Critique partners are essential to the working writer. They provide readers (and hopefully, writers!) to bounce one’s work off of, to get honest feedback from, and to find both inspiration and direction, as needed.
Because you are entrusting yourself and your work to these partners, you’ll want to be selective when choosing. Does this person have your best interests at heart – or will he or she be threatened by your success? Do they have the reading and writing ability to give you guided feedback? Will you be “as iron sharpening iron” with one another? Is this person committed to timely response?
Once you’ve selected a few critique partners, I advise making a covenant with one another, for a limited time, perhaps, to be reviewed after a year or two. Your covenant might look something like this:
- We agree to hold a noncompetitive spirit. This will require prayer and consideration before reading someone else’s work and before responding. We will pray for the mind of Christ, the ability to find what needs to be found in order to make the work its best, and to present it as we would want comments presented to ourselves.
- We agree to hold things confidential.
- We agree to not write too closely competing material or poach ideas. If a similar idea or enhancement comes to one of us after a critique partner shares the thoughts she/he’s had we will assume it’s because God has given it to us to sharpen THEIR work.
- We agree to review materials in a timely manner and to submit work in a timely manner to encourage each to run the race as if to win.
- We agree to do good for others, especially other Christians, wherever possible. This means sharing market openings, contest news, etc. We operate with an open hand. We are generous in receiving and in giving critique.
- We agree to share continuing education material with one another.
- We agree to maintain nonjudgmental, problem-solving attitudes. We are honest in our assessments and don’t hold back the truth. We weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice.
- We agree to help one another to avoid envy – looking neither to the left nor to the right because then you cannot look up nor ahead. You’re then bound to stumble or go off course. Keep your eye on the sun (Son) like a sextant would to keep the course.