How to Find Critique Partners

“Where do I look for a critique partner?”

My wonderful CP Anne Barton and me, Keli Gwyn, at the RWA national conference in July 2008

I asked myself that question several times after talking with my agent earlier this year. Rachelle asked if I had any writing partners, and I told her about my CP, Anne Barton. Actually, I gushed about Anne.

Rachelle asked what genre Anne writes. Regency. While we both write historicals, my stories are set in the United States fifty years after Anne’s take place. Another difference is that I write for the inspirational market, whereas Anne doesn’t.

I realized that as wonderful as Anne is and as much as she helps me polish my manuscripts, I needed another critique partner, one who writes what I do.

That’s when I began asking myself the question above. My search was on.

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Places to Look for Potential Critique Partners

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•Your local Romance Writers of America® chapter

If you belong to a local chapter of RWA® and attend the meetings, you might find someone who writes in the same genre you do. If so, you could ask if she’d consider swapping a few chapters.

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•Your other local writing groups

If you attend a local writers group, you could ask if any of the members writes romance. If you find someone who does, you could invite her to grab a cup of coffee after the meeting. If you two hit it off, you could ask if she is looking for a CP.

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• • • • •

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These first two options have the potential for linking you with a CP who lives in your general area. This would enable you to have in-person meetings on a regular basis. If that’s an important factor to you, these options would be good ones to explore.

However, not all of us belong to local writing groups. If we do, we may not live close enough to make regular meetings with a CP feasible.

Many writers make use of email as a primary means of communicating with their CPs. Anne lives on the East Coast whereas I’m in California. Despite the distance and time difference, we’ve been able to effectively communicate for two years utilizing email and an occasional phone call.

Opportunities for connecting with potential CPs increase exponentially when we add the option of online communication. (Since Anne’s a math teacher by day, I threw that fancy term in there just for her. :-))

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• • • • •

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•Your online writing groups

RWA has several online chapters. Often, the chapters have a Yahoo! loop set up where members chat with one another. On occasion, a member will put out a request for a CP. Some online writing groups even have critique databases set up for matching members in search of partners who write in their genres. If you prefer to seek your own partner, you could contact a member privately and see if she would consider trading work.

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•Blogs: yours and theirs

Those who follow your blog and leave comments could be potential CPs. As you read the comments, keep a lookout for others who write stories like yours. By reading their comments, you will get a feel for what people are like. If someone strikes you as a possible writing partner, you could contact her privately, let her know you’re seeking a CP, and ask if she’s interested in a trial critique period.

You could share your need for a CP in a blog post in which you state what you write, what type of read you’re after, and how you would reciprocate. Invite those who would like to discuss the possibility of pursuing a critique partnership to leave a comment or contact you privately.

If you follow someone else’s blog, you’ll learn a great deal about her. Writers often talk about what is happening with their writing. Should you decide the blogger is someone with whom you might like to exchange stories, you could contact her privately and see if she has any interest in doing so.

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•Contest finalist lists

Those who have placed in contests might be worth considering as possible CPs. You could open the lines of communication by sending the finalists in the category in which you write a congratulatory email. If you sense that one of the writers is open to keeping in touch, you could exchange a few messages. If you feel comfortable with that person and feel you’ve made a good connection, you could mention the possibility of swapping stories and see what happens.

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•Writers conferences

A writers’ conference is an excellent place to make connections. As you meet people, there will be some with whom you hit it off. When that happens, you can ask them if they are seeking a CP. If so, you can agree to get in contact once you get back home.

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• • • • •

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If you’re in search of a critique partner, you will have to let others know of your need. Contacting someone and asking if she’s interested in establishing a critique partnership can be challenging for those of us who are on the shy side. However, what a great way to practice putting ourselves out there. The worst thing a person can do is say no—and most people will do so nicely. The best thing is that you could find yourself embarking on a relationship that has the potential to be one of the most rewarding you’ve ever had.

Tune in tomorrow to find out which of the options I’ve listed led to my new critique partnership. I’ll share how I went about approaching my new CP in such a way that she knew exactly what I was offering and what I hoped to gain. I’ll also talk about the importance of a trial period.

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Double the Fun Drawing!

In honor of my blog’s second birthday and my two years of having Anne as my CP, I’m giving away two prizes a day during my Critique Week, one each to two winners. To enter the drawing, leave a comment on this post by midnight Pacific Time and leave your email address when prompted. (This way you don’t have to add it to your comment.)

