Thor's Thoughts: Critique Partners
My alter-ego has been revising a manuscript for a few months now. I have to say, the story she is writing has changed much since the first draft. Always, the changes are for the better. The source of said changes are the amazing critique partners she has gathered around herself.
A critique partner is a very important resource for a writer, and can also be very elusive. When one is beginning their writing journey, they often have no one to read for them except close friends and family. If these people are objective, that is fine. But often, they are not. The best option for a beginner is to find a writing community and begin to make friends.
Online or in person, if you can find a writing community where you fit in, you are learning, and you feel your input matters, you have won. Go to your friends in said community, whether it is a critique group, an online forum, or what have you, and offer to read their manuscripts.
Notice I said OFFER to read THEIR manuscripts.
Do not shove YOUR work under their noses and beg them to read. This, while sometimes effective, does not usually turn out well.
Offer to read for them. Be excited to read for them. Ask them what kind of notes they are looking for, and make sure you do exactly that. If you loved their writing, say so. If you loved their characters, say so. If you give an honest critique, they will respect you. And, as is common in the writing community, they will likely offer to return the favor for you.
The more people you read for, the more offers you will *likely* get. (This is not fail proof, only courtesy. Some people will not return the favor, but you do not want them for critique partners anyway.) In the beginning, let them read for you. As many as you are comfortable with. Realize you do not have to take every piece of advice offered. It is your story, not theirs.
However, take note of what rings true. What if you wrote character reactions that you knew, deep down, were not right? What if you wrote them that way because it was easier, and brushed off the feeling, in hopes that no one would notice? The critique partner who calls you out on that is a gem. Keep them.
What if you wrote a scene that you love, and you know, deep down, that it should be cut? The critique partner who reasons you into it is an asset. Keep them.
The ones who understand your writing strengths and weaknesses, the ones who you could be happy letting critique everything you have ever written or will write, the ones you trust with your work without a second thought: those are your critique partners. Keep them.
They may come from an in-person group, online forum, social media, or some other source. You may never meet them in real life (which would be a travesty). But if you trust them, they are your critique partners.
It should be noted, this process takes time. And not every critique partner will be from the same source. They may not know each other, they may not even like each other. But they do not have to be each other's critique partners.
Beyond anything else, the way to *keep* a critique partner is to make sure you thank them for their time and energy spent on your work. Always realize that they do not have to. They are doing it because they want to. And if they say they are busy, or cannot get to it right away, respect that. And be sure to do the same for them. Be there for them whenever you can. Support and encourage them. Do not just be a critique partner -- be a friend.
I hope this assists you in your writing journey. Good luck, and may the Writing Gods smile upon you.