You also need a critique partner (heretofore referred to as a CP) who has strengths opposite of your own. For instance, I am a grammar nut. I don't catch everything. I am not a professional editor. I do, however, catch most grammatical mistakes--more than your average bear. That's my strength. I am not good at showing not telling. I need someone who can point out when I am telling instead of showing. If you can do that, and you suck at comma usage we might be a good match.
There is a huge difference between constructive criticism and negative judgment. Learn the difference or lose CPs.
So what makes a good CP:
- Constructive Criticism. The goal of constructive criticism is improvement. If a remark you are about to make will not help the author improve then you should probably keep your trap shut. Critique should be learning experiences. If you are not helping a person learn then you are not critiquing properly.
- Be Kind and be Tactful. This manuscript is their baby! They love it. It's a piece of them. You know this. You write. How would you feel if someone told you your story sucked? How would you feel if someone told you they weren't 'drawn in' to your book? Remarks like 'this sucks,' 'I'm not drawn into your story,' 'I'm not emotionally connecting to your characters,' or 'I just don't like it' are not helpful--they're hurtful. Don't judge. Provide constructive criticism. It really is that simple.
- Know the Genre. If you do not read the genre the other person writes then you aren't likely to be a good CP. I write fantasy. If you don't read fantasy then you are not going to like my work, and you are not going to have useful feedback. If you don't know the genre, then you can't critique it. I don't read much romance, so I'd never try to crit romance.
- Be Honest. Being kind doesn't mean you can't be honest. If something sounds wonky to you then say, "X sounds strange to me because Y."
- Don't just criticize, PRAISE. Always, always, always comment on the things you see that you like! No one wants to see a million red comments all about mistakes. There are parts that make you smile--say so. If there are parts that made you laugh out loud--say so.
If you'd like to be my CP then I expect you to be honest without being judgmental. I expect you to provide constructive criticism. I expect you to be able to point out the things I do well. I expect you to be know my genre (fantasy) and I should know your's. I have these expectations because I meet these expectations.
If you'd like to be my CP I will provide constructive criticism. I will be honest, but tactful. I will only agree to be your CP if I know your genre (and you should know mine). I'll do my best to make your writing better and to make you a better writer. I want you to do the same. I don't think that's too much to ask. Do you?
My Twitter friend Natalie (whom I do not know in 'real' life) recently posted critique partner classifieds. If you'd like to be my CP then please shoot me an email or comment below. Maybe we can be CPs and lifelong friends :) Happy editing!