All About Critique Partners (Time to Connect!)

Alphas, betas, and CPs, oh my!!

In my last post I talked about Pitch Wars, and how important it is to build your writing community. A few of you reached out on Twitter to ask me how to go about building this community and finding your critique partners, so that’s what I’ll talk about this week! Also, at the bottom of this post, you’ll find instructions for participating in the CP connection I’m opening up in the comments!

First, let’s break down the terms I’ll be using throughout this post:

Alphas: This isn’t a term that gets used very often, but alpha readers are the ones who view your manuscript in its absolute worst condition. They will read your work in its raw form, AKA the first draft. Many authors don’t like to use them, because we want to present the best draft we currently know how to produce at all times.

Betas: Beta readers read your manuscript and provide general feedback on one of your drafts. You would likely send your work to betas after you edit it yourself, and are looking for how to improve your work.

CP: Critique partner. The term “partner” here means that there’s an equal exchange. They put time and effort into reading your manuscript (whether it be chunks at a time or the whole thing), and provide detailed feedback. You’re expected to eventually do the same for them.

What’s the difference between a CP and a beta reader?

So this is kind of a tough one, as I’ve noticed different people will give you different answers. For me, I use betas when I’m mostly done editing and am looking to get general feedback from a group of 3-4 readers. When I say “general feedback,” I’m looking for things like: did you like the book? Did it ever feel slow? Did you hate any of my characters? Did things make sense? You want readers to tell you their overall impression on how your book made them feel.

For critique partners, I recommend having two, maybe three. These are the readers whose opinions you really trust, and who dive deeply into your work. They will not only tell you your pacing sucks, but will also recommend strategies to remedy this. If something isn’t working with your character, they should explain why, and give their suggestions. They are more of the technical helpers, rather than just providing general feedback.

So, to recap this, I use trusted CPs to provide me with detailed information about how to better my work, and I use a group of beta readers to better understand the general impression of how people are feeling about my book.

Well that’s cool and all, but why do I need a CP? Or a beta reader?

Because unless you are a magical wizard, your work can always use the help.

Think about it for a second. You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe even years writing a manuscript. You’ve fallen in love with the plot and the characters. That giant amazing twist took you MONTHS to figure out. You’ve made pretty aesthetics, have done one edit pass, and you think all is well.

But you’re too close to your work to really know that.

Getting another perspective from someone who has never read your manuscript before is, in my opinion, one of the absolute best things you can do for yourself. I’m surprised I still have any friends, because every time I have a new project ready to be read, I send them sweet texts and beg until they agree to read it (not that I recommend this technique. Haha). Others will point out issues you would never have thought of, and raise questions and ideas you never had. Everyone’s mind works so differently, and every reader is going to bring something different to the table. This is invaluable.

But what if everyone has different feedback? Or what if I don’t agree with something?

Here’s the thing, you don’t have to agree. But you do have to be polite. That’s not optional.

Someone just spent hours of their time reading your book and trying to help you. They get NOTHING out of this. If you disagree with their opinion, then thank them and politely ignore it, but do not fight them on it or belittle their opinion. I love my CPs; they’re amazing, but they’re not always going to be right (though most of the time they are! <3) You as the writer know your characters and story better than anyone else, and only you know what’s right and what changes will strengthen your story.

That said, if 3 people tell you something is seriously off, then it’s probably seriously off, even if you disagree. It’s time to thicken your skin and truly consider the issue being presented.

How do I know if this CP is right for me?

Finding the right critique partner is harder than online dating, I swear. It’s all about trial and error. I highly suggest only exchanging around 3-5 chapters in the beginning. This will help you A) see if you like their writing and style, and B) see how they critique. Do you guys vibe well? If so, try exchanging the whole manuscript. If not, move on to the next one.

Yes, this takes a ton of time, but finding the right one is SO worth it. And when you do find that one (or two, or three), hold on to them tight. Pet their heads and tell them they’re wonderful. You want them around for the long haul. They’re hopefully not only going to help you with your stories, but they’ll also become your friends and your support system throughout this journey.

Okay, okay. So how do I find these magical CPs and beta readers?

So, at any given time, there’s going to be a group of people just like you, in whatever position you will be in. Looking for an agent? Agented? Left your agent and are looking for a new one? Debut about to come out? Seasoned writer? There are others going through the same thing.

For some agented and pubbed writers, they’ll meet friends and build their community sometimes through agency siblings, or by being published by the same house and meeting at different events. There are also some FB and Twitter groups for writers who debut the same year. Throughout your journey, your community will undoubtedly expand. For the purpose of this post, however, I’m going to talk about resources for unagented (or newly agented) writers.

Here are some place you might look to find a CP:

1. Maggie Stiefvater’s Critique Partner Matchup
2. Pub(lishing) Crawl’s Critique Partner Matchup (slower activity, but still going!)
3. Twitters tags! Such as #ontheporch, #amwriting, and #pitchwars
4. Contests! Such as Pitchwars! (There are usually Facebook groups for the hopefuls each year, and this is SO amazingly beneficial for getting connected with like-minded writers!)
5. RIGHT HERE!  (read below!)

If you’d like to join the CP connection I’m hosting on my blog, post in the comments below with the following information:

  • A very short pitch for your book (a line or two)
  • Genre and category. (YA fantasy)
  • Word count
  • What you’re looking for in a critique partner (someone strong with characters? Big picture feedback? Pacing help?)
  • Your critiquing strengths
  • Please mention whether or not you’re agented
  • What are you looking to critique?
  • Your name and email. (write it out like: adalyn[at]hotmail[dot]com – This is not my email though, so don’t message this one. Haha)

GOOD LUCK, EVERYONE!

