Critique Partners, Beta Readers, and #PairMe!


The Pair Me event is now closed – thank you to all of our participants! We will host this event again – check our blog for updates or subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date on events!

We’ve got big news! Loomis Park Press is hosting a Critique Partner matching event this month called Pair Me! More about that later, though. First, let’s talk about critique partners, beta readers, and why both are absolutely critical to the writing process.

No matter where you are in your writing project, you’re going to need some feedback. That’s where beta readers and critique partners come into play. There’s often a lot of confusion when it comes to CP’s and Betas. What’s the difference between the two? Which one do I need? What makes a good beta reader/critique partner? Where do I find one?

The difference between a critique partner and a beta reader is simple. Beta readers usually offer a final opinion on a well-polished finished draft. A critique partner, on the other hand, is with you from chapter one of your first draft, giving you feedback every step of the way. Since it’s a partnership, you are, in turn, reading their work-in-progress and offering you own feedback.

Every writer needs beta readers. If you intend to make your work available to the public in some form, you definitely need to get an array of opinions before you put it out there to help you understand who your work appeals to, which areas are working and which areas need more work. Most of the time, asking close friends and family members to read over your work will result in soft, unhelpful feedback because they’re afraid to be honest. Finding strangers to give your work a once over is usually much more helpful. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t let your friends and family read your work. Just know that their opinions may be a bit more reserved than someone who doesn’t know you.

The same way that everyone needs beta readers, everyone needs at least one solid critique partner that they can trust to be brutally honest and help shape the story from the get-go. Having a critique partner can save you hours of editing and proofreading time, as well as help you solve development/plot/pacing issues long before you even get to the second draft.

The truth is, in order to achieve your best work, you’ll need both; a few beta readers and at least one critique partner.

Good beta readers can be hard to come by. Many times someone will agree to read your work, only to never be heard from again. That’s why it’s good practice to offer a swap of services. You agree to read their work in exchange for them looking over yours. 90% of the time, you’ll get your feedback and in a more timely manner than if the reader doesn’t have anything to gain from beta reading for you. It can also be helpful to give your beta readers some guidelines as to what kind of feedback you’re looking for. Otherwise you may end up with broad, unhelpful comments like, “it was a little boring at times.” Sure, it’s helpful to know if you have a boring part in your story, but without knowing where that is, the comment is useless. Remember to take all opinions with a grain of salt UNLESS all your beta readers make the same comment/suggestion.

Good critique partners can be just as difficult to find, if not more elusive. CPing is a long term commitment and finding someone to match your particular needs and level of commitment isn’t easy. Plus there’s that whole “getting along” thing. With beta readers, you don’t have to get to know the person really. It’s a “one and done” thing most of the time. With CPing, if your personalities don’t mesh, the partnership is doomed. And finding someone who gives consistently helpful feedback can be a challenge. You don’t have to be on the same “writing level” to be partners. Many times someone who is a less experienced writer can pair with a veteran and really up their game and grow in their ability. At the same time, the veteran writer may find themselves getting a unique perspective from someone who critiques more from a reader’s point of view than a writer’s.

Finding a good critique partner means being a good critique partner. You have to keep each other motivated to stick with a story, build each other up on days that you or your partner thinks their writing is crap, and deliver thoughtful, honest critique and suggestions in a timely manner. You also have to be as excited about your partner’s story as they are. You have to be as into the characters and vested in the outcome. Understanding your partner’s vision for their characters will help you identify areas where things are out of character or deviate too far from the plot. In turn, your partner should love and understand your characters as well. You should work together as a sounding board for each other, bouncing ideas back and forth, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Critique partnerships will end up as incredible friendships if done correctly. After all, writing is like baring your soul and sharing a part of yourself with the world. A critique partner sees that unpolished, messy, nightmare of a work-in-progress and helps you clean it up so when it comes time to share it with everyone, it’s not nearly as scary as it would be otherwise.

Now that you know what they are and how they work, where in the world do you find such people?
Here! We are pleased to announce our very first Pair Me event! Pair Me will appeal to anyone who has ever participated in #CPMatch or any other matching event hosted on other popular writing blogs. It should help you find a much needed critique partner. Between now and February 29th you can sign up below to offer your services as a critique partner. On March 1st, Loomis Park Press will send out an email with your perfect matches! Okay, no guarantees they’ll be a perfect match, but you’ll have the option to review entry forms and choose to contact them to partner up or swap works as beta readers if a long-term partnership just isn’t working out.

Sign up today using the form below and then spread the word using #PairMe! The more entries received, the better the odds of finding your perfect match!

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