When you are an Anxious Author, the idea of having people looking at our books is often daunting. The behavioural consequences can include people pleasing and a deep-rooted fear of getting something wrong. Criticism can stick with us for a very long time, sometimes years or longer, especially if it isn’t particularly tactful. But the truth is, authors need critique partners.
Once a book is written, we know it back to front: the plot, the characters and that twist in chapter 17 that we’re particularly proud of. We would have caught that typo or grammatical error, wouldn’t we? And there’s no way we would let a plot hole escape our notice, right?
It isn’t until we have an editor or critique partner look over our work that we realise how much we accidentally overlook: silly little things we feel like we should have caught on edit number seven. Even if we are nervous about receiving feedback, critique is an essential part of publishing a book.
With this in mind, here are a few tips to ensure that you can find and/or build a constructive group of critique partners who will help your book reach its full potential:
Look For Naturally Supportive Partners
Many self-published (and published) authors out there want to see their peers blossom. They want to see their friends have successful book launches and share in the joy of their achievements. These are the kinds of authors that are best suited to a quality critique group.
However, for whatever reason, not everyone is quite so supportive. If a partner or a group starts exhibiting toxic behaviours such as personal remarks or making petty jabs at your manuscript, it’s time to bail.
What seem like small things to start with can escalate into drama that can affect book sales and your reputation. It’s important to be able to trust your critique partners and to ensure that you all share the same goal of lifting each other up, not fighting to get to the top first without worrying who gets trampled on in the process.
Recalibrate Unconstructive Criticism
Sometimes feedback isn’t quite what you hoped. Maybe a paragraph you really loved writing is torn apart by our critique group and you feel a little disheartened. It’s a normal part of receiving criticism on your work but it takes some getting used to. Brutal honesty is a great learning tool, but it’s still brutal.
Constructive criticism is an indication of where something isn’t working and a suggestion of how to fix it. Sometimes our critique partners don’t know how to fix it and might even say that in their comments but their point is still worth nothing. Unconstructive criticism, on the other hand, tears our work down without any hint that it will read better when improved. In short, unconstructive criticism is sometimes good points aggressively worded or just rude points of view without any sound backing.
People have bad days, so sometimes we have to give otherwise supportive partners the benefit of the doubt. If you come across some unconstructive criticism, reword it in a way that feels constructive. Take the good points and add a “good job” on the end for yourself before going to fix the issue. It’ll make that difficult point much easier to swallow.
Don’t Worry If You Haven’t Found Your Perfect Fit Yet
Not much goes perfectly the first time around and that’s the same for critique groups and partners. Authors can be perfectly good friends and yet not so great critique partners for each other. Before you wonder if there’s something wrong with you, just know that critique partners need the right dynamic to be truly right for each other.
Experiment with critique groups and partners. Try each other out, read a chapter or two and then decide whether or not it’s wise to carry on your critiquing relationship. Just like finding a soulmate, we need to keep an open mind and look everywhere for the right person. Only hopefully finding a critique partner isn’t quite so arduous!
Thanks for reading! Did you know I also write urban fantasy books? Check them out here!