Why Critique Partners & Beta Readers Are Essential to Your Writing

Let’s talk about critique partners and beta readers.

I’ve been seeing a handful of Tweets and blogs from people the writing community, claiming critique partners and beta readers aren’t necessary—or even that they negatively impact your manuscript.

While it’s possible to have a bad experience with critique partners (also called CPs) and beta readers, I’m here to tell you:

Outside feedback is one-hundred percent vital to the success of your manuscript. 


What’s the Difference between a Critique Partner and Beta Reader?

Critique partners are writers who provide feedback on your work, usually by request (to exchange chapters).

Beta readers are people who read your manuscript as a reader first (rather than a writer). Most of the time, beta readers are not writers.

*Keep in mind: Sensitivity readers are their own separate thing. And also very important. But we’ll get to that topic another day.


Why Critique Partners Are Important

As a writer, we tend to be very close (perhaps too close) to our writing. Therefore, it can be difficult to notice the faults or areas requiring improvement in our stories. That’s where critique partners and beta readers come in.

They are your first line of defense—or, your first editors. Think about it: all writers need eyes (other than our own) on our work in order to improve it.

For today’s post, I’m going to focus more heavily on critique partners, as these are the people you’ll be exchanging chapters with.

A good critique partner will:

  • Be kind and gentle when providing any kind of feedback
  • Be timely in their feedback/maintain agreed-upon deadlines
  • Be attentive to the feedback you are looking for (such as big-picture editing)
  • Find any faults or shortcomings in your writing (that you may have overlooked), including world building holes, wonky pacing, pointing out when a character is two-dimensional, and much, MUCH more
  • Show you the worst and best of your writing to help you to reach your full potential
  • Provide specific recommendations for areas of improvement, and not simply “I don’t like this”
  • Probably be your bestie and most supportive cheerleader because they want you/your story to succeed

A good critique partner/beta reader will not only gently point out flaws in a manuscript, but they will also point out the strengths of the manuscript and the things that you, as a writer, do well. As a result, they can encourage you not only to fix errors, inconsistencies, or anything unclear, but they also will (hopefully) help you to highlight the things you do well.


Things to Ask Your Critique Partner

In order to ensure a successful relationship with your critique partner, here are a few questions you want to ask before exchanging chapters:

  • When are you hoping to start?
  • How many chapters do you want to exchange?
  • What feedback are you looking for?
  • How often do you want to check in/what’s our deadline?
  • How do you want to exchange feedback (Word doc, Google doc, etc.)?

For more information on critique partners and beta readers, check out my article, 10 Tips on Critique Partner Etiquette.


In case you missed this week’s iWriterly video, be sure to check that out!