I’ll hold the drawing the following day, post the winners’ names here, and contact them via email to get a mailing address (which I won’t share with anyone or add to any mailing lists.)

Congrats to Lizbeth Selvig, winner of the ceramic tile plaque.

Congrats to Cindy R. Wilson, winner of the shopping bag with duckie pouch.

Note: Offer void where prohibited. Odds of winning vary depending on number of entries.

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And here are today’s prizes:

Ceramic tile plaque that reads "Trust your Crazy ideas"

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Reusable nylon shopping bag with duckie carrying case


I wanna know . . .

Are you in search of a critique partner?

Have you looked for a CP in any of the places listed above? What were the results?

What other places can you think of that could be sources of potential CPs?

Does the thought of asking someone if she’d consider a critique partnership give you a serious case of cotton mouth? What would help you take that step?

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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30 Responses to How to Find Critique Partners

  1. Susan Mason says:

    Keli,

    This is so funny because I’m in the same position you are (well sort of!) I’m looking for a new critique partner. One of mine has become embroiled in family matters and is taking a break from writing, the other has pretty much stopped writing as well.

    But I’ve been feeling the need to get a partner who is further along in the writing journey than I am – maybe more of a mentor. (There’s another whole blog topic – how to approach a published author and ask for help! GULP.)

    For now, I’ve joined another on-line writing group and put my info on the critique partner database. I’ve been in touch with one person and hopefully we’ll start sharing our work soon.

    Any thoughts on finding a published mentor?

    Thanks for the post and the suggestions.

    Sue

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Sue,

      I wish you well in finding a CP. I started with prayer. Then I explored several of the options I listed in this post. Tomorrow, I’ll share the process I went through as I approached my new CP.

      Finding a mentor is a bit different than locating a CP. I think those relationships develop over time. That’s where engaging in social networking for the purpose of building relationships and uplifting others can reap rewards. But it is definitely possible for an unpublished writer to find a published author CP. My upcoming guest, Lori Benton, whose post will appear June 28, did just that. Perhaps I can get Lori and her CP, Laura, to talk about how their partnership came about.

      If a potential CP wants a recommendation, Sue, I’d be happy to give one. I still remember reading and enjoying your entry that I judged in the Golden Pen. You have lots of talent. In fact, if I wrote contemporary romance instead of historicals, I’d have been in touch with you myself to see about forming a a partnership. 🙂

  2. Good morning Keli!
    You have wonderful ideas here and I think I’ve found CPs in almost all those ways. I also have one whom I met in an online class. She’s become a great friend.

    My biggest problem is that I am horrible at saying no to people. I like the critique process and I love editing. But I have a tendency to swamp myself with things to read. And that just brings us to the topic of discipline, which is a completely separate topic!

    Thanks for the great topic this week — your insight is so helpful, no matter what stage in this process we’re at!

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Good morning to you, Lizbeth!

      Online classes would be a great way to connect with other writers who could make great CPs. Thanks for the idea.

      Like you, I love editing. I could do it all day long. I love to support and encourage other writers, and offering my editing experience is one way I can do that. However, I’ve had to limit myself. Because I provide my CPs with line/copy edit-style reads, which take quite a bit of time, I have to limit myself. If I were a macro reader who gave overall impressions, I could work with more writing partners.

      There is value in learning to say no, hard as that little word can be for some of us to choke out. I’m learning that I have to force it past my lips at times in order to focus on my top priorities.

      • Oh, man, did you hit it on the head, Keli. I love the term macro-reader. I am definitely not that at all. And, yes, I do have to learn to say no. I have this quote from Anne Lamott on my bulletin board: “No is a complete sentence.” It only helps me sometimes.

        • Keli Gwyn says:

          Great quote, Lizbeth. One I would do well to memorize. We can’t do everything we’re asked to do, and we don’t owe the person asking a lengthy explanation. I still feel more comfortable saying, “I wish I could help you, but my answer has to be no” because that is usually the honest truth.

  3. I’m looking for a critique partner. I’m a member of a few larger critique groups, but I would prefer to find a person or two who I would work with more consistently. I’ve asked around in my local ACFW group, but most people already have established partnerships.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Julie,

      I wish you well in finding a CP who is as much a blessing to you as mine are to me.

