Critique Partners

20 May

We’re really excited to officially announce a new part of the blog today–the Critique Partners page! After a reader suggested a sort of “Critique Partner Speed Dating,” we couldn’t wait to try the idea out. A few people have already taken the plunge and put up profiles. If you’re looking for a CP, please take a few moments to fill out the information. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up with the critique partner of your dreams…!

And while we’re on the topic of critique partners, here’s Kat Zhang with an article on just the thing.

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Critique Partners

by Kat Zhang

As a writer, you quickly learn that one of the most prized gifts you can receive is an honest critique. Sometimes (or should I say most of the time?) our work is too close to our heart for us to see its imperfections. I like to say that my stories are my best friends, my babies, and my worst enemies all at once. I simply don’t trust myself with them. When I love them to bits, I wonder if it’s just my motherly instinct telling me that my child can never be less than perfect. When I hate them and want to throw them out the window, I wonder if it’s that enmity coming into play.

So when I find someone who will look over my bundle of joy (or worst nightmare, depending on the day—or hour—or minute) and tell me straight up, no frills, what he or she thinks, I count myself extremely blessed. A good critique partner is often hard to find. Some turn out to be more cheerleaders than critiquers—they love everything you write! Nothing should be changed! Not a word!

I’m not putting down the value of a good cheerleader (or saying that a good critique partner will never say any of the above—maybe you just wrote a really kick-ass book!), but as writers, we need to be continuously growing, and there are very, very few of us who really “don’t need to change a thing.”

I say all this now, but I’d have to be the first to raise my hand if someone asked “But don’t you just feel bad sometimes when people say they don’t like something about your story?” I think I’m thick skinned, but there’s always that twinge in my heart when someone points out what needs to be fixed in one of my works.

Writers, I think, often tend to be more sensitive than the average person. We need to be in order to throw ourselves into other people’s lives and capture them onto paper. But the same sensitivity that allows us to write can make it hard to take critique.

So whenever I find myself getting depressed or even hurt by something a reader has said, I remind myself of the following.

It is much, much easier to bang out a “Great story! I loved everything. Can’t wait to see what happens next!” than it is to type out a list of things that didn’t quite work out. Your reader put effort into expressing his or her thoughts. They gave up their time to help you—and you know what that means? It means they like you, they really like you!

Just kidding. Well, no, I mean—they probably do like you, but—okay, getting back on track. The point is, your critique partner is not saying these things to make you feel bad, or because they secretly hate you. Quite the opposite! We all know this logically, but sometimes the best of us are insensible when it comes to taking feedback.

Of course, there will be times when you and your critique partner may simply disagree. I wouldn’t say either of you are “right,” since so much of writing is subjective (a good reason to have more than one critique partner!), but if you’ve really thought about a suggest a CP has made, and in the end, you just can’t see where they’re coming from, it may just be a case of differing opinions. Your critique partner’s job is to tell you what they think, and your job is to put aside your prejudices and consider each one of their comments. If, after careful consideration, you still find yourself disagreeing, then it’s perfectly fine to leave your story the way you like it.

Finally, I would like to mention that being a critique partner usually means giving as good as you get. The best way to say thank you for a good, well thought out critique is to write one in return. But don’t think that reviewing your CP’s work is just “paying your dues.” I have learned so much through critiquing other’s work. By forcing yourself to analyze a story, picking out its strengths and weaknesses, you start to see these same factors in your own story.

I’ve heard people say that writing is a lonely profession. Well, it may be true that we spend more time than most isolated at our desks, tap-tap-tapping away. But few people truly write a book totally alone, and you certainly don’t have to! As someone who never had a true critique partner until recently, I can tell you—they rock my world.

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Kat Zhang is an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing. She spends most of her free time either preparing to query HYBRID or pounding out the first draft of THE FINEST OF LINES. Both are YA novels. You can read about her writing process and thoughts at her blog.

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28 Responses to “Critique Partners”

  1. Sarah J. Maas May 20, 2010 at 12:05 AM #

    Awesome, thoughtful post, Kat!!! Really wonderful job! 🙂

    • Kat Zhang May 20, 2010 at 8:19 AM #

      Thank you, Sarah!

  2. Samantha W May 20, 2010 at 12:18 AM #

    I’m so thrilled for the CPS page! ^_____^

    • Kat Zhang May 20, 2010 at 8:19 AM #

      We’re all really excited about it, too! Hopefully, it’ll prove useful to many people.

    • Sarah J. Maas May 20, 2010 at 1:31 PM #

      Well, we have YOU to thank for it, don’t we? 🙂 Brilliant idea!!!

