How do you define critique partners?

There’s a lot of discussions going on Twitter right now about Critique Partners and what they should / shouldn’t be doing. For you, personally, what do you look for in a CP? Do you believe it can vary from partner to partner?

Personally, I always imagined a CP as someone who looks out for overarching things, more on the developmental side and points out errors that really stand out (example: if you keep doing something incorrectly with grammar, that doesn’t fit with the voice, they point it out once and tell you to look out for it), opposes to straight up full line edits.

I think a of a CP being a second pair of eyes, so practically what you just described. They would love your story just as much as you do and they would want to help you in any way possible. They would spot plot holes and any general mistakes.

Then again, I think it would vary from partner to partner depending on what each person is like (the author and the CP). The author might not want the CP to critique the story line, just the voice or grammar instead? I’m not sure anymore :sweat_smile:

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I think a critique partner should help you improve and not point out flaws and make you feel like a failure. How is that achieved? By focusing not only on the mistakes, but on things done right.

This! I think it depends from partner to partner, because different people have strengths and weaknesses. I’ve seen a lot of convo on Twitter the last few days about whether or not a CP should be doing line edits — but I’ve always imagined a writer would have polished their manuscript enough before sending it to a CP that in depth line edits wouldn’t really be necessary? Maybe that’s just me — everyone’s different!

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Definitely! I think CPs should love your project as much, or close to as much, as you do and cheer you on.

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I don’t believe I know what a ‘critique partner’ is, I mean, as far as any standard if there is one, but I imagine it is distinct from an editor or beta reader in that:

  1. There’s more likely an exchange where each partner is reading the others work and both are expected to contribute feedback such as they are able (as opposed to a Beta Reader or Editor who have a more one-directional relationship).

  2. A critique partner isn’t necessarily expected to read an entire finished work [edit: I should say a complete draft here, rather than finished work] (which Beta readers usually are) or to be able to give all types of editing advice (like developmental editors, line editors, etc.)

@Makaylasophia I haven’t looked this up for the correct terminology, but in my mind there’s three types of people:

  • Critquer/Review These people look at structure, pacing, tone, characterisation, transitions, etc etc Big picture stuff. They may point out any glaring grammar mistakes, but it’s not their main focus.

  • Editor These people find every misplaced comma, mispelt or incorrect word etc etc. Super detailed stuff.

  • Beta Reader These people sort of let you know that they personally think of a story. Do they like it. Were they grabbed by the hook. Are the characters relatable. They don’t necessarily have to know anything about the technicalities of writing, and it’s actually better if they don’t. Overall reception of the story as a whole.

I like to have all three types of people look over my work. If I can find them.

I’ve had critique buddies who focused solely on my grammar and punctuation, so it was all about editing there. And then I’ve had others who focus more on the plot, character development pacing, etc.

So I think it depends on what has been agreed upon between you and your critique buddy prior to reading your book.

@SWKata What you had for editor, I think, is correct but more specifically applies to line editing.

There’s also developmental/structural editing, which may be performed by professional editors, as well, which covers a lot of what you have under Critiquer/Reviewer.

I do agree critiquers (partners or providing one-way service) often some of that developmental feedback.

Reviewers generally write for the reader as their audience, not for the author. At least that’s my understanding. So, the author might take away valuable insight from a reviewer (who does tend to look at big picture stuff and characterization and such) but the reviewer doesn’t write with them in mind. Right?

I concur with your description of beta readers.

Also, recently, I came across the term “alpha reader” which seems to be a cheerleader who reads one’s work first and/or while it’s in progress, before the beta readers receive a draft.


Also, @Makaylasophia I searched on twitter and read some of those threads you referred to and followed links from some. It was informative. That’s also how I came across the mention of the alpha readers.

Ahh, yes, you’re right about Reviewers. Like the people on Rotten Tomatoes or Amazon etc.

Alphas are your hand holders. They are the people you mine for story ideas when you’re stuck and need a shoulder to cry on while they tell you in no uncertain terms that you better get writing the story in the flattest voice possible. These don’t have to be writers. They are on your side, know all your writing quirks down to the fact that you will most likely insert x thing here, and act like cheer leaders, but force you to write the damned thing eventually. They will read your bloody typewriter syndrome you just happened to put out 2 minutes ago with all of your typos and mistakes. If you get one… hang on and don’t let go.

A Beta you burn through. The less they know you the better they are at their job. You want someone with a whip that will and can use it against you. A beta is usually a fellow writer versed in your genre, but completely cold about you and your hours of whining about the story and how hard you worked. They will pick up grammar, spelling, story points, plot holes, comment on character, character flaws, etc. Unlike an Alpha they aren’t there to hold your hand. You want them to be cold towards your mistakes so they can spot them for you. If they get used to your mistakes, their effectiveness goes downhill and fresh eyes are more likely to pick up the problems.

Editors come in two types in the industry. There are copyeditors who do grammar, etc. And then the Editors that work on story arc, etc. The idea that these are different people from Betas and Alpha is plain wrong. All of the people who ask you to change your story are editors. Flat out.

Critique partner is like a reversible BDSM relationship where you mutually agree to destroy each other but within limits. They can come in two flavors. Either as Alpha where you get the hand holding and the skipping through the field of bloody poppies, or the Beta version where you both agree to destroy each other without mercy until you’re both sloppy fetal position masses before you rebuild the story.

I, personally, don’t do the Alpha critique partner relationship because I kind of feel like it’s asking a teacher to give you ideas on what to write for a midterm exam specific topic. It goes against your best interests in a lot of ways. You want someone to whip you, but give you ideas? I separate those roles and have an Alpha I use for stories who is a great straight talker. <3 She’s really good at parsing what I would normally write anyway even when I’m whining my head off about how I can’t write it.

I do like the Beta swap and someone I swapped with before got published (with mine and other people’s help). I’m definitely a better beta anyway than Alpha. I don’t give ideas away and don’t do “answers” point to problems very well and can tighten up your manuscript really well. But I think if you’re going to swap, you need to be specific about what you want out of it before you start and where your manuscript is in the process as well. Betaing takes a lot more time than being an alpha. Doing line edits, refining story points, drumming up examples, asking the writer to make this or that change and there is a whole lot more fragility involved as well. Alphas have a lot more to put up with whining-wise, but less work on the page. Essentially your personal cheerleader hand-holder who trouble shoots with you.

What sucks, though, with critiques is if you’re in one place in your writing journey and another person isn’t at the same spot–this can cause problems–so finding someone of equal or similar skill level helps a lot more for swaps than casual critiques (one-offs).