      I’m quite excited about a possibility that has come your way. In the comment below this one, Sue Mason has shown interest in discussing a possible partnership. I can vouch for Sue. She was one of my inspirational category mates in the 2008 Golden Heart. As I mentioned above in reply to her comment, I read 50 pages of one of her contemporary romances in the Golden Pen contest. Her writing is very good, and she earned a high score from me.

      I’m looking forward to your interview next month, Julie. It will be fun to shine the spotlight on you.

  4. Susan Mason says:

    Hey Julie,

    Email me off-line and we can talk a little about what you’re looking for. I could use more than one CP, that’s for sure.

    My email is: sbmason (at) sympatico (dot) ca

    Sue

  5. It’s funny how much this sounds like dating. I can imagine a sort of eHarmony-style site where you fill out a detailed questionnaire and it comes back with several recommendations of other people who are looking for CPs and whose questionnaire answers were compatible with yours.

    I can also imagine, like, a speed-dating session, maybe at Nationals. You get one very short conversation with each person in the room – just enough time to establish what you write, where you’re at in the publishing process, and maybe list your favorite books. Everyone exchanges business cards and you follow up with the people with whom you think you clicked.

    Besides shyness about seeking a CP, and shyness about showing my work, I think the other thing that’s stopped me so far is the fear that I’ll let the other person down by failing to meet deadlines or failing to give useful feedback. Has that ever been a concern for you?

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Cecilia, one of my blogging buddies has run a CP matching program a couple of times. I think that’s a great service. And some of the online writing groups have a process similar to the first one you describe. I think a “speed-dating” kind of CP matching session at Nationals would be cool. A logistical challenge, perhaps, but cool.

      I hear you on feeling like you’ll let a CP down. I battle that fear myself. I keep in close contact with my CPs, especially when I’m actively reading for them, so if things come up, they have a heads up. I think most writers understand that things happen. I’ve been known to drop everything when a writing partner got a request in order to help her get it ready to go, and Anne has done the same thing for me.

  6. Jody Hedlund says:

    Great suggestions, Keli! You’ve got such a wealth of information to share about critiquing. Thanks for taking some time to spread the wisdom! 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Jody, thanks for the kind words. I’m all about paying it forward. Since I’ve been so blessed in my critique relationships, I want to share what I’ve learned and what’s worked well for me.

  7. I have two critique partners. One I found through ACFW’s loop when I started asking around for a roommate for last year’s ACFW conference. I met Jeannie and we swapped some of our writing to critique and both discovered that we are a very similar place in our writing journeys.

    I met my other CP through a writing contest/blogging. We’d seen each other around online and commented on each other’s blogs. She’s ahead of me in the writing process, with multiple books published. She writes romance, but historical. I write romance, but contemporary.

    Both CPs give me invaluable feedback. 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Katie, I think it’s wonderful that you have your own personal Dream Team. As you’ve learned, there are many ways to locate potential partners. And each CP we have offers her own set of strengths, as do yours.

      A CP need not write what we do to be a help to us, as you’ve pointed out. Anne writes Regency set in England a good 50 years before my stories, and yet her suggestions are very helpful. There are sub-genre issues that a writer of stories like ours can address, but many of my comments and those I receive from Anne are craft-related. I prefer to stick with partners who write romance, but I’ve heard of successful partnerships formed between writers of different genres.

  8. This is a great list of ways for people to find critique partners. I was very blessed to find my CP’s through blogging. I had to put myself out there a little by e-mailing someone–but she had already mentioned she was looking for CP’s, so I knew my e-mail wouldn’t come as a surprise.

    Because of that e-mail, I was linked up with two other writers and now we have a group of four, which is perfect. We all have different writing styles but we all write contemporary–and a few of us in the same genre as well.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Kudos to you, Cindy, for taking that step and sending that email. Asking someone to consider being our CP can be intimidating–and a bit scary. But you did it, and now you’re one of the Fantastic Four. I’m so glad all of you have such a great partnership.

  9. Thanks for the info, Keli! Those are all wonderful suggestions on finding CPs.

  10. Sherrinda says:

    Keli, I am LOVING this series. You have such a wealth of great information to share. I really hadn’t thought about some of the ways you shared, but they are good ones. Some take more courage than I have, but….I’m trying to be more brave as I age. 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Sherrinda, it does take courage to approach another writer and propose the idea of trading work. I’m going to address this in an upcoming post.

