March 28, 2012

Why Critique Partners Are A Writer's Best Friend

Two years ago today, I got an email from a stranger. She'd seen my 'Want Post' for a critique partner and was hoping we could swap some pages.

I was nervous. Trying to find a critique partner is a lot like blind dating: you swap pages, edit each other's work, and then wait nervously to see if your writing, and your crit style, mesh. And like first dates, this process seemed to involve more awkwardness for me than connection. I wasn't willing to settle for anything less than what I wanted: honesty, experience, support and editorial brutality (when necessary). By the time I received this email, I'd already swapped pages with several people, all of whom were lovely but none of whom where the 'one'. I was starting to despair a little. But Ryan sent back my pages ripped to shreds and hanging in revelatory tatters. I fell in critique partner love. Luckily she felt the same way.

So we corresponded through the interwebs, picking at each other's work with deft, savage fingers. We decided to try and find another crit partner to provide a little balance and were lucky to find Emma, who fit right into our tiny clan. I didn't always love the critique--it always meant gutting something I loved or doing work I thought was behind me. But, consistently and irrevocably, these two fantastic writers made my story better. The process of working with them and reading their work made me a better writer. They taught me how to see criticism as a blessing, not a curse.

In November 2011, I went down to Charleston and met Ryan (whose debut novel is set to be published in 2013!) in the flesh. We sat across from each other at an awesome cafe, typing away, and it struck me: anyone who is serious about writing NEEDS this. A writing relationship based on mutual respect, encouragement, and utter honesty.    


  1. Hugs all round. :)

    I am so incredibly glad I found you too. You both mesh compliments and constructive criticism perfectly. It's challenging me and forcing me to take my writing to the next level, and I really really needed that push.

    Not to mention it's allowed me to experience the work and worlds of two amazing writers! I couldn't be happier.

  2. Love this story! A positive critiquing relationship such as the one you have found is worth it's weight in gold. And how fun that you got to meet in person! :)

  3. Yay! This post made me smile this morning, which was much, MUCH needed.

    Thanks for all of your awesome critiquing. I like tearing your stuff up too. :)