Working with Critique Groups or Partners

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Something really cool happened to me yesterday. Someone who had critiqued the first two chapters of For Love of an Angel (randomly via Critique Circle) contacted me to tell me she couldn’t stop thinking about my story or my characters. Yippee! That’s what every author wants to hear, isn’t it?  But that got me thinking about critique groups and/or partners, and what benefits they should be providing.

Everyone differs when it comes to their critiquing style. Some people prefer to work with one or a few critique partners, others like to be a part of a bigger group. Here’s what I found works for me:

I have a critique partner, another author who I met at RWA National last year. She gets to see my really shitty initial drafts, the ones riddled with adjectives and adverbs (poor her, LOL). After I get comments back from her I’ll do one or two more rounds of edits before submitting the first few chapters to This is a site where you can submit your work to be critiqued. It sits in a pool and whoever’s interested in the story will pick it up and critique it. The great thing about this kind of critiquing is that you get comments from multiple people (usually 3-10 or more) who don’t know you and therefore aren’t worried about hurting your feelings. The downside is they aren’t worried about hurting your feelings. Smile

I’ve found Critique Circle to be a great tool for testing reader reaction. Some people will love my work, others won’t, but I know if I’m hearing the same comment by two or more people, then that’s a suggestion I should consider taking.

So what have I learned from this type of critiquing? Well, I’ve learned what I need in both critique partners and groups.

With a critique partner, I need someone who can provide encouragement while pointing out the flaws in my manuscript. This person sees the work in its infancy stage, when I’m still very attached to it. There are those who say crit partners should be completely honest, even if the work sucks. That’s a valid point, but that’s not the kind of critique partner I want. In an industry riddled with rejection and negativity, I need to have someone on my team, someone who is encouraging me to go for it. She should help make my work stronger, not be judge and jury regarding the sales potential of my manuscript.

With a critique group, I need people who can provide quick, honest feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Getting these multiple reviews helps me decide how I want to proceed with revisions. 

So tell me what works for you? Critique partners? A critique group? Or do you prefer to go it alone?


35 thoughts on “Working with Critique Groups or Partners

    Kay Springsteen said:
    April 13, 2011 at 8:10 am

    I appreciate the hard work it takes to get a ms ready for submission. I have crit partners who help me work on the individual chapters, and who brainstorm with me. And I have a good friend who reads my stuff after the story is written, just looking for grammar and usage errors. And I return the favor with brainstorming and critiquing. Honestly, I learn just as much when I edit and critique the work of others. It all makes us better writers in the long run.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 13, 2011 at 8:23 am

      You’re right, Kay. Critiquing is a very important part of the learning process. Critiquing for others always helps me to see what’s working and what isn’t, something I can take back to my own work.

    Kendall Grey said:
    April 13, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Hi Rosalie! I’m like you in that I need some positive feedback to soften the blow of “honest” feedback. I crave pats on the head. I’m Pavlovian that way. 🙂

    It’s human nature to want to be accepted and appreciated. Does my work need help? OF COURSE IT DOES! In my opinion, a story is NEVER completely done because it can always be better. That’s the beauty of writing – or any kind of art. It evolves.

    Pats on head aside, I do need completely objective people to eyeball my stuff too. When I first started writing, I did what everyone does – I gave my work to friends and family to read. Guess what? They LOVED it! Shocking, huh? 😉 It wasn’t until I found my first CP that I realized how truly awful the writing was. Now, eleven major revisions and nearly three years later, I’ve finally got an editor. The story is MUCH improved, but it STILL needs work.

    So, long story short (ha!) – I think every writer needs crit partners who can be both honest and complimentary, even if there’s only one little thing that’s good about the work.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 13, 2011 at 9:09 am

      So true, Kendall. I’m an adjunct law instructor at an online university, and one of the first things we learned was that criticism should be sandwiched in between praise. If someone has taken the time to write an entire novel (something most people never do), there should be at least one or two good things to point out.

    Paris Brandon said:
    April 13, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I belonged to an established critique group for about ten years and learned so much. It was an incredible experience but these days the distance and time spent traveling are luxuries.

    I now have an online critique partner as well and we brainstorm by telephone and we exchange a couple of chapters at a time and then usually do a final read for each other.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 13, 2011 at 9:09 am

      I’ve done all my crit exchanges online. Can’t imagine doing it in person. I imagine you’d grow a thick skin!

    Margaret Fieland said:
    April 13, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Rosalie, thanks for the interesting post. I checked out critique circle and signed up — looks like an interesting site. I couldn’t possibly get by without critique groups and critique partners.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 13, 2011 at 9:10 am

      I like it there, Margaret. It’s not for all critting situations, but it’s good for getting multiple reads.

    Shellie Sakai said:
    April 13, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Great post.

    I’m not officially part of a critique group. I am sorta a fly on the wall. But, I need to have a critique partner. I know this but, it still scares me. And what about (no offense to any critique group living or deceased) someone stealing your ideas? How do you prevent that? Sorry to bring up the dark side, but as a newbie writer I have no idea how these thing work.

    I know that presumes that my ideas don’t suck and someone would want them! LOL!

    Thanks again Rosalie, definately food for thought.


