Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Value of Critique Partners (and the chance to find one for yourself!)

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.


It's my birthday, and I can't help but think about the many, many things I'm grateful for. My husband, my kids, the Kansas City Royals, my job, etc.

Me and Erica Vetsch at ACFW
Something I'm continually grateful for are great friends who are also writers. My first writing friend was Erica Vetsch. We met at a writers conference in Florida back when I was so green I didn't know about business cards, that there were organizations like RWA, ACFW, and SCWBI, or that dialogue tags were not necessary for every line.

While Erica and I did sometimes critique for each other, what really mattered was the support. When I didn't final in a contest, she encouraged me. When the publishing house passed on my book, she told me how much she still believed in it. And after years of being a lonely writer, that meant so much to me.

Carole, Mary, me, and Roseanna. Our original critique
group, which was formed in 2007 but eventually split as
our needs diversified. Sadly, Mary passed away in 2010.
The next writer friend I made was Roseanna White. We met at ACFW (thanks to Erica!) and bonded over our identical taste in briefcases, our mutual baby bumps, and our similar ages. Roseanna and I have buoyed each other through rejections and hairpin turns in our careers that we never would have expected. We helped each other through the tricky season of writing with babies and toddlers underfoot. While we do still critique for each other and help brainstorm, again it's more about having someone who encourages you when the writing day is rough and cheers for you when it's good.

Me and Betsy St. Amant (Hey, Jill, you're in the background! I think this is right before we became buds!)

I could also talk about Jill Williamson, Shannon Dittemore, Betsy St. Amant, Jenny B. Jones, Melanie Dickerson, Nicole O'Dell, Sally Bradley, my fellow Playlist Fiction authors, and many others who have provided an important writing community, but I'll get to the point.

Me and Jill at the ACFW awards gala (color coordination unplanned!)

Many of you have sent me emails asking for a way to find critique partners. Since we're not able to have a Go Teen Writers Conference, we're going to try a "critique partner match up" of sorts. 

Below is a form that we've created in hopes that we can help you meet a writer friend or two. We (Jill and I) have been in many critique groups of varying success, so we've given lots of thought to what made groups a success.

If you're interested, you can fill out the form. As we get responses, we'll try our best to match you up according to your preferences. Will it work out for everybody? We hope so, but we know from experience that some groups and partners will click and flourish while others won't. Some might work for a time but eventually fade away. That's just how it goes with critique relationships.

But our hope is that at least some of you will make a great new writing friend, and that all of you will grow through the process.

 

94 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday, Mrs. Morrill! I just got back from a writers conference and it was great to see so many other people who are as passionate about writing as I am. I'll have to talk to Mom about the critique group. :)

    (On a side note: I passed the 20,000 word mark on my WIP yesterday!!)

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    1. That's amazing, Linea! I am so excited too because I just passed 42,000 on my WIP yesterday! Three cheers!

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    2. Hanan: Hooray for both of us!

      And Mom said YES!!

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  2. I filled in the form - I'm the one who wrote 'n' instead of my email address. Please ignore me. Thanks. :-)

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  3. HAPPY BIRTHDAY STEPHANIE!!! :D
    I joined a critique group where my friend in charge matched us up with other teens, like what ya'll are doing. :) I was matched up with Mary B. and I am SO thankful to my friend (shout out to Britt Johnson!) for pairing us up!
    Just to put that out there if some of ya'll are iffy about being paired up. :)

    TW Wright
    ravensandwriting.blogspot.com

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  4. Happy Birthday, Mrs. Morrill!!!

    That critique thing sounds cool, but I'll have to talk to my mom first :)

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    1. Thank you! And yes, asking parents is important :)

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    2. My mother said yes! :D I'm about to fill out the critique form- I might fill out the historical genre too, because I would really enjoy writing a steampunk.

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    3. Yay, Emily! Glad you'll be able to join!

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  5. Happy Birthday Stephanie! Hey, can I apply for the critique group even though I technically already have a critique partner through another source? He's a 14 yr old boy in Alaska, and I'm a seventeen yr old girl. I'm more of a mentor to him. I was in a critique group, but they went AWOL. One said, "I'm to lazy to critique this." I haven't contacted them since July.

