP. Make sure you’re both looking at the same map on this road trip.

Along with genre, it’s important to make sure that the person you’re trading work with is at or above your writing level so that you’re starting at a base-line that is comfortable for both of you, as you see in the work and feedback what value is being added to the work. The value added needs to be more than a family member or friend reading and saying that part was confusing but they liked this part and that other part.

Once feedback is traded, you will be able to better determine what works and doesn’t work for you in regards to how you receive and give feedback, what your strengths and weaknesses are with feedback, and what is most helpful for your and their writing and writing journeys thus far.

Do you prefer a compliment sandwich or getting right down to the nitty gritty business of what needs to be ironed out? Are you a strong line editor? A plot wizard? (Asking for me). Is that what they are looking for? Are you best suited for giving big picture notes? Does the prospective CP fundamentally get what you are trying to do and does their perspective add to that in a positive way? Are you comfortable with your CP only presenting the issues and why they are issues or also presenting possible solutions when they come to mind? Are you sure what you’re commenting on is for the better of their story and not any reader biases you have? Are your expectations solely to trade work or will there be more involved back and forth like brainstorming sessions?

Do you want a CP to talk to about writing and publishing in general? Other things in general? Do you want to have someone to motivate and someone to hold you accountable as well? Do you want someone you can call or text when publishing gives you anxiety and you’re spiraling? Do you prefer receiving notes via email or over the phone or even over FaceTime/Skype/etc? Are you interested in sharing a WIP in the future as you write or do you prefer sending over finished, revised drafts so as not to take up too much more of anyone’s time with constant revised drafts? Have these expectations been clearly addressed?

The point of a CP is to have someone on your side who is a cheerleader but is so much more than that. It’s great to hear what we’re good at but that CP will push you to dissect what’s not working in your WIP so that you can tear it down and build it up into something even more spectacular, something closer to what an agent and/or editor could see themselves picking up. And it’s great, some would argue essential to have that writer friend that you know you can lean on when the writing and revising gets tough and as you become more and more familiar with the publishing industry and with that, your place within it.

What are you giving? What are your expectations for what you’ll be receiving? It is so important to ask these questions and understand what kind of relationship you’re about to enter into. There’s a lot to consider when you’re trading work with a prospective CP. It’s surprisingly not just about the work! That’s just the first level that you have to pass. Writing styles, feedback styles, and personalities have to click too. There are levels to this. Though it boils down to being clear about expectations and delivering on those expectations. So what do you say? Are you ready for this level of commitment for your writing and someone else’s?

For those of you who do have a CP, how did you know it was a match? Be sure to share in the comments!

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