FIRST: A critique partner is someone who will read through your book to give you feedback. They can focus on big-picture aspects (plot, theme, pacing, character) or micro-details (grammar, punctuation, narrative flow) or a combination of both. They will prepare thoughtful feedback—both positive and negative—so that you can improve your story.
1) Go to writing conferences. I have met my very best critique partners at writers’ conferences.
a) Sign up for boot camps, primers, and group workshops and connect with the people you meet with. If you really like something that is read, go up to that person afterward and let them know. Exchange contact info and approach them about trading critiques.
b) Be adventurous at meals. Don’t talk to just your friends! Include other people into your conversation. They might be a great CP fit for you, if you can be brave enough to reach out.
c) When you go to class, look around the room and see if there’s anyone else sitting by themselves. Sit next to them and strike up a conversation. Ask them what they write, and if it’s similar and you seem to connect, bring up the idea of exchanging first chapters.
d) Go to any meet and greets you can. Be prepared to put on your extrovert persona and meet new people. This isn’t junior high. You don’t have to be worried about being ostracized. Just be you—the social side of you no matter how small that side is—and meet new people.
e) Follow up on any social sites the conference is on. If there is a conference FB group—set up for social interactions—join it and be an active participant. Connect with people who you met, even briefly, and talk about a chapter exchange. Be willing to put yourself out there first.
2) Join professional writers groups like SCBWI, RWA, etc. I belong to ANWA and Storymakers and have met most of my critique partners through the online forums. Be active and connect.
3) Find other online forums to join and meet new authors. I belong to one called Think Tank on Facebook and I know there are several more set up just for finding critique partners.
4) Put yourself out there on social media—meaning don’t be afraid to tell people you’re an author and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your followers and friends. I’ve critiqued for authors who I have connected to because of mutual friends. I know someone who has met most of her critique partners on Twitter, through mutual friends. I’ve “set-up” a couple of critique partnerships because after reading their books, I know they’d be perfect for each other—but I wouldn’t have known that had they not put themselves out there first.
- Do a first chapter exchange before you agree to a full manuscript exchange to make sure you’re a good fit before you commit to an entire manuscript.
- Be willing to put yourself out there first and ask if someone would be interested in a manuscript exchange.
- Don’t expect someone to read your manuscript without a trade. If they spend 20+ hours critiquing your manuscript, you need to be willing to do the same for them.
- Find a critique partner who is at a similar place as you in this writing journey. The NYT bestselling author whose class you just took would make a better mentor that critique partner (they’re too busy) but those mentor relationships have to come organically—not by asking them to be your mentor.