I am very fortunate. I have an awesome critique partner. Melinda won’t hesitate to tell me when I’ve gotten it right, and at the same time she’ll tell me when I’m stinking up the page. I like to think I offer the same to her. What makes our partnership work? There are many factors involved in finding the right critique match, but here are just a few things that work for us.
First, and most important, is trust. Without that you’re finished before you start. You’re putting your work in your partner’s hands in the hopes of receiving honest feedback and help in improving not just your manuscript, but also your overall craft. Bottom line trust is vital.
Complimentary skill sets are a plus. Both Melinda and I bring something different to the table. Things that I tend to be completely escape my notice she’ll pick up on and vice versus.
Have a thick skin. Being in the publishing industry, you’re going to need one anyway. You’re going to need to be able to take constructive criticism whether it comes from your critique partner or your editor. On the other hand, a good critique partner won’t try and tear you down or make you feel bad about your work. A good critique partnership is about mutual respect and honest input.
Be honest with each other. When I send pages to Melinda, I’ll tell her to tear it to shreds. Why? First, because the only way I’ll improve the story and my skills is if I have someone combing through it with a critical eye. Second, I know that the dissection will be done thoughtfully and with respect. Third, because she may have suggestions that would never occurred to me.
You don’t have to write in the same genre, but it helps to be a familiar with the genre your partner writes. A critique partner who is not familiar with your genre may be able to offer suggestions on the basic technical skills of writing, but not the nuances of the genre.
Communication is key. If you don’t feel that you can offer a helpful critique you need to let your partner know. For example, I write M/M romance. I realize it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Before I started sending chapters to Melinda or before I send to a Beta reader I let them know up front the nature of the story. I never want to send someone something they are not comfortable reading. Also, if life has gotten crazy, you need to let your partner know what kind of turn around time you can give them.
Celebrate each other’s accomplishments and be supportive when disappointments happen. Your partner will most likely be the one you turn to when things happen along your publication journey. It’s nice to have someone one to support you who also understands what you’re going through.
These are just a few suggestions of what makes a good critique partner. Do you have any other to add to the list?