Critique Partners Who, What, and How

Critique partners are writer colleagues who provide feedback on your work in exchange for providing feedback on their work usually full manuscripts or individual chapters. A fellow writer or author who provides thoughtful and informed feedback on your work based on their knowledge as a writer in exchange you provide the same feedback to them.

How To Choose a Critique Partner

Critique partners should be chosen based on experience, likeability, and professionalism, they love your story, they write in a similar genre, and they have similar work habits. Matching these six categories will make a long-term critique partner match much more likely.

In my opinion, professionalism is most important. Your critique partner should take their writing as seriously as you do. It should be someone who shares a similar vision for their writing journey. Lastly, and most important someone who seems responsible, thoughtful, and hardworking in their everyday life.

Choosing someone with experience doesn’t mean choosing someone with the most experience it means choosing someone with the same level of experience as you or someone with slightly more experience than you. Someone whose comments on story technique and theory make sense to you where you’re at. Someone whose advice about your story gives you little aha moments of understanding.

Likeability is important in a critique partner and should be someone you like to be around even when you’re not talking about writing. It should be someone compatible with your work methods. Yet someone different enough to bring a new and interesting perspective to your work.

You want to choose someone who loves your story. You want someone who volunteers interest in your work. Someone interested in the type of story you are writing. A critique partner who genuinely likes you, your personality, outlook, and voice.

You’ll want a critique partner who enjoys and writes in the same genre as you. Someone who enjoys the same books and authors as you. A critique partner that can recommend books to you that you will end up loving. Someone that writes in the same genre as you and understand the sub-genres and tropes.

Make sure you choose someone with similar work habits as yourself. Someone whose workflow is similar. Someone whose critique preferences will fit into your own life. Someone willing to give you the speed and amount of response you’re seeking.

How To Be A Good Critique Partner

  • Be choosey about what you critique. Do you respect that person and their work? Do you like and respect that genre? Do you truly want to read that draft?
  • Ask questions first. What kind of critique can you give? What do you want me to do for you?
  • Read with your head heart and pen. Interject your responses as you read to add a note or an emoji to let the writer know what you are thinking.
  • Don’t hold back on the compliments.
  • Be kind but straightforward when it comes to the draft’s shortcomings
  • Remember it’s not your draft. Let the writer have and keep their style and voice.


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Freewriting It’s For Novelists Too

Free Writing is the practice of writing within a prescribed structure. Which means no outline, no note cards, no notes., or editorial oversite. In freewriting, the writer follows the impulses of their own mind, allowing thoughts and inspiration to appear to them without premeditation.

Freewriting was started by Dorthea Brande in 1934 in her book “Becoming A Writer.” Peter Elbow also gave Freewriting a push in 1973 in his book “Writing Without Teachers.” Most recently Julia Cameron which I have mentioned before popularized in her book “The Artists Way.”

 I first became familiar with the concept of freewriting in my first writing class in college a lifetime and a half ago. I had a professor who in her writing class had us free write at the beginning of every class. The result was a loosening of the writing wheels and confidence to write that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. Here is what she would have us do: she would have us write for the first five minutes of every class. There is sometimes an assigned topic I think I don’t remember anymore I think there was an assigned topic because I remember I wrote things that were too personal. I never would have written them without her prompt. But once the clock began,began, you couldn’t stop for any reason you had to keep writing. She would collect the papers not to grade them, but to make sure we were making progress. That we were opening our thought processes and our creativity was beginning to flow. That was 1996. I’m sure my professor was influenced by Julia Cameron I know I was.

I had no idea that Freewriting first of all was formally a movement and second was formally anything at all. I thought it was just something my mother did every morning at 4:30 AM and that I tried, but swear I don’t have time for. But to know that it goes back as far as 1934. It makes me wonder how much science is behind the art of freewriting.

The technique is simple enough and cheap by anybody’s standards. You just write and keep writing for a predetermined amount of time. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. You can, if you are so disposed, edit or read it looking for glints of your psyche or your next novel, or you can just put it in a drawer and never look at it again.

Writers use this as a way of collecting their thoughts and ideas on a topic. By writing on a topic and then going back and looking over their writing, looking for the gems in what they have written and using that as fodder for the next stage of freewriting. This freewriting and going back again and freewriting process yields good ideas when the ideas stop, then the free writing stops. You may have information on many aspects of the same topic that will melt together to make an incredible piece of one writing effort.

Like any skill set, the abilities required for effective freewriting will increase with practice. The first time you attempt to freewrite, you may end up with some unusable material. But with writing practice and a little healthy self-criticism, you can use your early freewriting practice to refine your technique.

There are fifteen emotional advantages to freewriting:

  1. Reduces expectation of perfection
  2. Provides unimpeded release of thoughts and emotions
  3. Brings out emotional blocks and emotional barriers to success
  4. Helps develop good healthy habits
  5. Builds self-confidence
  6. Offers blank slate for 100% honesty
  7. Provides practice in releasing self-judgment and judgment of others
  8. Increases creativity and inspiration
  9. Uncovers thoughts and ideas you never knew you had
  10. Assists in sorting through difficult situations
  11. Acts as a forum to be truly authentically you
  12. Allows you to be more present in your day-to-day interactions
  13. Fosters a greater sense of clarity and focus
  14. Changes your perspective on challenging situations
  15. Increases awareness of patterns and themes in your life

There are also three writing advantages to freewriting:

  1. Creative expression. Many writers use freewriting as a way to find unexpected inspiration.
  2. To heal writer’s block. Writers who feel in a style rut, or even those who actively experience writer’s block may benefit from a freewriting exercise as part of their formal writing process.
  3. Speed. Freewriting is typically faster than other types of drafting or outlining because you are simply writing without a strict form and without organizing your thoughts.

