Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Find a Critique Partner

A critique partner is a good idea. It’s hard to read your own story with an impartial, critical eye. Sue Ranscht and I are currently reading each other’s WiP to provide one another with outside perspective and mutual support. I can only hope that my critiques are as useful to her as hers have been for me. Thanks to Sue’s honesty, I’m re-writing my set up. She pushes me to write deeper.

If you are considering critiquing another writer’s work – but, you know, you hesitate to criticize another writer’s work – here are some tips to get you thinking in a useful direction.
Read thoroughly. Don’t skim or speed-read. Surface-level feedback (“I liked it!”) sucks as useful.
Consider using a “compliment sandwich” approach. Start your critique with positive feedback, then offer any criticisms or suggestions, and conclude with additional positive input.
Use clear, specific language.
Make suggestions, not mandates.
Don’t let personal preferences cloud your judgment. Easier said than done, but try.
Practice striking the perfect balance between praise and being constructive.
Watch your tone! Email is notorious for giving the wrong impressions.

Sue has offered to connect you with a writing partner, right here on the Writers Co-op. See:

It also helps to find a writing partner if you stay in touch with people in the writing life. Browse these links.
There are a ton of other such sites, but I have zero interest in those that charge a fee for use, exist mainly to collect personal data, or don’t strike me as currently active.

The easiest way to get a writing partner, of course, is to email a piece of your work to stranscht@sbcglobal.net. You are thereby agreeing to critique the work of the person who critiques your work. But that’s why they’re called a partner.

NOTE: The image at the top of the page has nothing to do with this discussion. I just liked it.


15 thoughts on “Find a Critique Partner

  1. Thanks for posting this, GD. It’s good critique advice, and you’re absolutely right that valuable critiques begin with thorough reading. Honestly, it can be a time consuming process to do well.

    I’ve had professional readers provide feedback for several short stories I’ve entered in ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Competitions. The least helpful one gushed praise that didn’t match the accompanying numeric scores, presumably because the reader was looking for a tip on top of the portion s/he would receive of the fee I had paid for coverage. The most helpful were objective and honest, pointing out what worked well, but emphasizing what didn’t work as well as it could and why it didn’t work. The fixes were left to me, but even I could see that my writing was improving as I learned to make the most of constructive advice.

    My critiques strive to be that valuable. I’ve spent a couple years writing dozens of critiques of picture books, middle grade, and YA chapters for the San Diego Region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. My favorite author responses declare, “Now I’m really excited about revising this!”

    And yes, GD and I are reading each others WIPs for just the reasons he stated above. Our partnership took form organically born of my thoughts on a piece he had shared here on Writers Co-op, and his curiosity about whether I was currently working on a novel — which I am, and it turns out to be his favorite kind of fun sci-fi. His questions, insights, and observations have led me to some crucial re-thinking and re-writing, and always for the better.

    I think we should all be as fortunate as I feel I’ve been. That’s the main reason we’re offering a critique exchange. You share your constructive thoughts about another author’s work, and they’ll share their constructive thoughts about yours,

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Sharing constructive thoughts -good way to put it, Sue. I think that’s one reason writing a novel takes so much time.

    Just out of curiosity, how long does anyone think it takes to write a good novel? In my case, I write most mornings before breakfast. But it’s a plodding process because although the book is based on true events, events that I remember quite clearly, the deeper feelings and thoughts, the motivations, never were clear. I enjoy digging them out and finding a way to express them accurately in context. So, I figure three years, maybe? Of course, it’s possible that it takes me so long to create a serious work because my mind rejects serious work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I co-wrote a YA sci-fi novel as the first part of a trilogy (~120,000 words) and it took us two years of concentrated effort. When I re-wrote it as a stand alone and my co-author critiqued each chapter as I wrote, we got it down to 9900 words in about 7 months.

      My goal with my current novel is to finish it by this Fall. Most of the writing will have happened in less than a year, but I actually started it about three years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. mimispeike says:

    I don’t rule out participating in the future but for now, I am struggling with a complicated issue. I have been advised by an artist I speak to on Facebook, who uses the same methods I do, that my Photobashing, as they call it, is dangerous.

    Photobashing – using images off the web without permission. I read that the art, used transformatively and/or as parody (I feel I do both), is protected, but Ingo says it will come down to who has the better lawyer.

    I have discovered a site that I probably will use to download images legally to replace my least-altered images. I need some clarification first. The price per image is astonishing little compared to other sites. I have theories about why that is. For instance, the price given is for the smallest size. Buy a larger format and the price will probably escalate. By how much, is the question. I cannot find this information on the site. I need to understand this before I sign up. I have emailed and am waiting for an answer.

