Once you finish writing your masterpiece, there are four things you should do:
- Have a celebratory drink. I enjoy wine or a margarita, but if you don’t drink I suppose iced tea can be fun if you put cinnamon in it.
- Let the book sit alone in a corner for a while to think about what it’s done.
- Take another look at it and clean up the obvious messy places.
- Allow other eyeballs to scrutinize it and revise accordingly.
It’s helpful if the other eyeballs are attached to the heads of other writers, which is where finding critique partners (CPs) comes in.
CPs are different than beta readers. Betas come after CPs, in theory. They read the finished product and tell you if it flows or if there are plot holes or if it’s the most boring thing they’ve encountered since that play they had to read in high school – that one that was translated from Portuguese (though one would hope the CPs would have said something before this point).
CPs help polish what will become the finished product. I found mine on Critique Circle, which I discussed in this post. Obviously, since CC is what I know, I’ll describe finding good CPs from that angle, but I’m guessing the process is similar in other groups.
CC has many, many writers registered. Most of those are inactive, like they joined for a day and decided it wasn’t for them but didn’t close their account. The rest are either posting their own writing or just critiquing the writing of others, probably to accumulate credits for when they need to post chapters.
Here’s a brief rundown of how CC works: you post a chapter or some short-ish piece of writing, and anyone who’s interested in what you posted can critique it. That means they read it and make comments about what works or what doesn’t, basically. Here’s an example of a bit of my writing (blue) that a CP commented on (yellow):
Remember how I said CC has many, many users, and that anyone can critique your story? That means there is a myriad of different writers with different backgrounds and skill sets coming to the table. One may be good at spotting grammar issues, while another excels at characterization. Another may be a master at the teenage voice. Another may be a brand new writer who doesn’t know much of anything but is there to learn.
The key to finding a CP from all those one-time critiquers is to crit each other’s work once or twice and find out if what you bring to the table is what the other person needs. Aside from the writing, I need a CP I can comfortably interact with – if the other person’s messages are one or two sentences without a conversational tone, or if I crit their work and they never look at mine, it probably won’t work out. I’m not there to provide free editing services. But I will happily “edit” someone’s chapters if they offer their insight on my work and we get along well. I’ll critique the work of my partners even when I’m in between projects and have nothing to post.
I’m in the middle of running another novel through CC. For each one before this, I had a group of CPs who read all or most of the chapters. And while I’ve become close enough partners with a few that we jump from one project to the next within our circle, most of the group for one book is different than the group for another book. And that’s when those different skill sets come in – if each CP has a different strength, then overall you have a decent review of your book.
Occasionally, you’ll find one of those “worth their weight in gold” partners, one who not only helps polish your work with great skill but also connects with you on other social media and helps you promote your brand. Cling to these CPs like a tick.
Or maybe something less gross.
Of course, a CP like that is the ultimate goal, but that can’t happen if you don’t connect. Remember how I said I wouldn’t partner with someone I couldn’t comfortably talk to? I know I’m not alone in that regard. It’s a business relationship, and if you’re in the group just to get your work edited, it won’t work. If you want to find a good CP, you have to be one.
How have you found your CPs?