How to Freewrite

  1. Just write. When it comes to freewriting first drafts are repositories for ideas, however vague
  2. Gather topics beforehand to avoid using outlines. Freewriting doesn’t mean that you don’t have an idea about your topic or story.
  3. Time yourself. If you are experiencing writer’s block commit to getting something on the page in the first sixty seconds.
  4. Combine freewriting with traditional outlines or notes. Start a project with a considerable freewriting session. Use that information as formal notes or as a topic for more freewriting.
  5. Bring ideas to your freewriting sessions the most effective writing has thematic and narrative consistencies and starting with a germ of an idea may help you bring it all together.

I did my first freewriting in about twenty-five years. I had forgotten how beneficial it is I had forgotten the advantages of learning what you know about a subject before you start your research and then threading it all together. It’s been a long time since eng101. I’ll be adding free writing to my writing practice.

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10 Ways to Improve Your Writing

I work on improving my writing daily. I want to improve my understanding of my craft for my readers, my editor and myself. I think most writers improve simply by writing more. The more you write, the more you improve your craft. Like anything else, practice makes perfect but here are ten things you can do to improve your writing even faster.

  1. Develop a daily writing habit. Again, the more you practice and the more you practice regularly, the faster you will improve.
  2. Plan, then write. You can be a pantser or a plotter but some kind of planning is best when you write. Even if you keep it in your head and plan as you go a few chapters at a time.
  3. Experiment. Write above your skill level to stretch and see what comes of if it. If you have never written a multi-point of view novel, try it or try adding some flash backs for the challenge. Do something different.
  4. Read good writers inside and outside your genre. Reading every day is the best way to learn to write better. It can keep you up to date what the trends are in your field and in publishing. But almost through osmosis you can learn style techniques you may not notice at first.
  5. Be Concise. Concise writing is an industry trend. Dead are the purple prose of the past. Hemingway was one of the first to give us concise writing in a novel, and others followed.
  6. Learn to be conversational. Writing that is too stiff is hard for readers to relate to. In an age where you need to engage your reader, learning to write conversationally is essential.
  7. Think about your audience. I write romance novels so when I write I picture one person reading my novel. I write to that one person and try to give that person what they may want in my novel. A happy ending of course but other things romance, love, and a decent plot.
  8. Read your writing out loud. Reading your writing out loud helps you to slow down and find your errors. Recently I discovered that when I finish writing for the day, I don’t put punctuation at the end of paragraphs. I found that tick by reading out loud.
  9. Get feed-back. Getting feed back can be hard. First, finding a critique group or beta readers where there is trust can be difficult. Second, being brave enough to share your work with others is a courageous thing not everyone is ready for. But work toward sharing your writing you’ll be the better writer for it.
  10. Put yourself out there. try to get published. Poems and short stories have journals and other magazines that look for well-written work all the time. The best advice is to collect rejections. If you have a novel, you can traditionally publish going through finding an agent to represent you, or you can publish independently. The thing is, you shouldn’t let your best work rot on the shelf.

My Writing Process

For the novel Lucy’s Choice I had a very informal writing process: I was very insecure about what I was doing, but took it very much on faith that the book could be written. I started by learning as much as possible from YouTubers Jenna Moreci, Alexa Dunn and Steven King. They provided an enormous amount of confidence. They talked about things like pantser vs plotter a panster is someone who doesn’t outline their novel and a plotter is someone who plots their novel. I am for this novel a panster. They also talked about author voice and point of view. Next, I found a critique group that met at the local library that met once a month. I found their help invaluable So I was ready to begin my writing career. The advice I took from Steven King was if an idea was in your head after a couple of weeks it was a good idea. I went to pixabay and got ideas printed pictures of each of my main characters in the book. I didn’t print out pictures of side characters because I didn’t know I was going to use them until I used them. I wrote 300-word character profiles for each character I didn’t figure out their birthday or their astrological sign or whatever I wanted to know there why. Why they did the things they were going to do. The things to do. I got to know my characters a little and then I was ready to go. I began writing. It just flowed. One problem I wrote short. That means I wrote about what boils down to about 1500 words short per chapter of what I needed to complete my novel. I know where I need to write those words in. I just need to do it. Kelly is one of the side characters has a romance as well but it’s not well developed. I need to develop that a little bit. Its hard to believe that I am very close to having my novel written and hit a snag. My agent says don’t worry about it. It happens to lots of authors lets start editing it and it will all come out in the wash but I’m afraid it might not come out in the wash. So, before I edit, I want to get that story perfect. I think every author wants a perfect story.

I took me about 2 months to write my novel and will take me another month to write the changes I need to make. Because I have chronic back pain, I usually write for about 2-4 hours a day and I write lying down.

When I edit, I edit on the computer and then I edit on paper and then on the computer again. I find mistakes and missed punctuation each time but fewer mistakes every time. I have discovered that I have a habit of forgetting to punctuate at the end of paragraphs. I don’t know why I do this, but I do it none the less.

So, I know to check the ends of each paragraph for punctuation.