4 Ways to Find a Critique Partner

At some point, every writer serious about publication must get feedback on their writing.

Let’s face it, we’re too enmeshed in the fibers of our stories to be able to see the whole thing as it’s meant to be seen. We’re underneath the tapestry, weaving threads together, sewing a beautiful picture. From below, our view is distorted. We see the lose threads, knots, and the fuzzy images. But we need someone to take a look at the tapestry from above, someone who can see the big picture clearly, point out the gaps, notice the misshapes, and see where we need more color.

Although writing is a solitary endeavor, the path to publication is NOT. An essential part of the process is learning to find and accept feedback on our writing, getting someone to stand at the top of our masterpiece and give us a big picture view. We’ll have to take our publisher's feedback at some point, so we need to get used to having others critique our work.

Yes, I know. I’m probably stating the obvious—most writers realize how critical feedback is. But many of us struggle to find someone who is not only willing to help us, but who is also qualified and objective. Our mothers, sisters, and best friends might be willing, but are they knowledgeable enough to help and can they share honestly? On the other hand, we may know people who are qualified (published author friends, etc.), but they aren’t willing to (and logistically can’t) give feedback to everyone.

Where, then, do we look for the critical feedback that will take our stories to the next level?

There are many ways to go about getting feedback. One of the most popular is in linking up with another writer (or group of writers) and forming a critique partnership.

Jill Domschot recently asked: If you've found your critique partners online, how did you go about finding good matches?

I’ve been involved in a number of critique partnerships over the past couple of years. So I can share what’s worked for me. But I’d also love for others to chime in and share how they’ve found their critique partners.

1. Join a writer’s organization.

Aside from the resources, industry news, and the professionalism such groups can bring to our writing careers, we can often connect to other like-minded writers. Many of the organizations have online critique groups. And if they don’t have formal critique groups, they often have message boards or forums for posting critique needs.

2. Join or start a local writer’s group.

I didn’t know there were any local writing groups in my isolated central Michigan area until I went to my library and asked. Much to my surprise, several groups were already meeting at the library on a regular basis. Usually, in those kinds of groups writers bring a sample of writing to share and have critiqued. When groups aren't available, I’ve known writers who’ve started their own.

3. Put a notice on Twitter, Facebook, or a blog.

Once we jump into the online writing community and start to rub shoulders with other writers, we’ll find that many are in the same situation as us. From time to time, I see writers post needs on Twitter, asking for someone to proof a query, or read their synopsis, or whatever. The writing community (especially on twitter) is incredibly helpful. But we have to remember if we ask for help, we need to be willing to give it too.

4. Approach another trusted writer.

I personally like this approach and think it works well. As we get involved with other writers and begin to make deeper friendships, we eventually find those we trust, who are at our skill level, and who even write our genre. We can approach them for a reciprocal critique partnership, ask for a trial period, with the understanding that we can part ways anytime and still remain friends. 

The bottom line for finding a good match is becoming a part of a writing community of some kind. As I said, we may write in solitude, but once we start heading toward publication, we have to begin the process of going public. The first step is putting our work in front of trusted writers.

Critique partnerships, like any relationship, involve risk. But with effort and wisdom, and even some trial and error, we can eventually find workable partnerships.

Your turn! How did you find your critique partner? And what other advice do you have for someone looking for a critique relationship?


  1. This is great. And you are absolutely right.

    One more thing: sometimes the best critique partners are very close to us. I have a great one in my husband. I know he isn't the only one I need, but he's going to be completely honest with me, and I've found he's usually right -- even when I have disagreed with him.

    Other good partners include an insightful relative, prayer partner, or old friend. These people often feel safe enough to lay it all out on the table and they can give you an honest reader's reaction, even if they aren't writers themselves. They also have known you well enough to understand what you and your writing is all about. They see the direction in which you are headed.

