Matchmaker, Matchmaker: Finding a Critique Partner

Chandler Baker returns to discuss how and why to find the perfect writing partner to critique your work. 


Having good critique partners is as important as having good friends. You know, the type I’m talking about. The ones that’ll tell you when your skirt’s tucked into your underwear before you go parading around in front of strangers. Writers need those people to keep them from figuratively exposing their undergarments. The question is: How do we get them when it comes to writing?


Finding a writing buddy is, in some ways, easier than making a friend connection out in the wild. After all, you already have one big interest in common—writing.


Step One: The Where
Good news! Movellians already have the where part down. It’s a virtual watering hole where you can find a number of potential critique partners just wandering about. All you have to do is ask. When I ask someone to exchange work, I usually start by telling the person what I like to read and write, what I’m looking for in a critique partner and whether he or she would be interested in exchanging 20 pages. Think of it like a first date.


Step Two: The Match
What makes a good match? Remember: reading is subjective. Not everything is going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay. Though a critique partner is there to expose the flaws in your writing, each partner should at least genuinely enjoy the type of story the other partner is setting out to create. If you hate high fantasy, don’t volunteer to critique high fantasy or else it’ll feel like a chore. 


Step Three: The Expectations
The key to a good partnership is communication. When I send across work, I always try to tell my critique partner what I’m looking for in his or her critique. Sometimes I’m just looking for big picture items (plot holes, character arcs, do-you-like-this type comments); others I need help with the sentences themselves (voice, word choice, details). Help your partner help you.


Step Four: The Sandwich
A critique partner should be a writer’s biggest cheerleader, which means a critique partner should never, ever bulldoze another writer’s vision. The best way to guard against this is by employing what I like to call “The Sandwich.” This sounds cheesy, but hey, it works! Start a critique with a compliment, then two points for improvement, followed by another compliment. Voilà! Don’t forget that one of the most valuable critiques an author can receive is being told what is working, so the author can keep doing that.


Step Five: The Acceptance
You don’t have to agree with everything your partner says, but mull it over and decide if any of it resonates with you. Your critique partner is merely trying to help by providing one opinion. You can talk it through and ask questions, but that’s it. No arguing. What you do with the comments is up to you. And be sure to graciously return the favor by reading your new writer friend’s work, too.


So tell me: Do you have critique partners? If not, are you looking for one? Let’s play matchmaker in the comments by answering:

1. Describe your current project
2. What genres do you enjoy reading and/or writing?
3. What kind of comments are you looking for about your work?


Chandler Baker is the author of the forthcoming ALIVE from Disney-Hyperion as well as a number of ghostwritten novels for teens & tweens. Follow @chandlerbakerYA

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