  3. svonnah May 20, 2010 at 8:23 AM #

    Great article, Kat! Very conversational 🙂

  4. Julie Eshbaugh May 20, 2010 at 8:34 AM #

    How I WISH I’d had access to something like our new CP page before I found my CPs!!!! It can be a challenge to find an impartial, honest critic. Great post, Kat. I’m really excited to hear back from people who find CPs trough LTWF!!! 🙂

    • Vanessa May 20, 2010 at 8:53 AM #

      For some reason, I just pictured those commercials from those dating sites, but for us with critique partners instead!

      • Kat Zhang May 20, 2010 at 9:09 AM #

        Yeah, like eHarmony or Match.com, lol. I wanted to put a “I like blah, blah, and long, moonlit walks on the beach…” joke in there ;P

  5. Vanessa May 20, 2010 at 8:54 AM #

    Great article Kat!!!! 😀 I loved your voice in it!

    • Kat Zhang May 20, 2010 at 9:09 AM #

      Thank you 🙂

  6. Rowenna May 20, 2010 at 9:17 AM #

    Super post, Kat! Especially about writing being lonely–we have to reach out for the sake of our books (babies? books…).

    • Kat Zhang May 20, 2010 at 9:43 AM #

      Books, babies, same thing 😉 But seriously, writing can be such a social process, too, and I think many people don’t realize that!

  7. Becca May 20, 2010 at 9:34 AM #

    Fantastic article, Kat!

    [Writers, I think, often tend to be more sensitive than the average person. We need to be in order to throw ourselves into other people’s lives and capture them onto paper. But the same sensitivity that allows us to write can make it hard to take critique.]

    Could not have said it any better. HOW TRUE!!

    It is amazing what CPs/reviewers pick up my writing! And you’re right, while there is the initial twinge or embarrassment from what they find, in the end, I get sooo excited to make the revisions based on what they suggested!

    Thanks again!

    -Becca

    • Kat Zhang May 20, 2010 at 9:44 AM #

      Thank you, Becca! I know what you mean about being excited about revisions! If I’m just editing and editing by myself, I tend to run out of steam. But send me a good critique, and I’m rearing to go again, lol.

  8. Biljana May 20, 2010 at 10:06 AM #

    Awesome, awesome article! Great tone. And I couldn’t agree more about CPs being honest! I really had no idea how much I lucked out with mine until people starting telling me cheerleading horror sorties of their own.

    • Kat Zhang May 20, 2010 at 12:50 PM #

      Yeah, there’s nothing like a “OMG I LOVE THIS” to stroke the ego and encourage more writing, but it doesn’t do much as far as improvement is concerned 😛

  9. Gabriela da Silva May 20, 2010 at 10:53 AM #

    Good article! I’m really interested in the CP page,I might try it as I get more and more of my book translated (80/224 pages now -.-).

    But what makes me wary of CPs – especially those you find through the internet – is that I don’t really know about them.

    And I’m not talking about what they like to do on Staurday evenings, I mean about their writing & correcting capabilities.

    In other words, who are these people? I’m not the greatest writer ever, but (even if this sounds pedantic) are they good enough to correct me?
    Do they have any experience critizicing, would they be mean just for the kicks?

    I realize all of this sounds paranoid and that the only way I can learn that, and find a CP who suits me, is by trying. But I can’t help worrying, you know?
    I guess the best CP is one whose writing and abilities you respect from before she/he began to critizice you, but sometimes that’s not easy to find, I guess.

    • Kat Zhang May 20, 2010 at 12:53 PM #

      I hope you do try out the CP page! And good luck with your translating–what’s that process like? I know a lot of things in Spanish don’t exactly translate well into English–especially metaphorical things.

      And I know what you mean about not quite trusting a stranger’s opinion. I had the good luck of knowing my CPs were great writers before the first critique. Maybe if you and the person you were considering could send each other your stories first so you could gauge how well matched you were?

  10. Myra May 20, 2010 at 4:12 PM #

    Interesting post! I’ve been thinking about getting a CP lately and this would be SO helpful when the time comes. I think I’ll post a little blurb myself once I figure out what I’m actually doing… and, uh, my story is polished enough for another human being besides me to be able to read it. ;p

    • Kat Zhang May 20, 2010 at 5:59 PM #

      I hope you do! 😀

  11. Angela May 20, 2010 at 5:12 PM #

    Great post. I also might consider getting a CP. I`m afraid that school, dance, and work is preventing me from writing a lot, so I`m afraid that the critique partner process would be hard since we won`t be able to talk a lot.

    You know what I mean, right?

    • Kat Zhang May 20, 2010 at 6:02 PM #

      You do sound really busy! I’m sure there are other people out there who’d be happy to just send critiques back and forth once a month or so. As long as everyone knows the game plan from the beginning, it shouldn’t be a problem!

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