Critiquing Your Writing: Who Does What For You?

Do you have critique partners?

You’ve probably heard that the way to improve your writing is to have partners who will read your work and give you feedback. Yes, that’s certainly true, and I’ve had excellent partners through the years.

But good critique partners can be hard to find, and matching up with the wrong partner or partners can actually be detrimental to your writing.

In this post, I’m going to discuss (a) what makes for a good critique group and (b) what other forms of feedback you might use.

Critique Groups…

…are not all equal. Writers who are inexperienced in critiquing may not be able to tell you, in a way that helps you, what’s working or not. Here are some tips.

  • Try to find critique partners at the same writing stage you are in, or a little above your stage.
  • Try to find critique partners who write what you write in terms of genre and audience age.
  • Try to find critique partners who understand that they are not rewriting your book for you, and that the most helpful feedback is specific. Example: “In your opening pages, I’m not sure what your character really wants, what their story goal is.” Or, “In this paragraph, you’ve changed points of view.”
  • Set up a regular time to meet, weekly, biweekly, monthly.
  • Share equally. Everyone gets a turn.
  • Limit the amount of time given to any one submission.
  • I’ve found it most effective to share only a small portion at a time. Ten pages is about anyone’s limit for good feedback.
  • Reading aloud is hard. Personally, I have to read the pages myself to give good feedback. In my groups, we’ve either brought work and all read silently, or sent work ahead for feedback when we meet.

people writing at table

And where do you find good critique partners? SCBWI meetings are a great place to start. If you meet someone and bond with them, and they fit the criteria above, that’s a sure winner.

Don’t be afraid to say when it isn’t working. There’s nothing more destructive than bad critiques – I’ve known writers to quit after brutal or insensitive feedback.

Other Types of Feedback

There are other ways to get feedback, and these are the paid options.

Developmental editors: if you Google that term, you’ll find dozens of people who do what’s called developmental editing. This is broad brush feedback, generally in the form of a long edit letter with no line edits.

Online courses: some are structured to group participants so that they can work through course exercises together. That may not lead to specific feedback, but it might lead to meeting someone who is a good match for a critique partner.

Book coaches: this is what I do. It’s longer term personalized feedback, with line edits and specific discussion, through either writing a novel from scratch or revising a full novel, all over the span of time that’s needed.

Copy editors: if you’re confident of your writing skills but not your grammar, it’s easy to hire a copy editor who will do everything from grammar check to internal consistency (i.e., did you get your timeline out of order? Are your strangely spelled names always spelled the same?)

My Upcoming Masterclass

After a lot of research, I’m finally in real planning for my masterclass in writing the middle grade or young adult novel. This will be a high touch, limited enrollment class, and here’s the good news: much of the course material will be at your fingertips, forever. And, bonus, I plan to create cohort groups of students, which may lead students to long-term critique partners.

I can’t wait to share the details – I’m hoping to launch the course in March 2023 at the latest. If you’d like to be kept informed with no obligation, click here (and though it says middle grade, I’m expanding to include young adult): 

Yes! I’d like to hear more about your masterclass!


One Response to “Critiquing Your Writing: Who Does What For You?”

  1. Linda W.

    I have critique partners and I’m in a critique group for picture books. So yes, critiquing is important. It took trial and error though. I was in a critique group that was less than ideal. I’ve had the current critique situations for several years now.