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Well, hello there. I see you, huddled under that blanket. Waiting to see if you have a match, staring blearily at your computer screen. Or...

Trying Out a New Critique Partner, or OH MY GOSH, WHAT HAVE I DONE? Trying Out a New Critique Partner, or OH MY GOSH, WHAT HAVE I DONE?

Trying Out a New Critique Partner, or OH MY GOSH, WHAT HAVE I DONE?

Trying Out a New Critique Partner, or OH MY GOSH, WHAT HAVE I DONE?

Well, hello there.

I see you, huddled under that blanket. Waiting to see if you have a match, staring blearily at your computer screen. Or maybe it's more like this:


I'll ignore the chocolate stains on your Dr. Who pajama bottoms. (Or Loki pajama bottoms. No judging here.) Or no bottoms, because I've seen a rather large number of writers admit to not wearing pants at all. (I write middle grade, so I find the lack of pants hilarious.) (And I tend to overuse parentheses.) (Because they're fun.)

Finding a new critique partner involves lots of excitement. And if you're at all neurotic, lots of nervousness. Will they like my writing? What if I think it's okay and they tell me it deserves to be dunked in sewage and fed to crocodiles in the Nile? What if *gasp* they like it, and they like it enough to kind of force me to really get serious about submitting? Oh, all sorts of things are likely going through your brain right now. And if this is your first critique partner, you don't have any idea what to expect.

Well, guess what?

You won't have any idea what to expect.

I met my first critique partner through blogging, way back in 2008. I read her posts about how she and her husband got together, and I fell in love with her evocative style of writing. Indeed, I had always loved to read, but recently had started writing down some of the stories I told my children, besides my regular blogging. Then this new friend told me about a writing conference far away from my home in Missouri, or her  home in Canada, and we finally got to meet in person in 2010.

As you might have guessed, Kimberly VanderHorst was my very first critique partner ever.

The first time I sent her pages, I was such a tender writer. And that's the perfect word for it. I wanted to be prepared for criticism, but the truth was that I knew any criticism would sting. Gentle touches on a sunburn of fear and doubt. Would she be mean? Would she like it? Were my words worth working on?

I tend to imagine worst-case scenarios (shocking, a writer who imagines), so I was pleasantly surprised when she gave me feedback that was very helpful. It did sting a little, but only because my skin hadn't toughened up yet. But Kimberly was encouraging and told me my words had worth. She wouldn't let me give up. And I believed in her stories so much that critiquing for her helped me feel like I took part in bringing beauty and magic and feeling to the world. Because what are we without magic, and beauty, and pain, and feeling, and stories? Our whole existence is made up of stories. And while we both were way less experienced back then than we are now, I credit Kim with getting me started on that path. I wouldn't be where I am without her.

So, my friends, you need critique partners. Scary? Absolutely. But oh, so necessary. I was lucky on the first try. But it's been harder to find more since then, yet I have. So it might take a little work. You may find a match or two right off, or it may take a little while. But when you find someone you click with, hold on to them. Tightly. And the biggest clue that someone is a good fit for you? Not only do they get what you're trying to say with your story, and they give you constructive criticism, their critique should leave you feeling excited to work on your manuscript. Even if you need a few days to process their feedback first.

Lick that chocolate off your fingers and get ready. Because the moment when you find a new critique partner?


Yeah. Priceless.

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