Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Finding the Right CP

One of the most important things for writers is to find the right critique partner to swap work with and get feedback. I’m extremely lucky that I have some amazing CPs who are talented writers with great editorial eyes. Sometimes, when I’m talking to my CPs, I feel like I won the lottery.

But it’s not just luck. Like anything, finding the right CP can take a fair bit of work. Early on, I joined one critique group where nothing ever happened. Someone suggested sending me pages after like a month, and I’m still waiting to receive them. I swapped first chapters with someone who stopped reading halfway through. “This is boring,” is the last comment I found. (My genuine thanks for the feedback went ignored.) I’ve swapped work with people who vanished entirely, never to be heard from again. 

One of the most important things when looking for a CP is to be honest. Talk about what you’re looking for, your personal feedback style, and what kind of feedback you prefer to receive. Don’t ask for brutal feedback if what you really need is the compliment sandwich. Personally, I like to point out things I do and do not like and post reaction comments. Some people don’t do that. If that’s what you need, say so! Find someone who feels the same way. 

If someone asks you to swap and you don’t have time to read, tell them. Give a reasonable time frame for when you think you’ll be able to work on it, and stick to it. Yes, life happens, and yes, sometimes work or family obligations get in the way. But a CP needs to be dependable. We all have deadlines: some people want CP feedback so they can start querying, or because they have a deadline from an editor, or maybe their agent is expecting it. So discuss timelines and expectations in advance. Make sure you’re on the same wavelength. You shouldn't be your CP's last priority. A friend told me last week she didn't have time to read my MS, and that's good. I found someone else to read it, and maybe if I need another reader when that person's done, she'll have time to read the improved version. 

Do your research. Be picky.  Swap first chapters before sending the full manuscript so you can get an idea of how well you'll work together (are you OK with someone who takes two weeks to read 5 pages?) It can take a bit longer to find the right person, but you’ll save yourself so much frustration in the long run. It’s worth it when you find someone to swap with, laugh with, cry with, and talk to every day. My CPs are some of my best friends, and I'd be utterly lost without them. I love them so much. When we're all on the same long, frustrating journey, there's no need to go through it alone. Find the right people to share it with.


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