Case Studies For Writers

a craft toolbox

Dec 16, 2018

The Special S&M Bond of the Critique Partner Relationship

So you’ve found a critique partner—Yay!

Get ready for an experience in love and punishment that would get even Christian Grey right in his dangling participles.

You’re about to get all the feedback, critical commentary, and objective dissection of your carefully outlined, precariously constructed plot arcs you ever wanted. And more!

Wait—you didn’t think your critique partner (CP) was just going to read your story then tell you how much they loved it, did you?

Of course not, you say. But really—you were secretly hoping that would be the case. It’s okay. We all do.


But if your CP comes back to you with nothing but love and glowing praise on your writing, they aren’t doing their job.

Let your besties, sister, mom, co-workers, etc. give you all the love and emotional props as you struggle through the agonies of story-birth. Your CP will be the person in the throes of the process with you, demanding you push harder, and will not let you stop even in your darkest moments.

Because that’s their job. And it will be your job to give as good as you get. The time and effort you put into giving a meaningful, careful critique also benefits you as a writer.

So just who is this person you’ve invited into your writing in order to expose your deepest vulnerabilities?

Ideally, and if you’re just starting out, your new CP is also a writer in your genre who knows your comp titles or the style you are trying to emulate. However, a CP not as familiar with the tropes, beats, and clich├ęs of your genre can add a new dimension to your story-telling as well.

But be prepared. You’ve asked for a critique. And that’s what you’re going to get. 

You’ve invited your CP into your crafted world in order to pull it apart. Their mission is to slog through your slumping middles, dig down, chapter by chapter, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, calling out the awkward little inconsistencies you hoped no one would notice. You can count on them to ask the hard questions and point out every dumb thing, every scene that does not progress the plot, every out-of-character trait, or unlikable heroine in your story.

You voluntarily undertake this exercise in exquisite torture because your overall goal, and your critique partner’s, is to Improve Your Story. After the painful pokes, prods, and extractions, your manuscript will come out polished and the best possible version it can be—ready to be unleashed upon the world.

The very special trust and confidence of the writer-critiquer relationship doesn’t come overnight. It develops, just as your writing does—over time and with experience. But the result is a bond with someone who has just as much blood, sweat, and tears invested in your story as you do. 

This person will know your soul just as they know the ins-and-outs of your characters. They will be not only your biggest critic but your biggest supporter and a cherished friend. 

In short, the reward is worth the pain.

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Written by: Ann Campbell Reed
Ann is a guest blogger on CritiqueMatch. She is currently on an incredible writing journey with the world’s best critique partners.