“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
<> Tamera Alexander and Deborah Raney have been critique partners for more than six years––ever since they met at a writer’s conference and Tammy volunteered to critique Deb’s manuscript for Playing by Heart.
While not all critique partners become friends, friendship has been a natural outgrowth of Deb and Tammy’s working relationship. Over the course of critiquing almost a dozen manuscripts between them, they have learned much about what to look for in a critique partner, what works, what doesn’t, how to handle conflict and competition, and how to “agree to disagree” with grace.
Writing can be a lonely pursuit and it’s easy to become so close to your own work that you can no longer be objective. A writing critique partner can provide encouragement, a new perspective, growth in the craft of writing, and a kick in the pants when necessary.
Here, in a discussion taken from their article in A Novel Idea, Deb and Tammy share just a few of the things they’ve gleaned through their working partnership:
Where and how do I find a critique partner?
• One-on-one partnerships often develop naturally out of larger critique groups; so join a group with an eye to eventually working with one other writer as a critique partner.
• Connect with someone you meet at a writer’s conference. That’s where I met Deb and we just clicked as friends before we ever became writing critique partners.
• Connect with someone from a local writer’s club or group.
• Ask a non-writing friend or relative who is well read to critique your manuscript. Perhaps barter babysitting or cooking or housecleaning in exchange for those services. A non-writer who loves to read your genre can be an invaluable source for clarity and pacing of story.
• If feasible, consider paying a professional editor for a critique. An organization of which Deb and I are both members is American Christian Fiction Writers, and there are numerous well-qualified editors within the ACFW membership, as well as critique group opportunities.
• Sign up for a paid critique at a local or national writer’s conference you’re attending. Worth every penny! ACFW’s conference is one of the best around!
• As a last resort (and it’s a good idea anyway even if you have a critique partner because you need to keep your skills sharpened) become your own critique partner. Read books on self-editing, such as:
o Revision & Self-Editing, James Scott Bell, Writer’s Digest Books
o Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King, HarperCollins
• Take advantage of online opportunities to post your work for critique. If someone likes your work, or sees potential in it, they may be interested in partnering with you.
• Offer to critique for a published author. I took a risk and asked Deb if she’d be willing for me to read for her. I knew it was a long shot, and I’m certainly not suggesting you start contacting novelists at random, asking to critique their work. But if you’ve established a relationship with a published author at a conference or online, it might be a possibility, and it’s a great way to learn. And then once I was published, Deb was willing to critique my work in exchange.