    Bad news: I’ve paused on Maisie while I solve this problem. Good news: I’m working on the finished cover for Sly. Then I will give Sly a final look-at and turn it into an ebook.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I struggled with this problem when I wrote Elliot’s Adventures. The research I did indicated that you don’t have to make money from someone else’s images — it violates their copyright by merely publishing it, as in a blog post, without permission. The best I felt I could do was research images deeply enough to discover the actual creator. (Hint: if your Google search enters the weedy territory of Pinterest, you will never find the true creator.)

        Liked by 3 people

        • mimispeike says:

          What I’m most concerned about are images of movie posters and stills from vintage films, widely available on the web for the most part (but of low quality), except for two pieces that I’ve not found in other than one place. And I’ve looked and looked.

          Most of what I need I have found on Dreamstime, for a fraction of the cost on the other photo sites. (Is this a miracle? Is there a catch? We’ll see.)

          My posters are parodies of the original items. I am altering them substantially, creating my own titles, inserting my mouse in place of the actual star. I read that to use an image for a parody is protected usage.

          Clothing items I have changed considerably, and will continue to tinker with until I feel confident they cannot be easily recognized.

          I am most concerned about my ballet dress for Little Miss Muffet. I am not glad to substitute something from Dreamstime, but I will. I’ve searched Dreamstime for ‘Princess Dress’ – ‘Fairy Tale Dress’ and etc. and I see many acceptable alternatives that I will buy, take no chances

          My front cover is taken from a movie mag cover of a hundred years ago. I have thrown away the face, kept the feather headdress, and dropped in my mouse face. I have owned movie mags from that era in the past. I could easily have owned this cover myself and scanned it. Surely that cover is in the public domain by now.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Perry Palin says:

      GD’s thought is a good one.

      We have a professional artist and all around great guy in our area who paints outdoor subjects, illustrates magazine articles and books, sells greeting cards with his work, etc. I don’t know what he charges for line drawings; he’s probably worth it but I don’t know if I could afford him. No sleepness nights at least over whether the owner of the image will bring a lawsuit.

      When my two short story collections needed cover images, I negotiated with another artist that I know who gave us a good deal, and I included his bio in the back of the books.

      Local outdoor writer and friend Dan Brown (not “that” Dan Brown) published a book of fishing stories entitled DA FISHY CODE, and the cover image was of the Mona Lisa holding a salmon. The company representing ‘that” Dan Brown contacted my local friend, which impressed him, and they backed off when they realized that his name really is Dan Brown and that the image of the Mona Lisa is in the public domain.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. C’mon, GD!  The image at the top is relevant as well as funny.  A good critique can give the brain a good flossing.

    The (poorly named) “referee reports” on submissions to STEM publications are rather like critiques.  Those who give and get these critiques are not paired off, and the givers are not identified to the getters.  But everybody is splashing around in a pool of reciprocal altruism, and the guidelines in this post apply.  I tried to give as well as I got, which was often very well indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • How did that work, Mel? Was everyone involved in both the giving and the getting? Was it a posted collection of submissions the givers chose whom they would write “referee reports” for? Or was each writer expected to critique every writer’s submission?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, it is understood that people who want to publish their own work are obliged to critique what other people want to publish.  Editors are pivotal in the process.

        The editor looks over a submission and sends copies to a few people with expert knowledge of the submission’s subject matter.  Those who don’t apologize for being too busy right now will be givers, perhaps after editorial prodding if they are slow.  Each critique has an overall recommendation (often well away from the extremes of acceptance as is or flat rejection) and the reasoning behind it.  Editor decides which way to go, maybe after obtaining another critique if the original givers are far from consensus.  Would-be author gets editor’s decision and anonymous copies of critiques.  Getter often revises paper in light of critiques.

        Apart from a terse generic note of thanks to “the referees” at the end of a paper, there is no direct reward for givers, but a good editor will remember who gives timely and helpful critiques and bear that in mind when givers need to get later.  Giving good critiques also makes the STEM world a little better for all, including the giver.  It’s a positive version of the classic admonition not to spit in the soup we all have to eat.  That may sound like a weak motivation, but nerds are weird.

        Oddly enough, the “referee” system works fairly well.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I can see having a set pool of available givers who become getters at varying times would be an effective way to handle our own critique exchange. It wouldn’t be as welcoming to off-site authors who visit solely for the critique opportunity, but, potentially, each getter would benefit from numerous critiques at a time. Hmm.

          Liked by 2 people

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