  2. I believe the are two very large factors that play a huge role in one finding a critique partner. Trust & fear. I battle with both of these, a lot. However, I am a work in progress and God continues to deal with me on these. There are a lot of groups out there. I have recently signed up at ACFW for the CritStarters hoping to build a future critique relationship. That is a major step for me. The devil loves to play havoc on my insecurities. Long ago before I knew I wanted to write for God, I contacted an author of a certain genre to ask where to start. She replied, very rudely. Informed me that I needed to learn to write an email first. It hurt and I was crushed. My writing stalled because of it. Looking back I am thankful that the Lord saw fit to close that door, loudly. The experience allowed me to grow, yet it added to my insecurities. What if another author is rude to me? What if my writing truly does stink? What if, what if, what if... You see my point? All those what if's equal boil down to fear and trust. Do you trust the Lord enough to lead you? Do you trust him enough to find a partner that will be honest, gentle, and caring? Or do you feel utter failure because you do not trust him enough? I personally have started stepping out of my comfort zone. I started a critique group - well, 6 people close to me, critique me at the moment. Some are great - some tell me I'm great. I am hopeful that with CritStarters God will pair me up with just the right people that also share writing dreams. Also, I love my husband, but he is the MEANEST critique partner - sadly its all good, but someone else needs to take his place. It's hard having him as a critique partner. Sorry this is an extremely long comment. I love reading your posts, you always give me something to ponder :-) Thank you.

  3. Good morning!

    Cassandra, I like your distinction between critique partners and beta readers. We can definitely use both. Beta readers can give us a readers impression, but I'm learning just how subjective readers are (now with reviews rolling in on my book). So, in the early stages of editing, I think we need to be careful about how many beta readers we use otherwise we may end up overwhelmed with confusion.

    Hi Tonya, You're right. Trust and fear are such big factors. As I said, there is risk involved in the critique process. I think it's important to find someone we can really trust--that's why I like my point number 4 the most. In light of "mean" critiques, I think it's important for all of us to learn how to give gracious but honest feedback. Sometimes people just don't know how to critique honestly and kindly at the same time. It's definitely a skill to be learned!

  4. I found mine at a writer's conference. I had met them online already, but meeting in person prompted us to realize we needed crit partners and seemed like a good fit personally.

  5. I actually joined an online critique site and immediately found a fantastic crit partner. We've long since moved on from the site, but we still crit each other.

    I've had some other not-so-good experiences trying to find crit partners/beta readers online through blogs and twitter. You just have to be patient and you might have to wade through several relationships to find one that finally sticks/clicks!

  6. Jody, as you know, this is a subject I'm passionate about. Critique partners can be real assets, helping us become better writers through their candid but compassionate feedback. I wrote in isolation my first two years, and my work stayed the same. I received glowing praise from friends who read my manuscripts, but it wasn't until I entered a critique partnership that I really began to grow as a writer.

    Approaching someone and making an offer to critique for her (or him) involves taking a risk, but that's something we writers have to do on a regular basis. Every time we send out a contest entry or query, we're doing just that.

    Like you, I believe the best source of potential CPs comes from the relationships we've established with other writers. The primary reason I say this is that there is already a level of trust and mutual respect established, both of which are crucial ingredients in a critique partnership.

  7. I prayed. Not kidding on this. I prayed and two weeks later a group of other women who blog emailed me to ask if I was interested.

    Cool stuff, eh?

    I have a solid group I work with but I also have a local writer friend I pray with and some other people who I trust to be honest with me.

    It's a blessing to find a good match. And you have one of the finest encouragers in your court in Keli!

    ~ Wendy

  8. I found my critique partner through blogging.

    I normally send out my writing to four people: one writer, one non-writer, and then to two friends. One of those friends is so brutally honest about everything that I know I can trust her to be, well, brutally honest about my writing. Yes, I know, you shouldn't send things to friends. Well, I disagree with that little rule.

    The second friend, always wary about critiques, always afraid to muck up the friendship, has giving me some of the best insight into my writing, and some of the mistakes I've made.

