|Photo credit: Steve Rhodes on Flickr|
As fantastic as critique partners and beta readers usually are, they're only helpful if said partner knows how to give constructive and insightful criticism. And as nice as it is to receive comments like, "I like it" and "this was good," that type of feedback doesn't qualify as critique, nor does it fall anywhere near the realm of "helpful."
So how do you choose a critique partner who will help you to improve?
- Find potential critique partners. There are many different places where you can search for a good critique partner. Part of a writer's group? Start asking your fellow writers if they’d be interested in swapping critiques. Have a Twitter/Facebook/Google+/LinkedIn account connected to other writers? Start networking and see who might be interested. As I understand it, there are even websites dedicated to helping writers find like-minded critique partners. The resources are out there—use them.
- The testing grounds. Once you've found a writer (or a couple writers) interested in swapping WIPs for critique, it's time that you do a trial run. While you could hypothetically send off your whole WIP right at the start, it's generally a good idea to start small and just trade a couple pages, or the first chapter, or something of the like before diving into a full critique. This will allow you to a) see you're a good fit and able to critique their work as well (because chances are you'll be swapping critiques) and b) see if your new critique partner’s insight works well with you. If you give a thorough critique and your new partner only mentions things he likes or gives vague, "this is cool"-like comments, it might be a good sign that you should find someone else.
- Dive in. Was the critique slightly painful and mostly helpful? Did you enjoy reading the other writer's work and give helpful insight? If you answered "yes" to both, then it looks like you've found a good partnership and it's time to work in larger sections. However you decide to spread out your critique is up to the both of you, but make sure you lay out the rules and timeframe at the beginning (i.e.: what type of critique you're looking for and how long you expect to take). Once the details are settled, it's time to get to work.
Now it's your turn: What tips do you have for finding good critique partners?