Posted by: Jodi | October 2, 2013

What Type of Critique Partner are You?

If you are going to be a writer you are going to have to endure critique, whether you ask for it or not. There are several types of people who will give you feedback on your work and not all of them are worth listening to.  Here’s a list of a few different types of people who you might run into.

  • The New Know it all – This is the writer who has everything figured out, they know what the market is doing and what kinds of books are selling and exactly how you should change your story to make it fantastic.  Problem is, these people are new to the writing world and still haven’t published.  Although their opinions are passionate, they are often misguided.  Listen to their advice, because you’ll get a lot of it, and take the bits that you know will help you. Politely ignore the rest.
  • The Mother – When you need a cheerleader, she’s your woman.  She will tell you just how proud she is of you and how great your story is, regardless of if she liked it or not.  Getting her to give any constructive criticism is tough because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings by saying anything negative.  She might have a question or two, but don’t expect more than that.
  • The Diva – This is the writer who has found some success, either small or large, and now believes that he has the right to grant his knowledge whenever and wherever, even when it’s not welcome.  His advice is always based on his own experience and he won’t hesitate to tell you all about how he had a vaguely similar problem in one of his stories and how he fixed it.  He will rarely ask for advice on his own work, because it’s already perfect.
  • Honest Annie –  If you are able to find an Honest Annie, hold on to her and don’t let her go!  These are fellow writers who genuinely want you to succeed and are willing to give you the critique you need to hear.  They are, however, not for the faint of heart.  Honest Annie will tell you that your story has problems that need to be fixed and will offer some suggestions.  They won’t sugar coat things so a thick skin is important.
  • The Best Friend – This is when you get a Mother and an Honest Annie mixed together.  They are great cheerleaders and will tell you how much they love your story.  However, when you get them to open up that they will then tell you about all the parts they didn’t like.  They are usually not writers which makes their observations more valuable, as they will catch the problems that will trip up your readers.
  • The Psychic Vampire – (Thanks Kristen Lamb!) This critique partner has no interest in helping you with your story.  They want your undivided time and attention on their work but when it’s time for them to give feedback on yours, watch out.  They will play games with your emotions and drain you dry, they will make you hate writing.  They will monopolize your time and force you to do things with their writing and your own writing that you don’t want to do. Run away!
  • The Perpetually Confused – This is an otherwise excellent critique partner, they just don’t work in your genre.  They are well intentioned and want to help but can never quite get past the general concept. They can, however, help make genre pieces more well rounded by pulling in their experience from their genre.

I’m sure there are several more types of critique partners out there.  As for me, I hope I’m an Honest Annie.  I tend to tell what I think and really want my fellow writers to succeed.  I do have a tendency to focus on issues instead of strengths and so some might feel I’m a bit overbearing.

What type of critique partner are you?

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Before I forget!  My friend Elisabeth over at Reading for Sanity interviewed me and fellow author David Powers King on the topic of banned books – go check it out!

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Responses

  1. I’ve come across every one of these except “The Psychic Vampire” and “The Perpetually Confused”. I’m probably closest to an Honest Annie (Andy?) myself, though a critique I did for a friend last year on an adult sports novel was too honest and he wasn’t ready for the feedback. He ended up losing interest and tossing the project.

    Very creative list that had me visualizing each of my critique experiences.

    • I have yet to unearth a psychic vampire, but I have found a few that fall into the Confused category. That’s what I get for writing epic fantasy. I think I’ve scared one or two writers out of their projects so far as well, it’s always a shame because those were the projects I was most excited about.

  2. I’ve never met a psychic vampire either!
    I’d like to think I’m honest Annie, but I’m probably just a bit of the new know it all. A bit.
    I don’t actually work with a group–it’s so hard to find a good one.

    • Finding people is a huge challenge, when you do find a few you like – hold on to them! They are worth their weight in gold.

  3. I try to be the Deli Clerk. A slice of encouragement, the meat of criticism, and another slice of encouragement to make it easier to eat.

    • That’s got to be the best reply ever! I’ll take a critique sandwich anytime.

  4. I haven’t reached the point where I need such people, but it’s coming (2014). I’ve never critiqued, but I know I’m a natural for The Mother role and no one needs that. Of course, knowing that, I’ll strive to do right when and if I’m ever in that role. This was a great post!

  5. I’m an honest Annie. Nobody wants to deal with an honest Annie. I think the best approach is to praise the positive points and then slowly get to the gritty parts. But then, that’s bad because the first chapters are the hardest to write and the ones that will generate the most critiques.
    I am still looking for the CP with the thick skin or turn into the Best Friend.

    • I wouldn’t say nobody – I might be one of the few that seeks that unbridled honesty because I need the critical feedback. As for giving critique you’re absolutely right – it’s always a good idea to start out by focusing on the strengths and building the writer up before discussing what can be improved.


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