Monday, January 14, 2013

Finding The Right Critique Partner - It's Probably Not Your Friend

Finding the best critique partner for your writing can be a huge challenge. Like marriage, this truly has to be a partnership that will work through all of the good times and the bad. Along the same lines, this has to be a relationship that can help each writer grow as writers.

Too often, I find authors picking critique partners for completely wrong reasons. The biggest is that this person is their best friend. They do everything together so why wouldn't the writing thing work just as well? The simple answer is that you are friends. It is the friendship that came first, and, as a result, it is the friendship that will likely block most of your growth as an author. Despite all of your best intentions and despite everything you might say, if there becomes a challenge when it comes to critiques, human nature has demonstrated that the friendship will over-ride that truthful critique that needs to be made.

In some cases, that frienship means that you end up sandwiching the negative comment in between two positive comments. Now, while this type of critique is good and we do need to hear good things every now and then, the sandwiching method does over-shadow what needs to be done on the manuscript. In the end, we only end up hearing the good stuff.

A second problem with finding a critique partner is that you find someone who really doesn't know what he or she is doing. This one actually happens more often than not. Now you end up in a situation of "the blind leading the blind." Let me give you two analogies of this one. My daughter just moved to a new stable with her horse. Although everyone has great intentions, most of the riders there are "self-taught," and it isn't unlikely for us to show up for her to practice and hear these people "teaching" the other person what to do. Again, intentions are good, but the growth that needs to take place may only happen out of luck and not so much due to quality training. The second analogy is that of Toastmasters International. Please, do not get me wrong - this is a great group, but again, in many of the chapters, you have people teaching others how to do effective public speaking but really don't know how to do it effectively for themselves. Intentions are good, but...

Finding that great critique partner requires looking at several factors and doing so with an open eye and a sense of true honesty:
  • Skill and education of the authors
  • Common goals as writers
  • A sense of writing discipline
  • An ability to speak the truth regardless of how hard it might be
  • An ability to accept the truth regardless of how hard it might be
I fully understand that finding a great critique partner is tough. Sometimes you do have to just "work with what you have," but that does not mean you shouldn't go out there and really find the best. And for those of you who think you can do this without some outside feedback, you are probably in worse shape than you think.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I linked back to it from, a group blog on critique and the writing process. I hope that's okay!