So far in this series, I’ve talked about the differences between Beta Readers (Betas) and Critique Partners (CPs) and how and where to find CPs. This week, I’m going to talk about what it takes to be a good CP. Some of these tips might cross over into my post about Betas when I talk about them in a few weeks.
- Devise a Process: Every author/CP pair is going to work differently together. It’s important that the two of you talk about the kind of feedback that you as a CP feel qualified to give to make sure that it aligns with the type of feedback the author is looking for. You should also come up with some kind of schedule. Let the author know your timeframe and ask if they have a deadline. Some other questions to consider are:
- How far are you in the writing process?
- Is there anything in particular you want me to look for when going through this chapter/manuscript?
- How do you want to receive my feedback? (Google doc, Track changes on Word, FB chat, email, etc.)
Since you as a CP generally come into the process a lot earlier than Betas, deadlines might not be something that the author cares about yet. However, it is smart to ask those kinds of practical questions so that you are both on the same page with your expectations.
- Be Thorough: Remember, you’re the first pair of eyes to see this author’s work, and you’re working with them so that they can become a better writer. Do not come back to them with comments like, “I loved this chapter!” This kind of surface feedback is not helpful to either of you. Honor their requests for certain types of feedback. If they don’t ask for anything specific, just write down your thoughts and reactions to scenes, characters, anything that surprises you or catches you off guard, etc. Act like you are going to review this book as a reader and let the author know what types of things you might include.
- Be Honest: Please, please, please, do not say nice things to spare our feelings. If the main character is grating on your nerves to the point that you despise them, but you love the villain, that’s probably something that the author is going to want to know. Don’t hold back expressing yourself just because you’re trying to be nice. With that said:
- Be Constructive: Just because you’re being honest does not mean you need to be mean about it. If you happen to hate the main character, don’t just say, “Laura sucks; she needs to go jump off of a cliff somewhere.” No. That is not helpful and unnecessarily rude. Instead, you could say: “I can’t connect to Laura because every time we see her she seems very shallow. Maybe you could include a few scenes where she’s taking care of her little sister. Show us that she really loves her and she has other sides to her besides the one that she shows her friends.” This is advice the author can work with. You’ve still communicated that you don’t like this character, but now the author has some indication as to why, and you’ve offered them a way to change it.
- And finally, probably the most important: Keep Communication Open: If at any point, for any reason, you decide that you can’t be a CP for this person anymore, please, for the love of all things writing, tell them. There is nothing worse as a writer than sending out your manuscript and not hearing from the recipient for weeks. Even if you’re just busy, keep them informed so they know that you haven’t given up. Keep them updated as you read with anything you particularly like or could be improved throughout the manuscript. That way, while they’re waiting for the bulk of your comments, they can get an overall sense of what you think and be a little bit more prepared for what to expect.
Challenge of the Week: Were these tips helpful? Were there any tips I missed? Share in the comments!