Are you part of a Dynamic Duo?

Not that it's news to me (christy) or anything, but lately I've read several posts about the importance of having a good critique partner or critique group. 

Makes sense.  First, I imagine having a person or group to bounce ideas off of would not only be fun, but would add fuel to the brainstorming fire.  Second, having someone or somemany to hand a WIP over to for a fresh read could only result in an improved manuscript.  I, for one, know how I can get lost in my own maze of thoughts and details and often need someone to plow a straighter path through my plot for me.  (Or at least cross off the detours.)  Third, passing the completed MS to the person/people who shouldered the writer's tears though the months of drafting it to read it in its entirety, checking for proper pacing, plot holes and, of course grammar/spelling mistakes, aids the writer by offering not only eyes that are less familiar with the story, since the writer himself/herself can overlook these errors (seeing what's supposed to be there vs what actually is,) but can also teach the writer what to look for while editing and revising for himself/herself.

I'm not part of a "critique group", nor do I have a "critique partner".  I never have(I feel the need to revise this bold statement.  I was part of an online crit group, formed after Writeoncon, but there were so many members that it fizzled. It was really more like an online crit forum.  Impersonal for many.  Some members became great friends.  My own initial involvement was flimsy at best, I lacked confidence in helping others improve their work when I didn't know what to do to help my own.  Since then, I'm very lucky to have found erica to bounce ideas off of and she offers advice whenever I need it.  Michael (at In Time) also recieves emailed portions of my WIPs openly and has been a great help to me.  That said, I still wonder what it would be like to be part of a "formal group" where swapping takes place regularly.) And I envy all of you  who do.  So everything  I wrote in the previous paragraph is what I imagine it to be like.  Or, what I have "observed" (reading about it in posts) or experienced with the kind and generous people (erica and michael) who allow me to email bits and pieces of my WIPs to them from time to time, and who email me bits and pieces of their own work from time to time as well.  Does that count as having a group or a partner?  I guess I always thought it needed to be a formal decision, a bit like proclaiming to be someone's boyfriend or girlfriend.

Will you "go" with me?

I don't even know if those are the words teens (pre-teens?  *gasp*) use these days.  And I probably should, seeing as I write YA.  Maybe they still use that phrase, or maybe I'm totally dating myself (not dating myself as in taking myself to dinner and a movie, dating myself like letting you all know my age...).

Anyhooooo.  (YES, I get off topic in my manuscripts,too.)

Many of you refer to your amazing crit partners in your posts or list your crit group members on your sidebars.  (So cool!)  How did you find your crit partner or your crit group and how do you work together? Do you meet in person? Do you do online chats? How often do you send/review each other's work?

And then there's the whole Alpha reader and Beta reader thing.  Do you use one or both (alpha being a reader while you're working and beta being after you're done - right?) (right??) and why?
How did you get one or more and what do you do for each other?  If you're someone's Beta Reader are they yours, too? Do you know each other personally? Virtually? Do you write in the same genres? Is one of you more experienced in this dating, hanging out, hooking up, critiquing thing?

The other part of this post is WHAT KIND OF A CRITIQUER ARE YOU?  How do you go about critiquing someone's work?  Do you prefer to have a "synopsis" first so you know the whole story before doing a first read?  Or do you prefer to let your writer know whether their first 250 or first five hook you and work from there?  OR are you a grammar freak and look for all the language issues you can find?  Maybe you read through looking for consistent voice.  Or an intriguing plot.  MAYBE you're Super Critiquer and you do it all!! (if so, call us. we need you)

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM YOUR PARTNER/GROUP?  Do you find that you critique how you want to be critiqued?  You want someone to skim the whole thing looking for flow and pacing and voice?  OR do you want someone to edit for passive voice and too many adjectives? (or, you know, just describe your process and thoughts in the comments below)

I'm just a clueless newbie and I'm putting myself out there, asking the questions I feel the rest of you have known the answers to for ages. 

But, I'm hoping the phrase I say to my students from time to time will apply here:  No question is a dumb question.


  1. Good for you, asking questions, it's the only way I sort out the plots in my children's books, asking myself questions and the answers eventually arrive. :0) Hope you find someone kindly to bounce those questions off.

