Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ode to my Critique Partners/Betas

 Oh how I LOVE my critique parnters allow me to count the ways... ah, but we both know there are far too many so I write this blog.

Recently, I’ve had a discussion with a number of people on beta/critique partner issues. Soooooo here’s my two cents/1 euro worth on the subject and ask in return for yours.

First, what’s the difference between a beta & critique partner:
Most people use the words interchangeably. I use critique partners because I need far more than what the traditional beta is tasked to give.

My definition of a beta reader: focuses on grammar and makes notes of huge issues while a critique partner: is living with the characters, making sure the content, action, dialogue and characters is consistent with the story.  In other words, the critique partners are up your ass if you stray from where you should be. They have no qualms about calling you on your issues that bleed onto the page and they offer specific suggestions for some of the problems they point out.

Recommendations from the lovely crit/beta:

      1) Comments=Love… I know many people don’t see it this way but this lovely critique partner/beta has taken time out of their own lives to HELP you not to ramble about how great you are. They shred your precious story with love so you won’t be beaten up publicly.
      2) The author trusted this individual with their work. Assess the comment.
           a) is the comment valid >>> if so address it
           b) maybe you meant the reader to come away with that opinion>>> if so don’t change it but sometimes the pretty in our head doesn’t make it onto the page you might address it or flesh the concept out so it’s clarified.
           c) the beta/critique partner points out something but you’ve addressed it… Look again. Maybe a reader would have the same issue so enhance how you addressed it so what you’re trying to get across does.


1)  Being clear doesn’t mean snarky.
2)  A critique partner/beta shouldn’t get annoyed with an author if the same issue happens in Chapter 1 & 3 happens again in 10 & 14… the author didn’t know it was an issue. 
3)  Use WORD and insert comments and turn on your track changes.
4)  Each person will have a different perspective and different things will surface from reading the work. Understand & notify the author if you have ‘issues’ (I recently critiqued a story with lots of medical drama in it and I had to let the author know I have major anxiety around medical issues so I wanted her to put my comments through that filter….)
5)  If some of your suggestions aren’t utilized don’t feel betrayed there could be any number of reasons for this to be the case. The author may have changed something else in the story that counterbalanced/addressed your comment. Or the author wanted a character not to handle something properly because it is meant to haunt him in the future.
6)  Let the author know some positives as well: LOL, Snort, LOVE THIS, etc. go a long way in helping the author not feel chewed up and for us to know if something’s working as we’d hope. (The joke was funny)

Time Frame:

1)  Discuss a time frame. They have a life. Be realistic. Usually 2-3 weeks though some people turn things around in 3 days… As an author & as a critique partner I find the extra time allows me to live with the characters, which helps me see things I didn’t see before. ((Sometimes there are emergencies and the time frame is NEED IT YESTERDAY. It happens I won’t judge but this should happen only once in a great while))
2)  The critique partner/beta should let the author know if they need longer to complete the book or if they won’t be able to do it at all. Crits/Betas shouldn’t avoid the author just talk to them. ((It happens.))
3)  Giving the author updates helps. (I’m on chapter 8 and I’m going to kill the main character… I’m almost done I’m stealing both characters…)


A simple thank you is important. Even if it wasn’t as helpful as you’d hoped they took their time and devoted it to you. (When I do this it takes me about 1hr per 7-10pages… I’m thorough & many people who do it are that careful as well). Sometimes, I send something small via the Internet to say thank you. If it’s another writer I return the critique partner favor for them (& get all up in their business). Just for the love of Buddha let the person who took time to assist you making your characters shine know you appreciate them.


The author should share their expectations. What is it you want your book to convey? Giving the beta/crit partner general themes and your purpose with help give them focus so your point gets across to the readers.

What are your thoughts on this subject my Pretties? Let me know.

Hugs, Z.