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    1. Of course you can! That happens sometimes with critique groups.

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  6. I already have a few writing friends in my hoard, but I don't think it hurts to shop around a little more. I'm curious to see what happens. :)

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    1. There's no such thing as too many writing friends, right?

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  7. What if I write steampunk? Would that be categorized at science fiction?

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  8. Thank you, Stephanie! This is really nice of you to do this for us ;) And have a happy birthday!

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  9. Thank you so much, I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year and I'm kind of new to all of this, so I'd love to meet other people who are doing the same thing. And happy birthday!

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  10. Happy Birthday, Mrs. Morrill! This was a wonderful idea! :)

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  11. Happy birthday!!
    Oh my gosh, thank you for doing this! It sounds amazing!!

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  12. Happy birthday, Stephanie! One question though (not sure if it's an idea): Can you also make a thing of choosing the language, for example English and Other Language or something like that?

    arendedewit.blogspot.com

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  13. Happy birthday Mrs. Morrill! I hope your day is wonderful~
    I've loved the thought of critque groups for so long, but between classes, work, and writing something to critique I found that I won't commit myself to a group. It doesn't seem fair somehow, you know? I want to give my attention just as well.
    That aside, it sounds like a fantastic idea and I hope it works really well for everyone!

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    1. Thank you, Kelsey! And I understand. My involvement in critique groups has dwindled since getting published and having kids.

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  14. I wasn't sure what to put on genre because I write dystopian. I ended up putting fantasy and science fiction. I hope that's OK. Happy birthday, by the way! Mine was a few days ago!

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    1. Dystopian is classified as sci-fi, so that's perfect. And a belated happy birthday to you!

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  15. Happy birthday! I might do the critique group thing... but I have five siblings, all of whom love writing, so I'll skip it... speaking of birthdays, one of my sibling's birthday is within the next seven days. What a coincidence!

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    1. Yes, sounds like you're plenty busy :) How fun!

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  16. I live in Bolivia. Can I still do a critique group?

    And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!

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    1. Sure! We added a language option to the form as well.

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    2. Same anonymous here...

      I'm an MK, so language isn't the problem.
      My question is this: What is involved with being in a critique group?
      Is it strictly email? Facebook? In person?
      That will determine whether I can do this or not...

      And we are very fundamental baptists with high standards. I would hate to commit to a critique group then have to leave it later because of issues involving that. What do you suggest??

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  17. This sounds like a good things for people. Wish I had the time to join a group, but as it is, I barely have time to work on my own story, let alone invest in giving quality feedback to others.

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  18. Not sure that I'm ready for a critique group... I'm just now getting the guts up to share my stories with anyone.

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    1. That's okay! Just keep writing! :)

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    2. We're all at different places. Don't worry about it! There are seasons of life when it's best to write with the door closed, I think.

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  19. Happy birthday! :D

    I have a question: What do you mean by being "serious about writing"? Because though I've been writing my whole life, it's just a hobby. I've never really finished a draft, and seriously doubt I could make a living off it. What box should I check?

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    1. Great question. I've been writing since first grade and it was always something I wanted to pursue. But I didn't start pushing myself to do better/do more until I was a junior in high school. Does that make sense?

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    2. Hmm....I think so. Thanks! :)

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    3. Happy birthday Stephanie! I also started getting more serious(ish) junior year (this year, when I found your blog).
      I'm with you, Rachel, on the never finishing a draft, but hopefully I'll write my first full novel this Nanowrimo.

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  20. This is a really nice opportunity Stephanie. Thank you for providing it. While I have some people encouraging me, I don't have that many people around me to critique with.

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  21. This is a great idea! I don't have any work right now I need critique on, but I will in the near future and I'd love to meet other writers, so this is perfect. Thank you!

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  22. I'm SO excited to meet other teen writers. :) I mostly write short stories and blog posts these days, not full-fledged novels, but I'm eager to see what everyone else is working on.

