On Working with Critique Partners

Over the past few months, I've been feverishly working on my sci-fi novel. I finished drafting around December, and I found some awesome critique partners (mostly through Megan Lally's #CPMatch event).

Writing is better with a team!

Revising due to CP feedback has been pretty intense, but it's given me a new-found appreciation for just how amazing CPs are. No matter how good a writer you are, you start to miss things when you've read the same words over and over again. A new perspective can make your story so much stronger. Here are just some of the things that outside opinions are REALLY good at picking up on:

Evaluating whether characters make realistic decisions

Fact is, sometimes we writers make a character do something because it moves the plot forward; not because it's really how they would react in that situation. Someone with an objective viewpoint often finds it easier to pick up on these goofs.

Real-life example: In my manuscript, one of the characters decides to leave her house to go with another character she barely knows. My CPs were quick to question whether anyone in their right mind would really do that without a darn good reason.

Commenting on pace and tension

As the writer of your story, it can sometimes be hard to discern when a reader would get bored. Your characters are super interesting, right? Why wouldn't your readers want to experience six pages of them bantering at the dinner table with their friends? An outside opinion can tell you if your slower sections are necessary character-building, or just dragging filler.

Real-life example: The middle section of my story was largely focused on the daily routine of one of the characters, with very little in the way of tension. With the help of my CPs' suggestions, I was able to add more intrigue to that sequence.


Especially in sci-fi and fantasy, worldbuilding is super important. Unfortunately, it's often hard to work out whether you've included enough information to avoid readers becoming confused with the technology, magic systems, or society featured in your work. CPs are great at highlighting the questions you may have neglected to answer about your world.

Real-life example: Too many to count!

Noticing whether your POVs are distinct

Obviously, this one is specifically for books with multiple points of view. Having more than one POV adds a whole 'nother layer of challenge to writing. Good CPs will let you know how the various voices compare to each other -- most notably, they'll let you know if any of them are too similar.

Real-life example: My book has two POVs -- one for the first half, and one for the second half. Since I needed to make the voices distinct, I ended up making the first one quite robotic and stilted, in favor of injecting more emotion into the other one. Thanks to my CPs' comments, I'm now well on my way to making both voices distinct while still being emotional.

Picking up on embarrassing typos

While line editing is usually best reserved for a copyeditor, CPs can sometimes catch the more glaring ones. 

Real-life example: I accidentally wrote "public" as "pubic." Enough said.

My revisions aren't over yet, but I'm confident that when I'm finished, I'll have a solid manuscript with a good amount of tension, emotional and distinct character voices, and a logical plot-- and it's all thanks to my amazing critique partners!

One more thing: you may be dying to query your drafted book, but DON'T send a single letter until you're 100% done. I'm hoping to start querying in February sometime, but I know I'm willing to wait longer if it means having a more polished book.

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