Three Things I Ask My Critique Partner Before I Give Any Feedback

Do you belong to a critique group? If you want to be a writer, and you want to sell your work, I truly believe you need to join at least one critique group. For best results, I think more than one critique group is the best way to go. And it’s even better if you can get into different critique groups with different kinds of writers.

I’m in three groups. One is with people who live nearby and we meet face to face. The other two are online. The first online one is made up of writers who mostly write nonfiction. The second group is all agented writers. I get incredible feedback from every group, but I also get a variety of different kinds of feedback. Each group helps me become a better writer, and I love my critique partners. That’s why I want to give them the best critique feedback I can on their work!! It’s the only way to show my gratitude.

Before I give any kind of feedback, I ask my critique partners some questions.

  1. Do you have a specific question or problem area you want me to focus on? This question is really important because it helps me really focus in on what they need or want to make their story better, instead of me only providing the kind of thoughts or reactions I had. Maybe they really want me to think about plot, but they don’t care about the setting so much. Or they don’t care about fixing punctuation (which is copyediting, not critique, but that’s a comment for a different post!!) and really want to know if the dialogue felt real. Finding out what my critique partner wants helps me provide useful feedback.
  2. Do you have a pitch for this story? Yes, back to focusing on the pitch. I can’t stress this enough, but knowing the pitch is key to know if you’ve written a story that delivers on the promise of the pitch. And if my critique partner wants to sell this story, I think the two things need to go together. I won’t be doing them any favors if I ignore one.
  3. Who is your ideal reader for this story? I need to know this answer so I can help my critique partner evaluate if they have written a story that works for the age of their ideal reader. I will think about vocabulary, sentence structure, the topic of the story, and what kind of background information the reader might need to have to grasp any concepts or ideas. Knowing the ideal reader also helps me think about how to market the story, and I can give some suggestions to my critique partner about that, too.

After those three questions, I can give my critique partner some strong, useful feedback. But if I have time, I often ask a fourth bonus question.

What part of your story is your favorite? This is a sneaky question, but I still think it’s important. I really genuinely want to know what my critique partner loves about their own work. And it helps with that positive reinforcement that they have created something beautiful. But it also helps me get a sense of what they are passionate about, and for me to share my favorite part of the story with them. It always feels good to celebrate the things we love.