  2. Critique groups or partners have their up and down sides. If you don't know what they are supposed to do you wont be able to tell the difference between an ok crit and a really good crit. It took me a long time of receiving them in a big group before i understood the difference. I do not know about the Alpha beta thing, but groups and partners I do know about.

    If you want a partner choose atleast two, because differing opinions gives you a better shot at making your piece better. Make sure the people you choose know something about writing, and not just how to write, but basics like plot, structure, outlines, dialogue ect...

    When I crit I use a list of things I go through from word usage, to sentence usage, to overall ideas and how they pertain to the action or main characters. I look for bad dialogue, extra use of unneeded vocabulary or actions. I try to always search out atleast three things the person did well in their piece, because it is important to point out the good and the bad.
    I look for the hook, I'm observant of how the whole piece flows and am aware of how "into the story" I got.

    I hope this helps.

  3. Awe no! None!? :(

    Well, I found Abby here on Blogger! I don't remember WHY it came up but we decided to trade off since we both wrote YA fiction. We edited each others novels by a set date and met up to hand them back and have lunch and chat. Since then, she has just been amazing to email whenever I have a question or an idea or whatever!

    It is important to have someone you can trust with your ideas and your baby that will do it right and "get it"

    I critiqued for another wonderful blogger too (donno if I'm allowed to say who) and hope to send mine to her when I'm done with Abby's edits! ANYWAY got to rambling.

    Point is: I found them on blogger! So, feel out people here. Who you think would do your work justice, you could trust, who would get what you write, etc.

  4. I wrote a post about this. Hope it helps!


  5. I've never done any kind of critiquing (or being critiqued) for fiction, although I did find out about a couple of groups during NaNo, had I wanted to join one at that point.

    In my non-fiction, I work really hard to give useful critiques to classmates-- as in, if something doesn't sit well, I either figure out why or don't mention it, and I try to keep their big picture in mind, that sort of thing. And it's really depressing when I get back critiques that do the opposite, as in "This sounds weird" with no explanation/suggestions.

    SO, all that to say, good critiques are gold and bad critiques are disposable. And I definitely intend to get into a critique group before I ever seek publication.

  6. Critique groups are great. I met min on the ABNA threads. A great place to meet people for group critiques.

    We started off at six people and then some people phased out. I ended up working with three different people. Each one had their pluses and minuses.
    My last turned out to be a critique partner. He spent over three months working with me on a weekly basis. It was amazing. I critique two of his novels to my one. His were in amazing shape and mine, well, let's just say, it needed tons of work. But that's fine. You learn that way.

    Now I help others who ask and send out pieces of mine. It's great. When I finish my current WIP, I hope to find a few different partners to work with on mine and theirs.

    Finding the right chemistry is everything.


  7. I revised the post a bit. I DO have erica and Michael who take my emailed portions of my WIP and are AMAZING FRIENDS to me. Everything I know about critiquing I learned from them. SO THANK YOU BOTH! So maybe that counts as having crit partners. We help each other out, right? Maybe I'm just a goofy dork thinking it needs to be formalized. But a regimented group where we regularly submit chapters for a crit swap intrigues me, too. Some crit groups even have names. Doesn't Patricia Timms have a crit group with a name?

    I'm still interested (also) in HOW various people critique. Everyone must have a different "process" or "routine" they go through and different preferences for what they expect others to critique for their own WIPS, right?

    Thank you all for your comments and helping to shed some light on this topic for me!

    Oh, and do most people wait to start or enter a group/pair until a WIP is completed? So do you have a different partner/group for each manuscript you write?

    Yeah, just more questions for you all.


  8. I think it makes total sense to be confused because I honestly think 1) different people NEED different things, so it is a matching issues, and 2) needs CHANGE as you progress and 3) different people are good at different things.

    I am part of a BELOVED group--I ADORE them. We formed (over Harry Potter bonding and writing dreams) and exchanged chapters with rules about reciprocity and such. But some of us are more driven--honestly, I'm sort of the nut case out in front of the ship. When we started 4 years ago, one of us had finished a first draft (not me) and none of the rest of us had written a novel aside from fan fiction. Now I've written 8, the woman who'd written 1 had written 2 more, and 2 other people have finished ONE. The others are still doing chapters (slowly). (though we have a new member who is writing her 3rd) I no longer have an interest in chapter feedback. In fact I decided I really don't want anyone to see anything until I have a REVISED novel. The others who've finished books seem to be thinking that way too, now.

