Seeking a critique partner

seeking a critique partner

I’m looking for a fellow writer who loves fantasy and is interested in building a long term critique partner relationship. I promise I can be helpful. If you might be interested, please read on and get in touch.

The title says it all. I’m looking for a critique partner (CP) for my writing. I think.

Okay, I’m 95% sure I’m looking for a CP. If you think that might be you, read on.

What is a critique partner?

Amidst playing Minecraft Dungeons yesterday, I did some research for this post (and for my search for a critique partner).

I tweeted:

And I read a dozen blog posts. K.M. Weiland has some great advice on finding the right CP, as do Kristen Kieffer and Leslie Wibberley.

My takeaways were that there is no one right way to work with a CP, but it really matters finding a CP who’s a good match for you.

(Also, good CP relationships can last a decade or longer. I want this!)

I realise I haven’t answered the question. What is a CP? Leslie Wibberley sums it up:

A fellow writer/author who provides thoughtful and informed feedback on your work, based on their own skill set and knowledge as a writer, in exchange for your own.

Leslie Wibberley

That is, I’m looking for another writer to work with in a mutually advantageous way–to help us both improve our writing, bounce ideas off each other, and provide encouragement and accountability.

Why the doubt?

Yes, I have doubt.

It stems from a few sources.

Am I confident enough to share unpolished writing with another author?

Am I passing the buck? Will I rely on my CP to find problems in my writing that I should find myself? Will I take praise and decide not to change something that I know isn’t as good as I can make it? Will I take suggestions without using sufficient judgment and make changes that disimprove my WIP?

Am I committed enough to writing to make someone else’s writing career dependent on me in this way?

I think the only way to answer these questions is by trying it. I’m serious about working with a CP, but there’s a chance it won’t work out. Consider yourself warned.

The forest is dark, but the stars glitter.

Why now?

I have been writing quite happily (largely) without a critique partner for years, so it’s fair you should ask why I’m looking for one now.

First, my good friend Jan M. Flynn suggested it.

Second, I’m a little bit stuck in my current edit.

Third, I want to make the most of my extra time while I’m only working half time.

Fourth, I love helping and supporting people in their writing endeavours, and I (humbly) think I have a lot to offer.

Fifth, who doesn’t want a new close friend who elevates their writing to greater heights?

The kind of relationship I (think I) want

This might change with experience, but I think what I want is email (or similar) contact at least once a week. This might involve exchanging chapters when that’s a useful activity, brainstorming ideas, or just providing accountability (no, I didn’t spend all week building castles in Minecraft, I edited three scenes).

I want someone who pushes me to be a better writer without making me want to quit, and someone I can do the same for.

I want a friend, cheerleader, and critic.

I want a valuable CP relationship that will last ten years and multiple books.

Is that a big ask?

The kind of writer I’m looking for

In the post I mentioned above, K.M. Weiland gives a six-point list of things to look for in a CP. I like the list, so I’m going to start with it.

A similar level of experience to me

Because CP relationships are two-way, for both writers to get value it helps if they’re at a similar level.

What level is that for me?

If you’ve been following me a while you probably have a fair idea.

I’m not published yet, but I’ve written over 500,000 words of novels. I’ve finished the first draft of two complete novels (200,000 words and 150,000 words–too long, I know), the second of which I’ve taken through 9.5 rounds of edits, including three major structural edits.

I’ve never taken a writing qualification or course, but I’ve studied dozens of books on writing craft and uncountable blog posts. I even remember some of what I’ve read.

You can find some of my short stories (not my forte, but a bit of fun) here.

So maybe you’ve published, maybe you haven’t. You’ve probably completed a full draft of at least one novel, decided it was unsalvageable, and moved on to another.

Do you have a world of experience? Or can you change a lightbulb?
Someone I like

A CP is a very special sort of friend. The relationship won’t work if we don’t like each other.

If we’re already online friends, I probably like you. Perhaps you like me too.

If we’re not, come and chat. Point me to your blog or other online home. Let’s get to know each other and see if we get along.

A similar level of professionalism to me

Right now, I work half time and write half time, but that’s not going to last. I will have to go back to full time office work.

Most writers work full time in another job, but I don’t think that says anything about their professionalism.

I’m looking for someone who is committed to their writing, to taking criticism and using it to make their work the best it can be, with the goal of publishing successfully, either self-publishing or through traditional means.

If you don’t write novels, or if you write fan fiction, we’re probably not the best CPs for each other. (I can critique short stories, but I don’t enjoy reading them much and I don’t have a deep understanding of them. And fan fiction is a different creature entirely.)

Right now I still plan to pursue trade (traditional) publication, but that could change. Ideally my CP would have the same goal so we could hold hands over querying and everything else, but this is less important to me than other things.

Someone who loves my story

If we’re CPs, you’re going to end up reading my stories a lot (and vice versa), so I want you to love them.

If you want to know what they’re like, I wrote a post about that.

My current WIP is medieval high fantasy. With dragons, of course.

Don’t worry–if we decide to go forwards you’ll have a chance to read some of my current WIP and decide if you’re interested.

