Critique Partners are a complicated business. When I first started writing I was very lucky to have had awesome friends who gave amazing feedback. But after a couple years, most moved on from writing, or got too distracted by college, family, and/or jobs. Which was fine — I’m still friends with most today.
Except it left me without anyone to go to for writing help.
Some people say that you don’t need CPs to write a novel — namely, Stephen King. But I work best when I have someone to talk things out with, who can point out the flaws I’m too close to the story to see.
I looked everywhere I could for new CPs. I went on Twitter, Tumblr blogs dedicated to CPs, forums, into critique partner match-ups. We exchanged pages and chapters and full manuscripts, and boy was it interesting. On the reading side, I had a steep learning curve. I had to learn to work with a huge range of personalities, how to overcome the fear it’s all just my taste. And there were some… less than perfect manuscripts I read where people unwilling to listen to constructive criticism. And on the receiving end, whew! So many different opinions, and a lot contradicting feedback. I wasn’t sure what I should take, what I might have been getting defensive about, so I incorporated nearly everything.
Doing that ruined my manuscript. I roped one friend into reading it, who’d read everything I’ve written up to that point, and she said it was so awful she couldn’t make it past the first ten pages.
Most CPs ended up fading away, not dedicated to writing or not really looking for a partner. Whenever I saw someone looking for a CP, and their book concept sounded interesting, and they sounded passionate about a writing relationship, I couldn’t write them. I was so burned out.
It sucked. There was a contest coming up I really wanted to enter with a new manuscript, but I was only able to rope one friend into reading. I sent it off… And somehow got in! But it still needed a lot of work from there, and I spent two months heavily revising and polishing. Connecting with the other entrants gave me a chance to read their stuff, and them mine. They didn’t start off as a critique partners, but they grew from there. Now I may not have many CPs, but they’re all wonderful and write the most beautiful words.
So, finding CPs can be hard and tedious and have some rough spots. I’ve met a lot of people who develop their best connections organically, like me. There are others who love the people they’ve sought out. But even though it’s still hard for me to reach out for help after being burned like that, I’ll still vouch for CPs being one of the best things that a writer can go out there and connect with. Check out the other KBKL author posts for more perspectives and tips on connecting to others!