Mar 3, 2015 · 36 Comments
One of the most useful people you'll ever find as a writer, is a good critique partner. If you can find the perfect one for you, your critique (or crit) partner will do more to shape your writing than just about anyone else. They will usually be the first person who reads your stories, and the person who does most to shape them. And, if you're super lucky like me, they might even end up as the best friend you ever had. I got extremely lucky. Natalie is about the best person anyone could have as a friend, and the fact she's an amazing critique and writing partner is a massive bonus.
A crit partner isn't necessarily someone you write your stories with, although in our case it ended up that way too (although we both still write our own solo stories too, and share those with each other for critiquing). Whether I'm writing a story alone, or with Nat, she's always the first person who sees anything I write, and the person whose opinion I value most. She's made me a better writer, a million times over. The best crit partner is someone who is great at things you're not so great at, who can let you know their thoughts without crushing the fragile little glass butterfly that is your ego, and can challenge you to become a better writer.
Natalie and I met through our blogs years and years and years ago (I say that because I have a memory made of swiss cheese and I have lost count of how many years and years it's been!). At first we shared our stories for fun, then for critiques, and then, one day, decided to try writing a book together (THE FAKE). In my next post, I'll let you know how we go about the practical business of writing a story together.
Storybird is a great place to connect with other writers. It's almost like one ginormous writing group. You could try leaving thoughtful comments on others' work, and you can ask your readers for feedback in the comments or making use of your chapter notes. You might notice someone who comments a lot on your work with ideas that make a lot of sense to you. One of the great things about Storybird is that you can use it like a giant critique group.
When you offer critiques on other peoples' work it can help you learn about what doesn't work in your own writing too. It's often easier to see that sort of stuff in someone else's work than in your own. Storybird is super perfect for that.
If you have found someone else who likes to write through school, you could both make use of Storybird together by checking out other peoples' work, too. Remember to try and be as positive and useful as you can with your comments. It's always easier to hear criticism if it's given with some positive comments too.
Here's a little list of things to look for in a crit partner, since I LOVE writing lists!
1) Someone you get on with (you don't have to be best friends, or even friends, but it helps if you at least like each other!)
2) Someone on a similar writing level to you. Someone who can challenge you to do better, without being way ahead of you or behind you. That way, you're both getting the best out of the arrangement.
3) Someone who writes the sort of stories you love to read. Natalie and I are each others' biggest fans, first and foremost. I genuinely cannot wait to open my email and see new work from Nat. I'd read anything she wrote and love it. When I write something I'm super proud of, I'm always giggling with glee as I send it off for Nat to see! I know what will make her laugh, and cry, and in a way, I write most of my stories for her first of all. If she loves them, I know I did well.
4) Someone who works at a similar pace to you. This one changes from story to story, so it's a bit of a general guideline. Sometimes Nat is inspired when I'm not, and vice versa, but it'd be a bit tough to keep up if one of us wrote a book a month and the other one took all year about it.
5) It helps a lot if your partner is strong in the things you're weak at, and if you are good at the things they struggle with. For me, I'm writing books set in America and written for American audiences when I'm not American and have only been there twice. Nat helps me hugely with that. If I didn't have her, I'd still be calling trash cans rubbish bins, and windshields windscreens, and a whole bunch of other things! Nat is better at American grammar than me, knows where a comma should be (I'm mostly just guessing), and helps me make better characters. I'm not entirely sure she's bad at anything. (I definitely got the best end of this deal!)
6) If your partner can also help you find the best carrot cake in all the world, make you your first ever s'more, and not panic when you decide to get a bad case of altitude sickness (while not actually at enormous altitude) then you really have it made! This one isn't essential to your writing process, I guess, but it sure doesn't hurt!
So, that's the basics of finding the right crit partner for you. When it comes to working together, you can figure out a method that works for you. Nat and I tend to share each chapter as we write it (especially if we're writing a book together--more on that next time), but some partners don't share til they've finished the entire book. I prefer sharing chapters since we can help each other before things go down the wrong path entirely.
Your first crit partner might not work out in the end, but when you find the right one, they're worth their weight in gold!
Do you have a crit partner/s? How did you meet, and how do you work together?
Let me know if you've got any questions or ideas for more posts!