Similar genre interests

K.M. Weiland suggests a CP should enjoy the same books and authors as you do.

What I’m looking for is someone who habitually reads adult fantasy (as opposed to YA fantasy), preferably fantasy set entirely in a secondary world.

I know that rules out most people, but I need someone familiar enough with the old tropes they can tell me if my twist on them is twisty enough, and if an idea I’m excited about has been done to death.

Different genres have different expectations, and I’m looking for a CP who understands the expectations for adult fantasy.

You don’t need to write this genre yourself, but you will need to write in a genre I’m excited to read (and preferably one I’m familiar with, so I’ll be more helpful to you).

Not sure what that is? Ask. Most areas of fantasy, possibly other genres too.

But please no grimdark. I’m too optimistic a person for that. Also, I can’t give advice on explicit sex scenes (though I don’t object to them).

I do enjoy a hint of magic.
Similar habits

I work on my WIP nearly every day, though not all of it is drafting or editing, and I want someone looking for contact every week.

I spend a long time planning, write a first draft quickly (my most recent was 150k words in about three months), and spend a long time editing (read, years). Ideally, I’d like to speed up my process so I was completing a book every year. That doesn’t sound impossible, right?

If you publish four books a year, I’ll probably feel overwhelmed by the volume of your output.

If it takes you a few months to a year to write a first draft, which you then edit, we could be a good match.

I don’t want us to be a burden on each other, but I’d like someone who can give critique on a chapter (say, 3k words) within a week in most instances. Hopefully usually within a few days. I’ll do the same.

I’m sure there will be times when this won’t happen, but as a standard response time I think it balances the need to do other things in life with steady forwards progress.

I’m happy to give big picture feedback or line edits as appropriate. I’d like to get the same from you.

Other requests

Exclusivity. Some people have just one CP, some people have more than one. I think I’m going to look for just one. I want to be super helpful and responsive to you, and I feel like having more than one CP would spread my efforts too thin.

Sort of like why the perfect number of friends is one.

I’m not going to say no because you have other CPs, but I would feel more comfortable if you were exclusive with me too.

Writing craft advice. I don’t mind how you learned to write or whether you’re a plotter, a pantser, or a gardener. But I’d really prefer you to have a certain respect for writing craft advice.

I know you can figure things out for yourself, but we won’t have a happy relationship if I refer you to some advice that will be super helpful for just the problem you’re facing, and you refuse to read it.

Literary theory. I never studied literary theory. Perhaps you did and I’m fine with that. But if you keep throwing big literary theory ideas at me I’m not going to understand and eventually I’m going to cry. So please try not to.

At least, not too much.

A cat person. This is (probably) not a dealbreaker, but you should be a cat person. There’s something about dog people that I never quite click with.

Fine, dogs are adorable. They still smell funny.

What I have to offer

I want to help you and hold your hand and make your character arcs sail like rainbows, your plots stand as solidly as fortresses, and your dialogue sparkle like unicorn wings. (Yes, my unicorns have wings. Don’t yours?)

And help you weed out excessive similes.

I want to help you build an amazing writing career and be there every step of the way. (At least ten years, remember?)

I’m ambitious for my writing career, and I want to be equally ambitious for yours.

I’m positive (usually), empathetic (to a point), insightful (arguably), reliable (when it matters), and possibly I know a few things about writing.

I’m honest but kind in my critiques, and I thrive on similar feedback. What you want to say, I want to hear. Don’t hold back and I won’t with you either. I want to grow as a writer with you.

I’ve done my fair share of beta reading, and the people I’ve beta’d for have told me my comments were extremely helpful (though I still can’t spell beta’d). Somewhere down the track I can put you in touch with some of them, if you’d like to hear it firsthand.

I’m better at plotting than characterisation, though I’m a lot better at both than I used to be. As I said before, I’ve read an elephant’s weight of writing advice and understood more than half of it.

Finally, I read often and widely, and have done so most of my life.

What next?

If you think you might be interested being CPs with me, even if you don’t meet all these criteria, please get in touch. Don’t be scared off if you don’t think you’re brilliant. I’m not brilliant, but I want to get more brilliant with you.

You can email me at a.s.akkalon (at), DM me on Twitter, or comment on this post.

I expect finding the right CP match will take some time and exploration. You’re welcome to pull out at any stage, with no offense taken and no questions asked.

If we haven’t (virtually) met, I’d like to chat first so we can get to know each other, talk about our favourite books, ambitions, and work habits, and discuss our WIPs.

You might want to spend some time trawling through my blog to see if you like my personality and sense of humour.

At some point I expect we’ll exchange chapters for a trial critique.

Beyond that… I don’t know. We’ll find out when we get there.

Do you have a CP? Any advice based on your CPing experience?

Subscribe to my blog to find out how my search for a CP goes.

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

14 thoughts on “Seeking a critique partner”

  1. I can confirm Alecia’s manuscript is a great read, and she doesn’t get all defensive and touchy about feedback (which is my biggest fear in a CP). You won’t regret this!

