Writer In Motion: Week 4

WIM Week 4: Critique Round 2

Part 1: Critique Partners and Beta Readers


Last week was the hardest week of WIM for me. General critiques from multiple CPs at the same time are not part of my usual writing process at this point in manuscript development (2nd draft). Typically, I will have a trusted CP go over a second draft before it goes out for a general critique round, a.k.a. Beta reading, and then it’s time for CPs again.

I think most writers have a preference about how many CPs they want handling their MS. It’s always like “cooks in the kitchen” for me, and I’m a little picky about how many cooks and which cooks I want in my kitchen. I prefer to work with a limited number of CPs. Now when it comes to Beta readers, the more the merrier. Beta readers are taste-testers! Love having lots of them! But when it comes to CPs, I am selective.

So, what is the difference? How is Beta feedback different from CP feedback, and why do you need both? How do you choose a CP vs. a Beta reader? How do you know when a CP is a good fit or if a CP relationship isn’t working for you? Where do you find these rare persons?

This is my opinion, but for me, a CP is an individual with valuable writing skills and insight whom I trust to work with me on achieving my vision for the story. I solicit their feedback, but I also feel free to challenge it, to ask for clarification, to argue points, concede points, and belabor them until I own those changes. They are partners in my manuscript kitchen, people I trust with a knife and a mixer, and although it’s not in the job description, I am lucky enough to have CP’s who have listened to me bawl out my emotions in the glorious agony that is writing.

In contrast, Beta readers are readers. They sample a prepared manuscript and evaluate it as readers. Was it good? What did they like? What did they hate? It’s up to you, the writer, to filter that feedback and decide what need to happen to that manuscript to make it better. Later this week, I’ll do a post on choosing CPs, and on how to find and evaluate your Betas. But the important distinction for me is that Beta readers taste-test the finished (or close to finished product) before it goes back to the kitchen for further work. They aren’t there to tell you how to fix it.

So, your CP is the cook in the kitchen with you, who will listen when you yell that your Beta’s clearly don’t know that your MC is supposed to be an unlikable jerk in chapter one. They will commiserate. And then they’ll help you figure out a way to make that unlikable jerk a vulnerable, understandable jerk who is ripe for change. They work with you on your vision to make it better.

Do you need one or the other? Well, you need both. Tomorrow’s post will be about finding and selecting CP’s, and then I’ll talk about Beta readers.


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