    I am trying to establish some PUSHES to motivate those who keep not quite diving into the writing, but we all have our own pace.

    Likewise... when I want feedback on broad plot, I have some go to folks, but there are 3 members with DIFFERENT finishing skills that I like to see later drafts. As a reader, I am more a big picture gal... I can do line editing if I have, but the scene by scene bit isn't really my thing. I am much better at broad plot, characterisation, plot holes...

  9. I'm not in a crit group- I'm not sure I like the idea of it, and the groups around here are a lot of old people who write about the history of our area ;p

    But I have two "official" crit partners. One I found at work actually, we both found out that we were writing fantasy so decided to pair up. The other is Colene, and like she said we met online. We just clicked- I think we were both just kinda starting out. It's great to have someone to bounce ideas off, and just email almost every day (like you do with Erica) about stuff.

    I would def call Erica and Michael your crit partners. I don't think it has to be anything official like asking them on a date ;p You are comfortable with sending them your work and having them give suggestions etc. That's totally being a crit partner.

    I think I would always stick with my two crit partners for everything- every little idea, every nit-picky thing I can bounce off them, especially Colene.

    As far as Beta readers go- I picture them as like, actual teens or someone who is reading it for the bigger picture, not necessarily the little things like grammar or sentence structure. I have some teen beta's lined up by my friend who is the teen librarian- they won't know who I am,and I won't know who they are. They'll be able to say whatever they want and not feel bad because I have no idea who they are. That is what I consider beta readers to be.

    Okay, this was really long. The dillema I have had is when to say no. What if 5 people ask me to read their stuff? I just don't have time. I will have two other people besides Colene and Andy to read my stuff (and me to read theirs) and I think I have to draw the line there. There is just so much we can do!

    Good luck and I wouldn't worry too much- you've got 2 fantastic people to utilize and bounce ideas off of and send your work to.

    Oh and another good idea is to find someone who writes the same genre as you. Colene and Andy both do, as well as Melissa (who we actually found out is writing a lot about the same thing as me, so we're excited to trade our mss). That way they know the style, they know the genre and what to look for.

  10. Finding the right critique group isn't easy. Some members will come and go but when you finally find that group you mesh with it's worth all the effort! I found my group at a writers retreat. We've been getting together since and trade chapters back and forth.

  11. This is a great question and one I've struggled with myself. I don't have either (partner or group) *sigh* I do bounce ideas off my little sister, who also writes, and we help eachother out - but, then I hear that you should never rely on family because we're just too darn nice to eachother. I've been in short-term critique groups as part of online workshops - a few people in the group would post a chunk of their work and everyone else had a week to make comments - and then rotate. I kind of liked the structure of it. I think it helps to have people who write the same genre, however. Hoping I get lucky soon and find someone great! *fingers crossed* :)

  12. These are all great questions. While I was reading your post I kept nodding my head. I'm close to finishing my first draft, and then I'll start the revision process. I'm going to need to find both betas and crit partners.

  13. Interesting post!

    Hmm. I've totally never had a crit group or partner ever ever ever. I think I find the name itself very daunting. CRITIQUE PARTNER - that's a very offical name.

    I do have betas and alphas though and I think they suit me very well. But looking over this page I'm wondering whether they aren't crit partners and I just call them betas and alphas because then we have the whole wolf pack thing going for us?

    I know my alphas only online but we've been through several novels together so we really click. I have to admit I totally bounce ideas off of them so, yea... In return they do the same with me.

    And beta readers? I don't ask so much how it works as a whole (although I love to be told) but for deeper analysis. And, again, I offer the same in return.

    So. Yeah. I do the wolf thing and use both. The alpha's get my first draft nonsense and the betas the finished thing.

    Really fascinating to hear what everybody else does!

  14. Like you, I don't have a crit group and am a bit nervous about the idea - but I do think it is a great way to get your work ready for sending out.
    I have used www.critiquecircle.com and liked the impersonal aspect, I didn't know the people reviewing my work, so I wasn't too concerned if they hated it (of course it turned out no one was nasty enough to say they hated it).
    I would like to set up a crit group in my small country town - just have to jump over those nerves first :-)


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