Friday, April 26, 2019

I’ve Found My Writing Critique Partner – Now What?

by Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2

More elusive than the mythological unicorn, a good critique partner can bring sparkle and shine to your writing journey. In February’s post, “Four Reasons Why You Need a Critique Partner,” I encouraged you to consider taking the next step in your writing journey by finding a writing buddy. In March’s post, “Four Qualities to Look for in a Critique Partner,” I shared similarities you should consider when choosing a writing compatriot. Now that (hopefully) you’ve found your buddy and can’t wait to get started, I’d like to suggest some questions you’ll want to ask as you set up your partnership. 

1. Will you meet in person or online?
Because of the beauty of online communication, your critique partner doesn’t have to live in your city, although an in-person relationship is ideal. If this isn’t possible, or even if it is, you may find yourselves communicating primarily by exchanging critique using the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word. Not sure what this is? Check out Bob Hostetler’s helpful post, “Learning to Use Track Changes.” You can edit your partner’s document, leave comments and questions in the margins, and accept or reject every change. 

My critique partner and I live four miles away and meet occasionally for critique. Most of the time, however, we exchange our work via email, reserving the right to call if anything needs greater explanation than the comments allow.

We also occasionally schedule a marathon writing day. If we need extra motivation and help to move past a stuck spot or energy to jumpstart a new project, a marathon writing day often greases the skillet. 

When we break for lunch (which we’ve both contributed to), we critique each other’s work, making notes on double-spaced copies Word Weavers style. We briefly clarify anything that needs more than a scribbled note, and begin writing again. 

When the clock shows 45 minutes left to our writing marathon, we stop, print copies of what we’ve written that afternoon, and critique again. Every time my partner and I do this, we make great progress on our W.I.P.s, exchange valuable insights that always make our work better, and inspire each other simply by writing in the same room.

2. How often will you critique? 
Weekly? By-weekly? Monthly? How many words? When is the material due? When is it due back? Agreeing to a regular word count and time to exchange material sets clear parameters that helps you manage your time. If I know I’ll receive up to 2,000 words from my partner no later than Tuesday, I schedule the critique into my week’s work calendar, knowing I’ve promised to return it no later than the following Sunday. She does the same for me. 

Some weeks one of us misses our Tuesday deadline, but sends our work on anyway with the note, I didn’t make the deadline. No worries if you don’t have time to critique it this week.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. If not, we move the edit to the top of the list for the new critique week.

3. What will you do if it just isn’t working? 
I recommend you start your partnership with a trial basis, say 90-days. Depending on how frequently you critique, you should know by then if you and your partner are a good fit for each other. Going into the relationship knowing it’s not a forever commitment allows each partner to decide if it’s right for them. If for some reason it isn’t, agree to have no hard feelings. Prayerfully seek another partner and begin the process again, applying some of the lessons you learned the first time around.

Know also that it’s okay, during busy seasons, life seasons, and sickness seasons, to meet less frequently or temporarily suspend your critique commitment. When life or health calms down, pick up where you left off.  

I’m a member of Toastmasters International, where we often say, “One of the most valuable benefits of Toastmasters is the ability to receive regular, informed feedback.” I say the same about my relationship with my critique partner. Meeting together to polish and sharpen our projects has helped us both take our writing to a whole new level. If you’re ready to do the same, prayerfully seek out a critique partner. You’ll be glad you did.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have a critique partner? What pros and cons have you experienced? Leave a comment and share the conversation.


Don't Miss the Rest of this Series

This series comes from Lori Hatcher’s newest writing workshop, “Yes, You Need a Critique Partner – The Who, What, When, Were, and How’s of Writing in Partnership.” Lori is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of several devotional books. Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women won the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year award. Her most recent book, Refresh Your Faith – Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible is due out in the spring of 2020.A blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on FacebookTwitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).


  1. It's wonderful to be a part of a dedicated writers group meeting monthly, but that's not the same as having a critique partner. Haven't found one yet, but have been blessed with a few who are certainly making me a better writer. I pray one day God brings the right one to me so I might reciprocate. Great tips Ms. Lori. God's blessings ma'am...

    1. I was about 10 years into my writing career before the Lord blessed me with my critique partner. Keep being faithful in your writing, and ask God to send one your way, J.D. It will come in God's good timing.

  2. I enjoy participating in two critique groups through Word Weavers. Also, I have a wonderful author who is mentoring my writing. I appreciate the wisdom of experienced writers.

    1. Our mentors, friends, and critique groups are great blessings. They are iron sharpening iron, for sure. Blessings on your writing, Melissa!