For The Love of Critique Partners

WileyChelpIt’s hard to believe now, but it was only two and half years ago when I finished my first (never to be seen again, thankfully) book. Like the brand-new baby author I was, I wrote THE END, spent many hours researching how to write a query letter, and then started querying. At the same time I started following a handful of writers on twitter, and I kept seeing “CP” written in tweets and posts.

Of course, not wanting to seem like the GREEN AND NAÏVE baby author I was, I pretended I was down with the lingo while quickly Googling, “What is a CP?” (If you don’t know what a CP is, DO NOT WORRY. Life will go on. But in case you want to know, it’s an acronym for Critique Partner, also known as the person who takes your writing, rips it into tiny little shreds while at the same time making you feel GREAT about your work, and spits you out a better writer.)

So much has changed in the last two years – I wrote three more books, got an agent, got a book deal, learned a sh*tload about the world of fiction writing … but what hasn’t changed is my deep and vast appreciation of my critique partners. Why? Because they read every page I send them. Then read them again, after I make changes. They offer critical feedback, telling me what doesn’t work and why. They suggest I’m being too nice to my characters. That my protagonist has it too easy. That I missed a giant plot hole…

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They point out (how the hell did I miss that?) grammatical errors and the fact I made my protagonist short, brown-eyed, and an animal lover in chapter one, and then a tall, cat-allergic redhead by chapter twenty. They give me virtual high fives and plenty of smiley faces when I get it right. They tell me not to give up. And in return, I do the same for them.

I have other early readers and cheerleaders – like my mom, who can find even the most well-hidden dangling participle, and my husband, who has a mystical plot whispering talent (seriously, this man has skills) – but my CPs are my first readers. They see the big messy pile of words before anyone else, and keep me from embarrassing myself. My books would not be what they are without them.

Every writer should have at least one CP they trust – I put it right up there with other essential writerly tools, like a laptop, Scrivener, and a 12-cup coffeemaker. If you want a CP but are not sure how to go about getting one, try to engage with the writer community on twitter. Enter an online writing contest, which is a great source of support and potential critical readers. Or try a CP matchmaking service (don’t worry, it’s free and not creepy) like CPseek.com. Either way, commit to having your work read and critiqued. You will be a better writer for it.

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Karma Brown is the author of COME AWAY WITH ME (MIRA/Harlequin, September 2015), an emotional story of one woman’s discovery that life is still worth living, even if it’s not the life you planned. Karma is also a National Magazine award-winning journalist, and lives outside Toronto, Canada, with her family and their mischievous labradoodle puppy, Fred.