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Apr 23, 2021

The Not So Obvious Benefits of Critique Partnerships

By: Ciara T. Craig

“Have you worked with critique partners?”

No, I hadn’t. 

After reconnecting with an undergraduate professor, the suggestion sent absolute terror through me. Share my manuscript? Nerve-racking. But despite the initial hesitation, I began to mull over the idea and research my options. It wasn’t long before I’d created a profile on CritiqueMatch, and quickly learned critique partnerships are beyond beneficial. 

Gaining another set of eyes on your craft, voice, characters, and plot is needed, and yet, critique partnerships offer so much more. Over the last eight months of working with other critique partners, I noticed a change in my development as a writer. The change felt deeper, and if I dare say, it felt like a subconscious, intrinsic shift. After careful reflection, I recognized three overarching changes, ones that I like to consider as the not-so-obvious benefits of critique partnerships.

Motivation: When someone reads our writing, it feels… good. Maybe even great. And then, they agree to read more. We begin to swap chapters on a routine schedule. When we receive feedback, we’re presented with the opportunity to improve our writing or acknowledge the positives. The opportunity to improve is enticing. I noticed that I became more motivated, carving out time on a daily basis to work on my manuscript. That sense of motivation propels us to write more, and in turn, motivates us to continue with our work in progress.

Self-awareness: As we continue working with critique partners, we also become more aware of our writing. A stable critique partner will assist in pointing out consistencies, good and or bad habits in our writing. I’d embark on my next chapter and catch myself almost immediately, noting a repetitive error that a critique partner had previously pointed out before I made it again. I gained self-awareness. I found my voice becoming more concrete. I reconsidered word choice, evaluated syntax, grew thoughtful about character construct, and questioned what seemed to be missing throughout scenes or chapters, all while writing in the moment. This was simple because repetitive aspects in my manuscript had been brought to my attention. Editing became subconscious, and overall, this self-awareness improved my efficiency. 

Accountability: In turn, I became responsible towards my craft, owned my characters, and honed in on my plot. A sense of responsibility towards my manuscript increased the more often I gave it to others. As I owned my writing style, I became more connected to my voice. Vice versa, I manifested deeper accountability towards my role as a critique. Every week, I understood the expectations of swapping chapters and providing feedback based on another writer’s goals within their work. This accountability made me a more responsible writer and dependable critique partner. 

As we writers continue to progress towards our goals, it is important to reflect on how we are developing and not just our work. Thanks to critique partnerships, my writing has grown stronger through motivation, self-awareness, and accountability. Every time I sit down to write, my intentions are defined. Even more so, I write more often. Simply put, I developed better habits. At the end of the day, critique partnerships are innately critical to our work in progress, but beyond feedback, encouraging words, and grammar edits, they offer us so much more.

About the Author:
Ciara lives in the beautiful city of Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband. She received her BA in Creative Writing and Psychology at Queen University of Charlotte, and her MA in Mental Health Counseling at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She now works as a training coordinator at a wealth management firm. When she finds free time, she is usually baking a fresh loaf of bread, enjoying coffee in one of its many, delicious forms, or devouring one of the books in her forever growing TBR stack.