Earnin’ My Keep with My Critique Partner

The critique partner I mentioned in a recent post just sent me her manuscript the other day. This is something that I’ve read portions of before, but in other versions where her character had different beginnings, met a few different people, and was even narrated in a different perspective. As I said in that other post, I’m so happy the get this manuscript because I love her writing, I love this character, and I love that I have the chance to see her adventure from beginning to end. (Also, this puts me in a position to help twist and turn and fine tune the path of said adventure, which is thrilling.) On top of all of that, though — I’m relieved.

Since graduation, I’ve sent her my whole manuscript TWICE, plus a few short stories I cobbled together. She’s sent me a few short stories of her own, and asked for help in plotting out her rewrite, but, I feel, nothing near the volume I’ve asked her to critique for me.

click to return to the previous pageThe “partner” in the phrase isn’t something to take lightly. There should be a near-even amount of back and forth, of assistance and gain, going between the two. Lately I’ve felt as if I have taken an unfair amount of time on the receiving end, so while I’m always anxious to hear her opinion of a new idea of mine, there’s a little bit of guilt involved in knowing I’m not doing the same for her (who cares that she’s not currently asking for help and I am, my guilt certainly doesn’t care).

I like feeling like I’m earning my keep, that I can even out the trade off we’re doing with each other so we can both always feel like this relationship is beneficial and good. At least until I send her another manuscript in a couple of weeks.


Writers, do you have a critique partner? Do you ever feel like one or the other is taking up all the time, whether it’s true or simply in your head?

5 thoughts on “Earnin’ My Keep with My Critique Partner

  1. Aww! Well, if it makes you feel any better, the lack of back-and-forth was largely due to all the angst I had about how to make the novel work. I’m sure that future projects will come forth much faster, now that I’m out of that weird funk. And I never felt like you were taking advantage of me or anything.

    Also, “My guilt certainly doesn’t care.” <—That describes so much of my life! Ha!

  2. I was on the other side of your critique swap. I have a full-time job and just had my second child, so I don’t have a lot of free time. I have a short story and a novel WIP that I’ve been working on in pieces. My critique partner did not have children was much more prolific.

    I didn’t have time to read her novel manuscripts and do any writing of my own. I take my time when I am editing someone’s work. Eventually, I had to tell her that I wasn’t going to be able to finish her novel, even though she busted through my short story in 15 minutes.

    I have a new critique partner now, and we are going through our trial month together. We agreed on a page limit that both of us could work with. I’m hoping this will avoid the guilt from piling up on either side.

    • I feel your pain there, too; I’ve had time in my life where I had so much going on that when someone asked me to look at something, I’d put it aside and unintentionally let it rot. Never a good thing to do.

      I think it is important that you and your critique partner produce at least close to a similar amount, so no one feels guilty about the relationship. At the least a maximum word count is important for something that you trade off regularly; Rachel and I did that in a writing group we were a part of for a little while. But, you want to make sure that your CP is someone you can trust, who views receiving a manuscript from you as something exciting rather than a chore — that’s the number one priority.

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