    The thing is, with any critique partner, you have to establish a relationship with said partner. You have to know their likes/dislikes. If the critique partner isn't a fan of epic fantasy, then their input is going to be a bit jaded. Then again, my current project is a mystery, my writer beta doesn't read mysteries, and she pretty much loved the project. Soooo . . . there goes that rule out the door.

    Sorry, rambling here. In the end, I think disparate opinions are necessary to give a true view of the writing. : )


  9. I am currently thinking of a Critique Partner, so this post is apt and timely for me. I would choose her on the basis of the genre she writes: Middle Grade Fantasy Fiction.

  10. Jody, I stayed up WAY too late last night reading The Preacher's Bride!! Can't wait to get back to it. So well done.

  11. I found a crit partner online by blogging and I found another when I met a blogging friend at conference. I think it's so important to get honest feedback from other writers. I definitely felt more comfortable approaching someone whom I had already developed a relationship with. I think crit partners have to be able to "talk" to each other.

  12. P.S. I had a great time reading the information on Keli Gwyn's blog. Thank you for sharing it.

  13. Hi everyone,

    Thank you all for sharing! You're giving everyone else great ideas for how to go about finding crit. partners. It's wonderful to hear that so many have found helpful, workable relationships.

    demery bader-saye, SO glad you're enjoying the book! Thank you for supporting me! I appreciate it so much! :-)

  14. Hi Jody, thanks for the timely thoughts--I've been contemplating getting a critique partner myself. I think an interest in the genre would be important, as well as knowing how to encourage your partner's voice without trying to change it.

  15. It occurred to me that I could host a critique partner match-making on my blog. I don't know if this would be helpful or not, but it might be worth a try if others helped me advertise it. Opinions, anyone?

  16. you are so so right. Crit partners make all the difference in the WORLD, and they form a nice little support group.

    Blogging worked for me. As I developed bloggie friends, we began sharing WIPs.

    Thanks, girl~ :o) <3

  17. Hi Jody,

    I met my first critique group partners at a writer's conference. We worked together for one year, at which time I felt led to leave the group. I now organize and oversee all the critique groups for Proverbs 31 Ministries and love being part of helping so many writers!

    I also agree with the idea of Beta readers. At the suggestion of my agent I put together a test group of friends and got some incredible feedback. It ultimately changed the title and theme of my book. The suggestions and encouragement I received were invaluable.

  18. I’m not at this stage yet so I’m reading what everyone has to say.

  19. My crit partners are friends I've met via blogs. Some are good, some are okay and a few are AWESOME! I appreciate them all for the effort they make and always try to return it :)

    BirthRight The Arrival, on Amazon 1.1.11

  20. As always, great advice! I'm so grateful for my critique group, who have read almost all of my books. They keep me focused.

  21. Good critique partners are invaluable! Unfortunately they're not always easy to find. Unlike Cassandra, I think family members and close friends aren't unbiased enough to be useful CPs -- they want to like the story before they even begin reading it. They may have great suggestions, however, so that makes them good beta readers. I love the input and encouragement I get from my family and friends.

    I'm in a large writers' group that meets in another town. Because of its size and time constraints, we critique small works, but not novels. I've been trying to develop a local novelists' critique group but I live rurally and so far it hasn't happened. I'll keep praying.

    I recently took your #4 approach, and it worked very well for me on a temporary basis. Unfortunately, the person is a published author busy working on her own novels and has her own CPs already in place, so we haven't established a reciprocal arrangement and I don't feel comfortable asking for more assistance when I'm not returning the favour. I would dearly like to find a similar arrangement with an experienced writer that could develop into an ongoing relationship. You've provided some good ideas to pursue. Thanks!

  22. Great advice. I would add that commitments cause an expansion/contraction of the crit circle, and that can be a good thing, too!

    Two of my tightest crit buddies really rolled up their sleeves and dug in on my last submission.

