It's hard to see your own work objectively. We become caught up in our stories and are working on so many levels that it's difficult to step back. We know the story, the secret motivations, the backstories that we don't put in our work. With all that running around in our heads, it can be hard to see how the story works for a reader who doesn't have all this knowledge. This is where a critique partner (CP) comes in.
A CP is an important part of the writing process. If you have more than one, even better. The purpose of a CP is just as it sounds, someone who reads your work and gives honest feedback on it. The person can critique everything from story structure, plot, and characters to the finer details like grammar and wording. In exchange, you critique your partner's work.
It takes a little practice critiquing, but as you learn more about writing, you know what to look for. Sometimes just pointing out areas of confusion or a different idea on a scene can be immensely helpful.
I've leaned a lot being a CP. It's a great way to apply what you learn about the writing process. When you read someone else's work, its easier to pick out ways to improve or other issues. I have found that doing this makes it easier to spot some of the same issues in my writing. Sometimes I see the way another writer handled something, a description, a character, etc., and it gives me an idea of how I could handle a similar aspect.
Being a CP, you also get to read some great stories and help make them better. It's exciting to know you're working on something that could one day be published, and when it does, you were part of that.
The best critique partners aren't afraid to give you honest feedback. They point out areas where there are problems or need improvements in a way that's not harsh, just honest. It's not only about pointing out what's not working, it's also pointing out what is working. I try to leave comments when I feel good tension has been built, something about the character or scene really shines, or if something surprises me. Doing this is as important as pointing out the weaknesses because it allows your CP to see strengths in the project. It can be hard to know what is working in a story as much as what isn't working.
Receiving critiques isn't always easy. Remember that your CP is trying to help better your story. A good CP will usually note that the thoughts are her own and you can use what works for you and disregard the rest. To be a good CP, you'll do the same. I never get offended if a CP doesn't use my suggestions.
Finding a critique partner can be challenging. First you want someone you can work with and secondly, you want someone who understand your genre and vice versa. Sometimes it's good to start by trading query letters or a short story.
I found my CPs on social media. Watch for someone looking for a CP or asking if anyone has time to read his/her work. My first CP came off #amwriting via Twitter.
Here's a few places to find a CP:
Look for writing groups in your community or online.
Whiskey, Wine & Writing is a fabulous website and I recommend listening to their webcasts. The ladies are knowledgeable and entertaining, and they bring on wonderful guests. They also have a CP listing.
Ava Jae blogged about where to find CPs here.
On Twitter you can also use #critiquepartner or watch during contests like #PitMad, #AdPit, #QueryKombat, etc.
I've found making connections on social media the best way to find a critique partner. I've met some wonderful people, some who have become friends and have provided support during the more challenging times of my writing journey.
Where did you meet your CP(s)?