      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 13, 2011 at 9:12 am

      Shellie, you know that thought never crossed my mind. I guess it’s because I feel an idea is nothing without the execution. If someone writes a similar story better than I do, then so be it. But I still feel my stories have a market.

      I wonder how the rest of you feel about this?

      Cheryl Wright said:
      April 13, 2011 at 9:45 am

      Shellie, as a newbie writer many moons ago I had the same thoughts. You’ll find out (with experience) that just about every idea has been done.

      You could put 100 writers in the same room and give them all the same story idea. Each and every one of them will come up with a different story.

      You may not be aware, but you cannot copyright story ideas, and the above is the reason why.

      Over twenty years ago I attended a creative writing class with about 35 attendees. We were all given one paragraph to start us off.

      Every person in the room came up with a completely different story, despite all beginning with the same paragraph.

      I hope this helps set your mind at ease.

    Cheryl Wright said:
    April 13, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I’ve belonged to a face to face critique group for nearly twelve years. When I first joined the group I found it incredibly confronting, but after a few sessions with my work, got more comfortable with the process.

    Because critiquing is our main purpose, we teach new members how to critique effectively, and how to mix praise in with criticism.

    We do honest critiquing and do not say something is good when it’s not – that’s no use to anyone. We don’t look at the storyline so much as we look at technical issues such as characterization, grammar, whether it’s true to the genre, etc.

    We have a very strong critique group of around 32 members. We also discuss market news, techniques, contests, and more. I’ve been there so long now, and have no intentions of leaving.

    I’ve made some wonderful friends at the group, which is just as important as the critiquing. Writers are a very tight knit bunch, and sometimes we need support from like-minded people.

    BTW, I don’t like online critiques. I tried it many years ago, before joining the face to face group, and found it was too easy to wrongly interpret someone’s comments, or for them to wrongly interpret yours.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 13, 2011 at 9:45 am

      Wow, 32 members! How do you ever get anything done? 🙂

        Cheryl Wright said:
        April 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm

        We run from 11am til 4pm and follow a strict agenda. We have our ‘meeting’ in the morning – market news, goal setting, achievements (with chocolate rewards!) etc.

        In the afternoon we either have workshops (some are done inhouse, others are with professionals in their area) or critiquing, which runs for several hours.

        Critiquing is our main purpose, but we also educate our members on the genre. We are a romance specific group, but have members from others genres as well.

        We are a very strong group and have produced several high profile romance authors including Stephanie Laurens, Joan Kilby, Fiona Lowe and Nicola Marsh, just to name a few. So what we do is definitely working.

        You can read more about our group here if you’re interested:

        Oh, and we are the longest running face to face writing group in Australia. (We celebrated 20 years late last year.)

        Rosalie Lario responded:
        April 13, 2011 at 9:04 pm

        Whew, that is an accomplishment!

    Brinda said:
    April 13, 2011 at 11:15 am

    What a great post. Yes, I have both. My sister is my first reader who reads to encourage and to gently point out plot flaws.She also lets me know if she is excited about a scene or losing interest. My critique partner and group will point out everything they see.This brutality is sometimes hard, but it’s necessary.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 13, 2011 at 12:11 pm

      Wow, nice to have a sister who can do that. I once gave one of my WIPs to a sister to read over and comment, and she never even looked at it, LOL.

    Jean Hart Stewart said:
    April 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Great post. I have both, but I think both are too kind to me. Jean

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 13, 2011 at 2:22 pm

      Uh-oh, that can be a problem, Jean. 🙂

    Kelly said:
    April 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    What a cool article!
    Love hearing how people handle this sometimes thorny issue.
    Sounds like a good group. I’d love to try them.
    Thanks, Rosalie!

    Robyn said:
    April 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Just yesterday I signed up for an online critique group. Previously I relied on a close friend and a cousin of mine for first draft reading (and will continue to). Since I am completing my MFA online I am used to the online critique format. Sadly I am done with my last workshop class though so I felt the need to find another group to work with.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      I personally like the online crit groups. Not for everyone, I know, but it works for me. Hopefully yours will too. Good luck!

    paty jager said:
    April 13, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    I couldn’t write without CPs. And because I believe so strongly in them I have a blog where you can fill out a form and I match you to other writers in your genre.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 13, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      There’s no doubt that CPs are invaluable in helping a writer learn and grow.

    Rachel Firasek said:
    April 13, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    I’m finding out that until I have no day job, I really only have time for one CP at a time. Or at least, one MS at a time. Dang, day job. lol. Great post!

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 13, 2011 at 10:21 pm

      There’s that too, Rachel. Each CP, each manuscript to be critted, is an investment in time.

    Micole Black said:
    April 15, 2011 at 11:19 am

    First off… thank you for sharing the info about the critique circle, I have never heard of that. And second… I agree with you about needing someone by your side to help cheer you on so to speak. But you also need to know that your work is sellable. I have done things with big groups and small groups never one on one. I may try the critique circle on the manuscript that I have finished. Thanks for the info. Good luck with your writing.



      Rosalie Lario responded:
      April 15, 2011 at 11:26 am

      Thanks, and best of luck to you too. 🙂 said:
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