Good Critique Partners are like unicorns--rare, magical, with superpowers that will shock you.
No, really, it's true. If you can find a Crit Partner who you click with, who gets your writing, but who is also willing to be brutal at times when you are totally sucking, you are in Magical Unicorn Territory.
There are many different kinds of Crit Partners, and today, I am going to outline (and acknowledge the awesomness) of all of mine.
First up, of course, is the Crit Group I belong to, YA Edge, which this blog is an offshoot of. Tami, Tracy, Kitty and I crit each other on a chapter by chapter basis. Once a week, I'll get three wonderful critiques about whatever chapter I posted. What's really interesting about Crit Groups is they kind of evolve. In the beginning, when we didn't know each other very well, we were super polite about criticism and rarely would modify the actual language of the author, but rather give suggestions. But as we all got to know each other, become friends and become more familiar with writing styles, we got a lot less polite and way more involved. Nowadays I know that when I open a crit from one of them, there will be a ton of corrections and suggestions and comments, but I also know that most of that red is making my book SO MUCH BETTER.
Second up is J, my crit partner who critiques my books as a whole (as I do hers). She doesn't get the book until at least the second draft. J is amazing and insightful, she always gives incredible suggestions on my heavy emotional scenes and is never afraid of telling me when the writing is getting too dramatic.
Thirdly is A, who I've known since I was 12 and who has a ton of very embarrasing stories about me and my teenaged writing. Because I write out of order, A is the person who gets my books first in pieces through IM. Usually I have to give her a quick back-story to the scene, and then she reads it. Usually I accompany the scene with a question like "Is this too sappy?" or "Am I pushing a line here?" A will read the scene, answer my questions and give suggestions to make it better. A's quick saves and willingness to spend months reading bits and pieces of a book, not to mention listening to me talk about my characters like they are real people make the writing process so much easier to handle.
Fourthly is MOMRA! aka the woman who gave birth to me in a cabin in the woods, aka my very cool Mom. MOMRA! is a journalist and copyeditor and takes great delight in scattering my manuscripts with RNA (Romance Novel Alerts). She is the Queen of Cutting Sap, Empress of the Rolled Eye and Princess of Correcting The Comma Splice. My mom gets the book before it goes out to agents. Usually this is the time where I have had every other Crit Partner go through the book and I've incorporated all their comments. I'm feeling pretty good about the book. And then MOMRA! shows me the errors of my ways and I end up rewriting the book two more times until I'm sick of it. It's a pretty hilarious process. We get into heated arguments over character choice and she writes increasingly irritated notes to me about how she taught me all this grammar, how can I not remember any of it?
There are many different kind of Crit Partners--what's important to keep in mind is that when you have a bunch of really great ones, ALWAYS AT LEAST LISTEN TO THEIR ADVICE. Sometimes they will save you from yourself.