The Most Important Tip for Critique Partners

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Finding Critique partners has been confusing to me. 

How do you find somebody to read your book and just give you ideas without begging them, paying them, or fearing their criticism?

The secret begins in the critique partner knowing one important tip.

I spent many years in acting class and I had teachers who would tear your work apart and destroy everything you did just right off the bat- the minute you finished your scene or the minute they stopped it. It wasn’t as constructive as my last acting coach who, when he interrupted the scene or you finished the scene, which ever came first, always began with, “good good good OK.“ 

Those few words instantly relaxed you and allowed you to be open and present when he told you what he thought, or the direction he thought you should go in, or what was missing. All you thought as a student was “Give me more of that. Tell me more of that. I want to understand, and I want to do better.”


Therefore I was a wee bit terrified of finding a critique partner or a beta reader. Until now. I was very stuck and frustrated because I knew my opening needed to be better, and to push myself I signed up to be part of a peer critique group at the winter SCBWI conference. 

I knew my opening was not good enough,

but I also have a daughter who is a journalism major. Now both of my kids are excellent writers which should come as no surprise, but she, actually,  wanted to help. So I gave her the first 50 pages. She read the first 10 and then she asked if I wanted her to  really go into this with me. I instantly felt about seven years old, but she followed that with “it’s good” which allowed me to breathe.


I got excellent criticism from her, constructive criticism that I could use and I’m going to work on today.


The lesson?

Always begin your criticism with a positive word.

“Good, this is great, I see where you’re going, I see what you’re trying to do, I understand what you’re saying,” are all phrases we can use when criticizing someone else’s work. It allows them to breathe, and listen to what you’re actually saying in the manner in which it is meant which is to be helpful. Because if we’re not interested in being helpful we shouldn’t be critiquing someone’s work. If you just want to  destroy just keep your mouth shut!

The whole idea behind being a critique partner is to help. Criticism becomes such a dirty, loaded word full of fear unless you have the trust that the person you have chosen has your best interests at heart. Be Choosy. But don’t shy away from someone who will tell you the truth.


Now I am back to work with my daughter’s amazing critique in my head. And I have my first critique partner/beta reader who isn’t afraid to tell me the truth but will always begin with a positive word.


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