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  23. Happy birthday, Stephanie! I just wanted to write a note to say thank you to everyone who puts so much into this blog. :) I've been a reader for ages and have learned so much. I'm so blown away by this amazing community of writers and am proud to finally officially be a part of it! Good luck to everyone! :)

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  24. Happy birthday, Stephanie! I hope today is as much of a blessing for you as this blog has been for me! :)

    Super excited about the critique groups match-up! I've wanted to get involved with a critique group for a long time now, and I just haven't decided exactly how to go about it. So, this is fantastic! Thank you so much!

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  25. Happy birthday! This is a really cool idea. Thanks so much for doing this. :)

    Arende's my number one "editing" buddy so far... ;) Sad, though, I don't read enough Dutch yet to help with her stories. (I actually joked about that back in December, saying something like, "Well, now I just have to learn to read Dutch!" and she started teaching me. Now I'm using Duolingo, but I still have a long way to go!)

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  26. Yay! Critique groups! Every one I have been in has always failed miserably so I'm excited for a GTW one! This'll be great! (Cause GTWers are awesome :P )

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    1. I'm biased of course, but I totally agree.

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    2. Heehee. Well maybe I've just been with the wrong groups (is all i'm trying to say. I'm sorry I realized that might have come out wrong. My apologies)

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  27. Thank you so much for doing this! I've wanted a critique/writing group, but I wasn't sure how to find one. I signed up and I'm so excited!

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  28. I have exchanged manuscripts with a person before and so have some experience. This should be fun. Thank you

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  29. Thank you so much for this! I've been wanting a critique/writing group for a while but never knew how to find one. This is great!

    ~ Kayla

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  30. When you find the right critique group, it is the BEST! Happy birthday, Stephanie! :-)

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  31. Very cool development for Go Teen Writers!

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  32. This is great; it is so hard to find a good critique group. I'm part of one, and they have helped me tremendously.

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  33. Is this for a certain age? I'm almost 23.

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  34. Ooh! How awesome!
    I'll make sure to sign up tomorrow. I have been so wanting so much to have a critique group like this! I'm excited to meet my fellow writing buddies!

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    1. *squeals* I've signed up!
      Do you know when we will receive our partners?

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    2. Might be another week or so. I'm working on match-ups already, but there are lots of writers! Yay! :)

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    3. Okay. *nods* I am unbelievably excited. :) Thank you SO much for doing this!

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  35. When will we get in touch with our matches? :)

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  36. And sorry for not putting this in the comment above but I filled out the form on my phone and I want to make sure you got it. I'm Melody, so I just wanted to make sure it sent. :):)

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  37. If there's not an age limit, I'd like to get involved.

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    1. There isn't, but most are in their teens or early 20s. Just something to be aware of :)

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  38. I'm only 23 so that's fine with me.

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  39. Thank you so much for doing this! This is so cool! I just filled out the form a little while ago, so if it's too late, don't worry about it. :)

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  40. Thank you so much for doing this! I've posted a comment beforehand, but can't seem to see it, so I apologize in advance if I've double posted. I've filled out the form - but I think I misclicked a tab when I've submitted. If it's not too late, would it be possible to put me in a group of 4/+ people instead of the 2-3 I think I've clicked? My email is the one that ends in a uon.edu.au. Many thanks again! I really appreciate everything you're doing. :D

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    1. I'll do my best, Peter! The 4+ groups are actually a bit tricky because it wasn't the most popular choice, so a lot of the 4+ groups will be starting out with 3 and then hopefully we'll be able to add to your numbers soon.

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    2. Are you registered under a different name? Because I don't see a Peter on my list...

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    3. Yes, sorry, I'm using a different google account to comment. :P My actual name's charmaine. :D Don't worry if you can't fit me in a 4+ group - I'm just excited to be in one. Thanks a lot again!

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  41. Thanks SO much! I just filled out the form, and I hope it's not to late. Thanks again!

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    1. Awesome!! *screams in excitement* Oh, and a quick question...I sent you an email on you site saying that I wanted to check 4+ on the group size, and selected 2-3 instead. Really sorry! Also, I checked I've been serious about writing for four years, and I'm only twelve, but I've wanted to be an author since I was eight...that's okay, right? Wasn't sure if it went through.
      Once again really sorry! Thanks so much for this. Go Teen Writers rocks!!! :) :)

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