As a writer, critique partners and beta readers are a crucial part of the process. Critique partners ask the important, hard questions. They point out inconsistencies or plot holes. They also serve as checks and balances against the writer’s ego.
Trust is the most critical aspect of any critique relationship. Trust that the feedback is coming from a place of support and with good intentions. As writers, we are often emotionally tied to our work and sharing it is a vulnerable process. It’s hard to put yourself and your work out into the world. When feedback comes from a voice you trust, it’s easier to hear.
In addition to personal trust, it’s important to find critique partners that understand your genre and readers. If your critique partner or beta readers aren’t well-versed in your genre and similar novels, their feedback could be good, but not relatable.
One other thing I’ve identified as important when working with critique partners is to find people in a similar head space. When you can connect to writing beyond your current work, that helps. You can build rapport as you discuss things outside of critiques.
Critique groups are an entirely different beast. Having participated in very few of these, I’ve found them to not be helpful. The mob mentality can take over quickly, leading to the group being a chorus of echos after one person comments on something they may or may not have seen or even considered. Groups are great for getting a variety of ideas, but I’ve found them to be more harmful than helpful.
As I’ve embarked on a journey to make writing a career (eventually), I’ve started seeking out more critique partners and advice. While on this journey, I’ve heard some pretty hurtful comments that didn’t actually help my process. They hurt it. Thankfully, I have a core group of readers and writers that I trust that can talk me off of the ledge when I need it.
At the end of the day, as hard as it can be to hear that your baby isn’t as cute as you think she is, it is necessary. Every writer wants to get better. But we have to be careful with feedback—it’s easy to crave, but tough to swallow—you ultimately need to trust your gut. If the feedback feels wrong, consider why it feels wrong. If the feedback consistently feels wrong, move on. Find partners and readers you trust.
Now, I’m off to take my own advice,