Monday, January 6, 2014

On the Joy of Finding Critique Partners

I’ve done it! Or at least, I think I may have. It is one of those important pieces of the puzzle we writers strive for but that tends to be so elusive.

NO, it isn’t finishing the damned book, though that is the ultimate goal in this game. No, it isn’t getting that contract, though that does require The Supreme Celebration when it happens.

It IS finding the right critique partner. Or partners.

Finding the right CP is no different than finding the right Significant Other. It is equal parts chemistry, kismet, and discernment . When it happens, you just know it. And the ensuing elation is no different than falling in love.

Of course it is important that you write within the same genre and agree on what you need from a critique partner. But, you know you have a good fit, the makings for a long-lasting, mutually satisfying relationship, when you can’t talk fast enough or laugh enough, and you feel completely at ease with the person. In other words, when you meet for the first time and you both feel like you’ve known each other all of your lives.

This happened for me a few short weeks ago. Through complete serendipity I recently discovered that a woman I had spoken to on several occasions (her daughter is a student at the school where I used to teach) is a writer. Prior to the great reveal, I didn’t even know her name—our chats were of the brief, passing in the hall Hello How Are You type. When we found out we were both writing YA novels we proposed that maybe we could explore being critique partners. And she writes with a partner, so I would be getting two CP’s for the price of one.

Scary stuff. I hardly knew the woman. I certainly did not know her writing partner. But a date was set for an initial meeting, a meet and greet, a chance for us to share a little about ourselves and what we write, and we could see if it might work for us.

In the days leading up to the meeting I became increasingly terrified. What was I getting myself into? I don’t know these people. I don’t know anything about what they write beyond that it is YA. What if they hate me, and my writing? Okay, that last one was the scariest. I later discovered that they also were having the same worries and fears.

We each brought a query letter for our current WIP. We felt this would be a non-threatening way to introduce our work. After chatting and getting to know one another, we exchanged the query letters, and the excitement quickly became palpable. We could hardly get to the end of the letters before enthusiastically exclaiming about one facet or another of our respective WIPs. A general feeling of excitement and respect pervaded our meeting. Plans were made to exchange our first three chapters, and a date for our next meeting was set. Two hours sped by as we talked and laughed and enjoyed one another’s company. I think the three of us were the loudest people in the trendy coffee shop.

When we parted it was with hugs, and good feelings about our new adventure. I said, “I feel like I’ve known you two forever.” One woman answered, “I know, isn’t that the best feeling ever?”

Yes it is. And I’m looking forward to a mutually satisfying critique partnership with my two new friends. Something tells me we're going to have a lot of fun along the way.

**As I went to post this I discovered that my friend, writer Collette Cameron, also blogged on the topic of critique partners today. She has written an excellent post on The Basic Rules of Critique Partner Heaven and The Sure Path to Hell. You can read it at

Happy Writing!