6 thoughts on “All About Critique Partners (Time to Connect!)”

  1. Example (THIS IS NOT REAL! I have all the CPs I need!)

    YA Fantasy
    95,000 words
    Pitch: A royal animancer must team up with a cocky pirate in order to master her dark magic and protect her island.

    Want: I’m primarily looking for someone to help with characterization and pacing.
    Strengths: I’m great at world building and line edits! I have a passion for young adult fantasy, and am solely looking to find a CP who writes that.

    I am agented by Hillary Jacobson at ICM!

    You can contact me at “email address”

    Thank you!

    (This is a short example, so feel free to expand and go way more into detail! 🙂 )

    Like

  2. A Mystery
    90,000 words
    Pitch: DON’T TELL ANYONE – With Mom pissed, a cop investigating, and amnesia, Johnson must explain why he jumped off a cliff naked. #Ownstory with LGBTQ themes.

    Feel free to ask for more details in email.

    Want: I’d really like to find someone working on a series. I have three books written and I think it takes a special kind of help to CP with a series involved. We could start with just one, LOL! I’d also like to find a fellow mystery/thriller writer with or without a series too.

    Strengths: I’m good with dialogue, keeping things real and not pushing too hard at the suspension of disbelief, plot holes, and I’ve gotten really good at cutting extra words and losing filter words. I write in first person, multi POV, so I’ve learned a lot about using distinct language and speaking styles too.

    I am seeking an agent with the first book currently.

    You can contact me at darienwelch@yahoo.com

    Thank you!

    Like

  3. First, just a quick thank you to Adalyn for hosting this CP Match! How awesome is she?

    Now onto my CP ad:

    Contemporary Romance

    72,000 words

    Pitch: Jessica White is a cynical romance author, who uses the pages of her books to experience the love she’s sure doesn’t exist this side of the written word. Max Carter is the guy she couldn’t have written better if she’d tried. Together, they’ll have to overcome more plot twists and conflicts than any two characters she’s ever known, in order to find happily ever after.

    Want: I am looking for someone who can help me with technical issues in my manuscript. Examples would be show vs. tell and tags vs. beats. I’d also like more feedback on the overall story, if anything isn’t working.

    Strengths: Voice and line edits. I am only interested in working with romance. It’s what I read (mostly) and what I write, which means it’s what I know best. However, I’m open to YA, NA or A, so long as the main theme is romance.

    Where I’m at: I entered my manuscript into Pitch Wars, and plan to begin querying after mentees are announced. I am not agented at this time, but with the help of an awesome CP, I hope to be able to change that!

    You can email me at elizabethzaneauthor[at]gmail[dot]com

    Like

  4. 1. SUPERNATURAL x Islamic/South Asian folklore (own voices): Two cousins who can see spirits have to protect their haunted city when a local politician’s contract with a jinni attracts ravenous monsters. (You can find out more on my twitter and tumblr, both under the name bhootbabe.)
    2. Adult urban fantasy. The emphasis is on platonic relationships, but there are diverse background relationships of all kinds.
    3. 85,000 words.
    4. Big picture, overall feedback would be great. Did character dynamics make sense? Did the world-building? Any gaping plot-holes?
    5. I think I’m especially strong with characterization, but I can also catch plot-holes, grammatical errors, etc. Happy to offer big picture or more detailed feedback, depending on what the author is seeking.
    6. Unagented/unpublished.
    7. Fantasy of pretty much any kind. I’m VERY fond of diversity/non-western elements, especially with Own Voices. POC &/or LGBT characters are great!
    8. My name is Priyanka. I can be reached at: priyankataslim[at]gmail[dot]com.

    Like

  5. Adalyn, thank you so much for hosting this! It is very kind of you.

    Pitch: To solve a senator’s mysterious murder, a pacifist empath must join forces with a deadly empath-hunter who may or may not be hunting him.

    Adult paranormal with mystery elements and a bisexual protagonist.

    93,000 words

    Want: I’d love a “big-picture” reader who can tell me what worked for them, what didn’t, if the mystery plot makes sense, etc. Bonus if you have strengths in description and/or world-building.

    Strengths: I’ll try to help with everything but my strengths are probably dialogue, story structure, and SPAG. I’m honest but positive and kind, and I’ll cheer you on in your writing journey!

    I’m not agented but might seek representation for this book.

    You can reach me at: allietherin at gmail dot com or @allie_therin on Twitter.

    Thanks!

    Like

  6. Adalyn, thank you so much for ALWAYS trying to help!

    Pitch: A 17-yr-old alien juggles hunting a serial killer and falling in love for the first time.

    YA Fantasy

    92,000 words

    Want: I would like a critique partner who is big on detail. I usually give just enough detail to paint the picture (this makes me constantly question my writing style). I’d also like a CP who can help with pacing.

    Critique Strengths:
    Dialogue
    Believability
    Plot holes
    Inconsistencies

    I’m in the processs of doing content edits on my first novel.

    P.s. I would not be a good match for straight romance or high fantasy.

    You can reach me at: dada.alicia@gmail.com or @aliciajmari on Twitter.

    Best of Luck to everyone.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s