Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Where To Find Your Perfect Critique Partner

Confession time: I read the last page of the book first. No, not the ending. I’m not all that morbid and besides, if I die tomorrow.... 

...I’ll probably be thinking of other things at the time versus “Damn, I wish I knew how that book wrapped up.” 

I mean the acknowledgments. I’m a total sucker for them! I love seeing the vast team of people who go into making a book sing and, after writing my own recently, I know just how heartfelt they can be. Front and center in my acknowledgments: my critique partners. They are the bomb diggity and I hope they know it.  At this point, they’ve all made the cross from critique partner to true friends...

... but at one point we started as strangers on the same journey. In next month’s post, I’ll blog about how to get the most from your critique partners and where and when to use them to your best advantage, but today I thought I’d start with how to find amazing critique partners of your own (cuz you know I’m not sharing mine. Well, I might.)

SCBWI: a professional organization of like-minded people is a great starting point. Many local chapters have organized critique groups that meet in person on a monthly basis and are open to all members. Generally these groups examine shorter pieces (a PB text, a chapter of a longer piece) and give critiques in person. Often subgroups form where members trade longer samples or full manuscripts on their own time.

CPseek: After Pitch Wars 2013, a number of the mentors joined together to form CP Seek, an online message board where writers can post “want ads” of sorts for online critique partners. Check them out- there’s gold in them thar hills!

Online contests: Ever enter your query or first page in a contest and drool over another entries, wishing you could read their story ASAP. Guess what? They might be drooling over yours. And maybe you can. One of my closest friends and I met when she was sorting slush in a contest, trying to choose which queries to advance. She tweeted that she found one she wished she could read right then (hooray, it was mine!), another writer friend happened to see her tweet and looped me into the conversation. Several manuscripts later, we now talk ten times a day and even our kids have become friends, despite the eight-hour drive separating us. In fact, today I’m washing sheets in advance of their visit next week.

Writing Sites: Many reputable writing sites, such as Mother.Write.Repeat and Miss Snark will periodically open the comments on a post for writers to connect with other writers seeking CP’s. Back in 2012, I responded to one along with three others. We promptly formed a Yahoo group where we could trade our manuscripts with one another. Not quite two years later, we are now the MGBetareaders, twenty-four writers strong, still trading and now blogging as a group at www.kidliterati.com. In that time about half of us have become agented and some have signed book deals. Most importantly, the group has become a safe environment for sharing the ups and downs of publishing.

One valuable suggestion when trading work with a new critique partner: start with a manageable chunk of your works (maybe three chapters or so) to see if you are a good match for each other before committing to trading a whole manuscript. Finding a good CP can be a bit like finding a good mate. There may be some dating involved before you hit your perfect match. 

The greatest thing about this kidlit writing community is how supportive, welcoming and encouraging we are to one another. It’s something that warms my heart and takes (most of) the sting out of the sucky rejection part of this business. We have each other’s backs and well have yours, the moment you ask for it. So come find us!!


  1. I found several CPs and beta readers from some of the sites you mentioned. Some we only worked together briefly to test it out, but others have been involved with more than one project. Through Romance Writers of America I have an in-person critique group that goes more in-depth. It took me a few years to find people to meet with regularly.

  2. Definitely agree it takes trial and error! Sounds like you have a lot of resources to draw from!!

  3. Great post! I met my critique partners in two online writing classes. After spending eight weeks with them, it was easy to see we were a great fit. And yes, a couple have become personal friends. They understand like my non-writing friends can't. Writing friends rock!