Critique partners: do you need them?
That was a rhetorical question. Yes, yes you do.
Once upon a time, I thought all I needed were my family and friends to read my book and give me feedback.
I was wrong. Here’s why:
A) They’re your family and friends. Even if they say they won’t, they WILL sugarcoat what’s wrong with your novel and/or only focus on the good things. Which is a great ego-booster. Not so great at making your novel the best it can be.
B) There really is nothing like getting feedback from another writer. They spot things readers simply don’t, and can also give you advice on how to fix it. Win-win.
So, other-writer critique partners. It works like this: you exchange manuscripts, either chapter-by-chapter or in one fell swoop. Then you get together, either in person or virtually, and exchange feedback. Depending on your agreement with them, you might revise and send back. Ideally it’s a long-term relationship that’s mutually beneficial.
So how do you go about finding these wonderful people?
1. Twitter I found my first-ever stranger critique partners by doing a simple Twitter search of “YA critique partner”. Another way to do this is to look for critique partner matches agents and bloggers sometimes hold on Twitter, but if you don’t feel like waiting for one to come around, a simple search will do.
2. Writing classes I found the really great writing group I was a part of for years through taking classes at Gotham. I enjoyed the class itself, but it was pricey, and really the best part of it was connecting with likeminded people. A guy in my class felt the same way, so we decided to continue meeting after the class ended. And that guy had a friend who he met through another class, then that guy had another writer friend, and lo and behold, a writing group was born.
In-person writing groups are awesome because A) you can meet over beer and B) it’s just nice to get away from your screen and talk about your heart’s passion in real life.
Caveat: In-person writing groups require commitment. We had about ten other people over the years who expressed interest in joining and then would never show up. Don’t be those people.
Second caveat: I’ve found four or six people to be the magic number with writing groups. Three is too few, plus even numbers are bad because if there’s conflicting feedback, it’s hard to figure out whose to go with. And any more you can get an overwhelming amount of feedback (plus the group takes way too long to get through everyone’s work.)
3. Join a local writers’ chapter After thinking about it for a year, I finally bit the bullet and joined SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). Since I write YA and they have a super-active NYC chapter, this made a lot of sense for me. I initially balked at the membership fee, but with membership you get discounts at events, access to other writers, and so much more. I found both a new critique group (my old one disbanded when half of it moved away) and a new critique partner via their message boards. That alone makes it worth the money to me.
That’s what I got. Have you ever found a critique partner anywhere else? Let me know!