      I hear you on becoming more brave as we mature. I’m working on the same thing. 🙂

  11. Hey Keli!

    Sorry I couldn’t get here sooner. After I responded on the other post, I had to leave, and my day was pretty non-stop since.

    I am adding this blog post to my Critique Writing Group book. These are fantastic ideas. One of the main reasons for reading the book is not only to find someone who’s not going to tear me down, but to be a good partner myself. Like I said before, though, I haven’t really looked for a CP yet on account of being gun-shy for some reason. But I’m getting there. Thanks for your posts on the subject.
    Julie
    BTW, I’ll have to remember that plaque’s saying. My husband always says, “uh-oh” when I tell him I’m ‘thinking.’

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Julie, as you can see from reading some of the comments that have been left, asking others if they’d be interested in a trial critique partnership can be frightening. As you’ll see in tomorrow’s post, I can totally relate.

      I’m glad you’re finding the posts helpful. This is a subject dear to my heart since I’ve been so blessed by my CPs. I would love to see others enjoy similar blessings.

  12. the fear that I’ll let the other person down by failing to meet deadlines or failing to give useful feedback.

    Keli and Cecilia,
    That is me exactly! On-line CP-matching is hilarious when you think of it like speed dating, but is an excellent idea for an RWA conference, maybe as one of the programs/forums that would be put on.

  13. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday. Those who left comments were entered in the drawing, and I’ve chosen the winners.

    The shopping bag with duckie carrying case goes to Cindy R. Wilson. The ceramic tile plaque that reads “Trust your Crazy ideas” goes to Lizbeth Selvig.

    Congrats, Cindy and Liz! I’ll get those packages on the way to you.

  14. Keli!
    I’m just getting to my e-mails today–what a nice surprise to have won the drawing. I love that plaque–it’ll have a prominent spot in my office because I need to remember the message!
    Thanks for the fun!!

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      You’re most welcome! I liked the message on the plaque. I can use the reminder since I often don’t trust my ideas–crazy or otherwise.

      I’m working on loosening up, though. I even have some changes in mind for RWotJ that I hope will lighten things up on occasion. Won’t that be fun? 🙂

  15. ninapaules says:

    Hi Keli –

    I’ve been enjoying your posts for sometime, this one especially as it has brought me out of lurkdome.

    I, too, am searching for a CP, preferably one that is a few steps ahead of me in the process (perhaps has a short story or two published). I write Regecy set paranormal time-travel romance that includes neither fangs nor fur (though I enjoy reading such) and I’ve a few contest wins & finals under my belt. The challenge I face with finding a CP is that I am a macro-editor. My grasp of story and character development (due to my professional life) far outweighs my grasp of grammar and semi-colon usage. Finding a person looking for such is hard.

    The idea of a CP “e-harmony” service is fascinating to me. As a former Myers-Briggs, Strengths Deployment and team-building consultant, you have my mind churning with possibilities. Who else, that you know of, is doing CP matching?

    Thanks,
    Nina
    http://ninapaules.wordpress.com

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Welcome, Nina! How wonderful to see a comment from you and finally be able to “meet.”

      I wish you well in your CP search. The fact that you’ve identified what you want will, I trust, help you find what you’re after.

      I smiled when I read that you’re a macro editor and think you’ll have a hard time finding someone who will want your skill strengths. As you know now, I’m a micro editor, and I wonder who would possibly want to call on Keli, the Comma Queen. I guess this proves that there’s a place for all of us.

      Unfortunately, I’m unable to help you with CP matching services. I know of some, but because I write for the inspirational market, much of my information wouldn’t be helpful to you.

      Are you part of any writing groups or RWA chapters? If so, they may have such a service in place. Or you could put a post on your blog talking about steps you’re taking as you seek a CP, and someone might step forward. Ya never know. Connections happen. If you read the comments above, you’ll see how two of my writing buddies listed their needs.

  16. Tonya says:

    Yes I am in search of a CP.
    I have not looked at RWA, hadn’t heard of it yet.
    I live in England right now, my husband is active duty. I am not sure about local writing groups here, but I am going to see if there are any on base. Maybe I’ll get lucky.
    I am also awaiting the results of finding a CP through ACFW’s.
    Perhaps a Nanowrimo buddy would make a good CP?
    Yes, the thought of asking someone gives me high blood pressure 🙂
    I’m relying on a lot of pray. God’s been pulling me out of my comfort zone for some time now.
    Love these questions! Great posts! So glad Jody directed me here.

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