Understanding Critique Partners.
by Dani Coronado
My main goal as an aspiring writer, as I was first setting up my Instagram writing account @writinggibsongirl, was to find writer friends. Perhaps writer friends that could possibly… one day… be my critique partners.
It took me over a year of platform-building and putting myself out there online to find my cherished group of close friends and online comrades. Some I found through online activities and programs (like Madison, who I met through the Mentorship Program at The Young Writers Initiative). Others by pure luck and then found common interests (like Julia, and our mutual love of nerdy stuff and musical theatreーAlthough I have a feeling that is included in “nerdy stuff”). And others… I forgot how I found them, they just spontaneously showed up in my life (hello, Astra).
But it’s hard. And I must say, I got really lucky. I had the advantage of having this platform where I could meet people who like writing in the first place. It’s not that easy at the beginning, and it’s not that easy for everyone. Some people are shy or have differing degrees of social anxiety that don’t allow them to establish relationships that easily. Some people simply can’t seem to find anyone they click with.
I’ll try to share some ideas right now on how you can meet possible critique partners.
There is, however, a very important disclaimer. An added level of wariness and carefulness must be considered if you are a minor. If you are under the age of 18, and you are looking for online critique partners/writing buddies: Please, please be careful. There are people out there who don’t have good intentions and people out there who can and will exploit creative young minds. Look for people your age, be wary, and don’t be too trusting. Block anyone at the first sign of trouble, and don’t reveal personal information that can be used to track you down, or to hurt you. I know I sound like a nagging adult, but I mean it. And because it’s a writing-buddies related warning, I must say also: protect also your intellectual property. I don’t mean to frighten you, but you must be cautious.
That being said, let’s get to the advice part. How do you find your people?
Social media hashtags
This would be my first recommendation. If you don’t have a writer-specific social media, it might be a bit hard. But it’s possible.
Throughout the year a number of popular #meetthewriter hashtags go around and hundreds, even thousands of people sometimes, end up participating. People throughout the globe, posting their pictures or a cute infographic, with a lengthy caption that describes them. Fun facts like their age, where they’re located, what type of genre they write in… So, my idea would be to check out one of these and comment under the post ーor maybe even slide in the DMsー of someone you think you might click with. Maybe they’re from the same side of the globe, maybe they listed a common interest, maybe you both write in a similar niche genre... There’s no reason to be shy, we’re all geeky nerds in the writing community.
You can even think of participating in one of these hashtags yourself! Adding a post and being open to people reaching out to you!
The best one I’ve seen was #findmywritingcommunity started by Adrienne Young and Kristin Dwyer, because it was directed towards meeting new writers. I’m sure you can scroll through it and maybe contact some of the people there. Give it a shot! Another ones you could try are #meetthewriter and #meettheauthor.
Workshops and live streams
I’ve met so many people through live stream chats and internet activities. In workshops and such, you’re kind of required to meet these people and talk to them. I can point to The Young Writers Initiative (tywi.org) for an organization that offers these types of workshops, and either for free or with very very accessible pricing option.
But there are countless writing workshops, online and in your area (maybe, I’m not that confident, depending on where you live. But I’m sure you can find something on Facebook). All you have to be is to be in the chat, interact a bit, and you could find some excellent people to befriend!
Madison and I will have a critique partnering themed discussion on Instagram Live (@agoraforwriters on Instagram) where you could certainly goof around and perhaps find someone to DM later! The date and time are: Friday, July 16th, 2021 at 9:00 PM EST. If you can't make it, no worries, it will be recorded and saved.
Critique-partner specific forums, groups and all that fun stuff.
I haven’t tried these myself, but they exist. And it’s helpful to know they exist. There’s a full article on thewritelife.com titled “41 Places to Find a Critique Partner Who Will Help You Improve Your Writing” where Cathy Yardley describes and summarizes forty-one ways to find critique partners.
Some are paid services, some are random forums. There are so many to check out. Reminder to have an open mind!
The main point of finding people you connect with is that you have to put yourself out there. Establishing relationships is hard, finding people who will be there for you in the ugliest of your drafts is going to be a challenge. But it’s a beautiful challenge, and one you can enjoy if you have the right mindset. An open mindset, that is.
And I know I may sound over-confident, and like I have my sh*t together (Madison, can I swear on Agora?) in regard to social media relations. But I’m an anxious mess, and I know how hard it can be to find someone to rely on writing-wise. (Although, finding someone to rely on, in general, is a pain in the neck) Because the craft of writing is personal, and embarrassing and disgustingly human at times. So it’s completely valid and understandable to be hesitant on who you let in, and who you let critique it. It’s taken a long time for me to even get comfortable enough to share my writing with someone other than my dog.
But it’s possible. And it is necessary, in my opinion. Writing can be such a lonely endeavour. We’ve all seen the movies, where the lonesome author lives up in a cabin in the woods and speaks to no one but the grocery clerk that sells him the dessert wine he’s going to gorge as he weeps into the night and unto the page. It’s a cliché, sure. But it has some truth. Our hobby is a mostly lonely one. It is crucial for our sanity to find our people.
Plus, it does a hell of a lot of good to your craft.
You may not find your soulmate critique partner on the first go. You may encounter some awful critique partners. You may encounter some ghost-like critique partners.
But once you find your ride-or-die person or people, you’ll know it was all worth it in the end.
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