  2. I may not make a great CP for you, but we might make a good beta readers for each other.

    I am MUCH better at reading a whole story and giving critique than I am a chapter a week. Honestly, at 9.5 edits, you might be looking for a beta reader. This is more a “what is and isn’t working” read through rather than a chapter-by-chapter edit.

    And as for process, it takes time to hammer yours out. Every creative is different. The first book I wrote that didn’t end up in the scrap heap took me over 20 edits. Yeah. Not proud of that. My most recent one took 6. But the one after that will take more. Yours may take less as you do such a thorough job plotting. No one right answer.

    Finally, you will/should never take all the critique you get. It’s just that. critique. You have to sort through what you think is valid and what you don’t. Sometimes, the critique you get takes you counter to the story you want to tell. This is the hardest part. In the end, it’s your story, and you are the author-god. *tells my characters to shut-up and stop laughing*

    1. I’d certainly be up for a beta swap with you at some point! Though you should know I can’t critique explicit sex scenes and I don’t have a very developed feel for the structure of romances.

      I admit most of the feedback I’ve given has been on whole stories, so we’ll see if I can earn to be useful at the scene-a-week level.

      It definitely true that I’m still developing my process, and learning to be author-god (though sometimes it feels more like puppet-master for the kind of puppets that have no joints in their limbs). I wouldn’t feel bad about taking 20 edits to get a book right – I’d feel proud I stuck at it that long. 🙂

      I did think for a long time whether I should go to betas at the end of this round of editing, but in the end I decided I want to work with someone at a closer level than what I’d get in a beta exchange. Time will tell if it was the right call.

  3. I can confirm that Alecia is a fantastic beta reader and her feedback was extremely helpful. I feel blessed, and I hope to get to beta read her novel one day. 😀

  4. Alecia, I am humbly honored (is that a thing? It’s as close as I could get to what I feel) that you took my suggestion seriously — although, I feel sure this is something you’ve been considering for some time and perhaps I just nudged you, or you’re simply to generous to pass up an opportunity to give one of your fans (me) a shout-out. And boy howdy, have you given this some serious thought! If people chose their life partners with as much foresight and consideration, divorce lawyers wouldn’t be so thick on the ground. In all honesty, I feel envious in advance of the relationship you will no doubt develop with your somewhere-out-there CP, and I am sure there will be several worthy suitors for your writing hand. I’m sorely tempted to throw my hat in the ring — see “fan” above, plus I’m quietly desperate to lay eyes on your WIP. Alas, I do have a critique group, and I think you’re wise to want someone’s full attention and commitment, critique-wise. And while I grew up on Tolkien, Peter S. Beagle, C.S. Lewis, and Ursula K. LeGuin, (and more recently George R.R. Martin, who drives me to mild distraction with his refusal to resolve anything), I haven’t been a regular reader of adult fantasy so I’m too far out of the genre loop to be of first-rate help to you. And that’s what you deserve. Whoever your CP is will be wonderful, I have no doubt. And they will be lucky.

    1. Jan, you are pretty much the nicest person ever and I will be delighted to share my WIP with you as soon as it’s not too embarrassing. And even though we won’t be CPs, I’m always happy to beta read for you, any genre, if you’re interested in my feedback.

      If I can be entirely honest, it hadn’t occurred to me to consider a CP until you mentioned it, but when I read the suggestion it clicked with me. And the rest is history/frantic research about exactly what a CP does and what I should look for in one.

      Oh, so I’m overthinking? 😉 I was worried I hadn’t thought through it enough. I’m sure I’ll come up with some important criteria later on that entirely slipped my mind. Like, which is the correct type of dragon: huge and scary or cute and cuddly? Come to think of it, that’s a pretty important question. Darn it!

  5. Ooo exciting 🙂 I was hoping another student on my course would be buddies like this for my dissertation, but out of over 100 students there are only three fantasy writers and everyone’s too focused on their own projects!

    I would love to be a critique partner, but I’m not sure how much use I’d be until October, given the dissertation! If you don’t find anyone by then, or don’t mind waiting a bit, let me know, but I’m sure you’ll get tons of interest as dragons are awesome 🙂

    1. I know! I’m excited! I’m surprised so few of your classmates write fantasy. What are they? Romance writers?

      I get that – your dissertation sounds very demanding. I’m talking to several potential CPs at the moment, but if my experience is anything to go by there are plenty of people around looking to CP with a fantasy writer. You should totally get in touch with me in October regardless. Even if I’m happy working with someone at that stage, I might be able to connect you with someone else.

  6. I got one or two of my critique partners when I was posting work on my blog, but most of them come from the forum that I moderate, which has a critique group builder. (I won’t clutter up your site with links, but there’s one under “My Community” on my homepage.) My big thing is that I always start out with a chapter or two, to see how it goes. Eggs… baskets… Stuff like that.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I’m talking with several people at the moment, so I’m hopeful one will work out, but I might have a nosey at your forum too. 🙂

      Definitely good advice to start with a chapter or two. The best way to see how someone can help improve your writing is to ask them to try. 🙂

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