Getting good feedback — or any feedback — on your work is an important part of writing. A good critiue partner can pick up things you missed. They offer a certain amount of distance from the manuscript so they can also help fill in plot holes and point out areas of the manuscript that may not be working the way you want it to. One thing to remember with any critique, it’s subjective. If you ask ten people their opinion about your manuscript, most of them will give you different feedback. That’s something to keep in mind while you’re looking for a critique. Look for someone you trust. And only make changes if you think it will improve the manuscript.
But where do you turn to find a good critique partner or group?
1. Writing conferences
The pandemic has put most writing conferences on pause. Some annual contests have taken things online, so critique opportunities with conference faculty are probably still available and are a great way to get feedback.
As things open up, writing conferences will be back too. There’s usually a lot of time to talk to your fellow conference-goers in between break-out groups or at meals. This is a good time to strike up a conversation with fellow attendees. Some conferences even put together a list of attendees who are looking for critique partners. That can be a great resource. I’d try to find someone who writes in your same genre. They will be more likely to be familiar with the type of manuscript you’ve written and may even be able to recommend good comparable titles to your work.
If you’re taking an online conference, you can also ask one of the moderators if a list of possible critique partners is something they might put together. If not, you could ask attendees in the comments if anyone is interested in switching manuscripts for a critique.
2. Local meetings
Writing organizations like The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and Romance Writers of America (RWA) are great resources. Local chapters of these organizations are a great way to connect with fellow writers.
My local SCBWI chapter actually plans full meetings where we critique the first pages in small groups. We’ve seen a few critique groups form at these meetings. There’s also a lot of Meet up groups that focus on writing and critiquing each other’s work. That’s another great place to start.
3. Twitter pitch contests
Twitter pitch contests can be a great way to connect with fellow writers. The pitch contests usually consist of you tweeting a 280 character pitch of your novel several times during the life of the contest. Then agents and editors like the pitch if they want you to send them a query. You can also use contests like these to search for fellow writers in your genre. You can send a DM to a writer whose pitch is in the same genre as your own and ask them if they’d be interested in exchanging pages. Or you send a tweet about it and include the hashtag for the pitch contest and the genre you write. Plenty of online critique partnerships have formed because of #PitMad, #DVPit, and #PBPitch.
4. Other online sources
A site called critiquematch.com allows users to search for critique partners who have also registered on the site. Users can also purchase a critique from their Pro Critiquers on the site.
AuthorMentorMatch.com matches aspiring writers with a published and/or agented writer to critique and mentor the writer’s work. There are specific submission dates and authors must apply to be chosen as a mentee.
Another resource is to purchase a critique during an online auction. These events are offered sporadically through different writing organizations and usually support a good cause. Keep your eye out on Twitter as they are usually quite heavily promoted there when one is coming up.
You can also enter online contests like Pitch Wars. Unlike #PitMad which lasts one day, contests like this take place over several months. There’s usually a mentor round, where published writers choose an aspiring writer to mentor and help them revise their manuscript with an eye toward the agent round. During the agent round, agents review the queries from the different authors and favorite the ones they’d like to see more of. The competition to get selected for a contest like this is fierce, but many people have not only found agents but also landed book deals as a direct result of their participation.
5. Consult an Independent editor
Places like the Manuscript Academy offer online critiques. You can request a query letter critique, first ten pages, fifty pages all the way up to the full manuscript. The larger the critique, the more expensive it is. The benefit of an organization like the Manuscript Academy is that they have recruited tenured literary agents, editors, and authors to provide the critiques. They list the biographies of the faculty on the site so you can choose someone who matches up with your manuscript genre.
There are also lots of writers, editors, and agents who have hung their shingles as independent editors. Going this route can be pricey. If you think this might be the right option for you, I’d suggest asking for a test edit of the first few pages to see if you like their critique/editing style. You may want to choose to submit the first three chapters and see what they suggest. If you like their recommendations you can carry that through the rest of the manuscript.
Where does one find someone to critique their manuscript? If you start waving money around, people will come out of the woodwork willing to give you their opinion of your work. But, the best method would be to look at the websites of writers or agents whose work you admire. They may offer critique or editing services on the side. Writers organizations sometimes provide a list of trusted editors/critiquers.
There are a lot of different options when it comes to getting your work critiqued — from local writing meetings to online contests to paid critiques. The key is finding someone you trust who will give you constructive criticism on your manuscript. Only take their advice if you think it will improve your manuscript.
Happy writing and critiquing…