Tips on Critique Partner Etiquette
I'm fortunate to have found some really excellent critique partners, but it took time! The people I interact with not only understand my vision for my books, but they're not afraid to call me out on things, and they are always there when I need to talk about writing (or life in general!). In fact, my CP Kim Chance has become one of my very best friends. We talk daily and even traveled together in March to attend her panel and signing at the New York Teen Author Festival. While in NYC, we recorded a vlog all about CPs that will run on Kim's channel on April 10th. :)
Kim and I talk a lot about our CP relationship (like A LOT), and therefore we also get a lot of questions. Like what are CPs? How do you trust them? How do you interact with them, etc. . . While we cover much of this in Kim's upcoming vlog, it got me thinking that some bullet points on critique partner etiquette might be helpful.
The basics when it comes to finding & interacting with CPs:
First and foremost, don’t go sliding into a complete stranger's DMs asking for a critique if you’ve never even chatted with them before. It’s best to get to know the person a little first, and in return, let them get to know you. At the very least, you should be mutually following one another.
Consider the category & genre this person reads and writes. Would they fit into your target audience? Do they know the ins and outs of your genre?
If you ask someone to critique for you, you need to be willing to swap a critique in return.
Do not get offended if someone says no. A quality manuscript critique takes A LOT of time. It’s a huge commitment, so be aware some people may have too much on their plates to fulfill this request.
When the relationship is brand-new, consider swapping the first few chapters rather than a whole manuscript. This way you both get a chance to see each other’s work, and decide if it’s something you vibe with/can provide constructive criticism on before committing to reading a full novel.
Be prepared to list your critiquing strengths.
Ask what sort of feedback your prospective CP is looking for and respect it. Do they have specific questions about pacing, or world-building? Do they want you to focus on big-picture aspects of the book, or do they want you point out anything and everything?
Be specific. If a scene/character/plot point doesn’t work for you, tell them why. This will not only help them, but it's great craft homework for you as well!
Praise the things you do like! Don’t just focus on the stuff that needs fixing. It’s important for the writer to know where they’re hitting you in the feels, too!
Observe some sort of deadline. Even if you don’t set a date in stone, a little check-in here and there to tell them where you are in the process is always appreciated. :)
Make your comments in track changes. Don’t just send a random list of notes. Track changes allow the author to see the exact areas your critique is addressing.
Take yourself out of the equation. Don’t rewrite things the way ‘you’ would write them. If a line sounds especially awkward, maybe suggest a re-word, but it is not your job to turn your CP’s book into something that sounds like it was written by you. Respect their vision/voice.
Do not argue against comments. You can ask for clarification, but don’t let your ego get the best of you. The reader is entitled to their opinion of your story. Your job is to understand why the felt the way they did (especially if it doesn’t match up with your intention for the scene, character, etc.).
Be grateful. The person reading and critiquing your manuscript is likely taking a good chunk out of their own writing time to do it. Always, always, always thank them.
Unless stated outright, do not assume a CP is going to automatically help you brainstorm for the next draft. Brainstorming takes even more time and it’s not your CP’s job to fix holes for you----only to point them out.
And remember: It’s OK to choose not to go back to someone for further crits (and it’s equally OK if they don’t ask you to crit again either!). Finding the right CP is all about trial and error. There's no magic wand. Look for the people whom you can rely on, whose writing strengths complement your writing weaknesses, and search out those who 'get' your vision and can help you unlock the best ways to expand upon it.
And, as always,