I have often felt that finding a good critique partner is like joining a dating agency and going through blind dates until you find “The one.” Over the last decade, I have been through many first dates, some even extended to second and third dates, and only two made it to “live-together-on-a-trial-basis” stage. Why?
The reasons are simple-
You often find that once your critique partner reads your first draft, or even the second draft, she/he loses interest and turns unresponsive. Around third date, you send them an email with your precious WIP, cross your fingers and toes, and hope for the best. A week or two later, you’re still waiting. No response. Since you’re the optimistic kind, you make up excuses for their lack of reaction, and try again. It might take you another week or two of silence to realise that at some point, the relationship has gone stale. So with a heavy heart, you move on.
Back to the dating agency. More forms. Little tweaks to your profile and expectations column.
Then you might encounter with an entirely different scenario- Your critique partner turns into a Critzilla who takes offense when you don’t follow their instructions to the tee. These are the kind of people who like the theory of open communication, but when it comes to practice, they expect things to go their way. This happened to me once in the beginning of my writing career. When it reached a stage where I felt that my crit partner’s suggestions weren’t entirely acceptable for my storyline, I chose not to make the changes she recommended. The result- she bad mouthed me in the writer’s group, managed to turn them all against me in the span of a week. I had to say ‘Hasta-la-vista’ and run for my life.
Oh, I shouldn’t fail to mention the sugar coaters. These are the kind of crit partners who are overly sweet. They don’t want to offend you, so they always give you a positive comment about your work. This isn’t ideal either. Unnecessary praises will give you a false impression that your work is excellent, when in reality it may need a lot of work to tighten the story line or fill up the crater-sized plots holes you’ve created.
There is yet another possibility for your dating life to go wrong- It happens when your critique partner turn into a toxic jerk who ‘shredit’ rather than edit your work, and constantly pile you with negative comments that turn your muse into a wimp. You go into the relationship expecting constructive criticism and end up getting bombarded with destructive diatribe. You feel so devastated, you begin to doubt every word you manage to write. If it happens to you—don’t even think about it—-just run.
Having said all this, I feel obliged to add that your crit partner isn’t always responsible for the failure of your critiquing relationship. I once took on a newbie partner who turned out to be too pushy. Always demanded her work to be critiqued in the set time frame and never returned mine in the turn around period. If for some reason, I was unable to deliver, she would send me a minimum of ten emails a day, demanding a progress update. Well, my low tolerance for pushy characters won out in the end and I terminated that relationship in eight weeks.
What was point of this blog post again….ah, yes……Getting that one ideal crit partner is a blessing. Like any relationship, it takes work, dedication and honesty for your critique partner relationship to last long. If and when you find that someone who ticks all the boxes, never let them go. Beg, lament, whine-do whatever it takes- but no matter what you do, do not let them go. (I have heard that wine and a box of Godiva are often good choices of bribe. Just saying :))