    I am eternally grateful.


  23. Hi, Jodi. I found one of my critique partners when I started commenting on her blog a few months ago. Eventually we exchanged query letters, then chapters, then manuscripts. We're a great match because we're both tough but kind with our critiques. My latest revision is not ready for the critique stage, but we still Skype every week to brainstorm, cheer each other on, and cheer each other up when necessary.

    For your second question, I'd also advise critique partners agree to a trial period before making a full commitment. In addition to the trust issue, a trial period makes it easier to part ways if your critique styles differ. It might take a few trial CPs before you find one who fits. Be upfront about the commitment you expect from her and the commitment you can give. Also, look for someone who won't get upset and defensive if you don't take all of her suggestions.

  24. Nice tips Jody. Soon, I hope I'll be looking for readers...and will happy to return the favor. I've got a ways to go yet thought.

  25. Hey Jody, nice posting! I have been wondering if I should get a critique group...what is thought on that?
    Thanks, Caroline

  26. I have the BEST crit partner in the world!!!!! I heart her so! I couldn't have asked for a better partner in crime. =)

  27. Jill, A critique-matching blog post might be worth a try. Let me know if you decide to do it. I could put a plug for your post out on Twitter.

    Caroline, I was in a critique group once too. And they work well for a lot of people. I found that I just didn't have the time for one. Depending on how many people are in a critique group, you could end up doing a lot of critiquing. And there's always the potential that you could work hard at your critiquing, but your partners may not put the same effort into your manuscript. So, again, I think such a group should have a trial period, see how people mesh, and then agree to part ways on friendly terms if it's not working out. Just my thoughts! :-)

  28. I have yet to find a steady critique partner, but look forward to the day she turns up. For now, I submit work to my writer's group for critique and get wonderful feedback.

  29. Finding my alpha and beta readers has been a huge deal for me, and has taken a very long time. I don't really have critique partners where we regularly share our work. My co-hosts on the Lit Lab could count, I guess. :)

    Great post! I can imagine this is really helpful for those starting out, too.

  30. I found my current crit. group through blogging. We'd been following each other's blogs and one day two of us contacted each other about forming a crit. group, and we decided to invite the other two also. It's been vital for my growth. I wouldn't see the things they point out on my own. And I love the confidence I feel after I revise something based on their suggestions.

    I'm so glad you and Keli are partners--what a great team!!

  31. This post is yet another great one with loads of useful information, Jody. Thank you! Thank you also for sharing Keli's posts on this topic.

    I'm in the process of finding a critique partner. I have a critique group for my children's picture book writing, but not for my nonfiction writing yet. (My husband is my at-home editor, and he is quite helpful, but like many of you have said, other writer-minds would be beneficial as well.) These suggestions (from you and the other comments!) are quite helpful.

    Though I don't have a critique partner yet, I imagine I'd be most comfortable with someone I may have met online (through blogs or whatnot) and then was able to meet in person at a conference or something similar. Many folks who have commented here mentioned how well this method worked out for them. It seems like this would way would provide for great initial interaction and a basis for trust. I'm just praying now for that to work out for me (and for how I could positively help and bless another author as a critique partner)!

  32. Critique partners/groups are definitely crucial for any writer and aspiring author. No doubt about that. But like Scott mentioned above, finding the right person to critique your work is not an easy task!

    Friends and relatives are in my experience always willing to help with critiquing and beta-reading, but that doesn't always make them "qualified" to do so.

    What I mean is that your critique partner should be able to appreciate/understand the genre that you write in - for instance, you wouldn't want a romance-novel buff to critique your sci-fi/action adventure. Sure, they can help with typos and other stupid errors that are easy for yourself to miss (but very important to correct!), but when it comes to content, strengths and weakness they need to be able to understand, if not like, your genre. People like that are hard to find, at least that's how it's been for me so far. Obviously it doesn't help either that I write in English (I am Danish) and live in the Netherlands!

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