I used to have a hard time with CPs. I know a lot of writers have also faced this: potential CPs that just disappear after a few emails. You exchange a few chapters, exchange critiques and then…crickets. It’s fine to let someone know that it isn’t going to work out. It’s when people just vanish that can be a little frustrating.
So I thought I’d write a short post on how to be a good CP, and what to expect from one/how to receive criticism. I’ll start with the first.
How to Be a Good CP:
- Make sure your criticism is constructive: I did eventually find a CP that helped me through an entire manuscript. However, a lot of her criticism included stuff like: “I don’t like this” “This character is so selfish” “She’s so annoying!” Basically, it was a lot of subjective stuff, and also… not much I could work with. How am I supposed to revise based on those comments?
- I’ll add that while this CP didn’t help in terms of plot/characters because her comments were too vague/subjective, she helped a lot with my writing. That’s why it’s good to have different CPs with different strengths.
- Ask questions: Whether I’m acting as a CP or an editor, I never tell anyone “change this” or “I don’t like this”. Rather, I like to ask questions, like “Did you intend for the character to come across this way?” or “This reads like this, is that what you meant?” or “What if you tried it like this instead?” The point is to get the ball rolling, bounce ideas back and forth, and while the writer might not take my suggestion, maybe it will have helped them come up with a solution of their own.
- Also ask questions before the critique: Communication is super important. Ask the author what kind of critique they’re looking for . Big picture? Line edit? Compliment sandwich? Brutally honest? Some authors will ask me to rip their MS to shreds, others will want a more gentle approach. Either is fine – it depends on what works for the author.
How to Receive Criticism/What to Expect from a CP:
- Receiving criticism is never easy. Whenever I received an email from my previous CP, I was always scared to open it. This was partly because her critiques could be really harsh, but also because criticism can sting no matter how it’s delivered. This is what I do now: whenever I receive an edit letter or comments from a CP, I read through it super fast – like ripping off a Band-Aid. This way, when I go back to read it a second time more carefully, I know what to expect and it doesn’t sting as much.
- If, however, the criticism stings because your CP is being disrespectful/negative, you might need to move on.
- Never reject anything immediately. It might be tempting to dismiss any criticism right away (“they just don’t get the story”), but don’t. Let it sit for a few hours/days, and then go back to it. Even if you don’t take their exact suggestion, it might help you come up with a different solution that works just as well.
- There should be a balance in the relationship. You both need to be working equally hard for each other. I had a CP who would never reply (or take forever) to emails about my MS, but would respond lightning fast when the emails were about hers. Needless to say, that relationship didn’t last very long.
There’s a reason it’s recommended to only exchange a few chapters at first, so you can get a sense of the other person and their critiquing style to determine if they’ll be a good fit. There shouldn’t be any hard feelings if you decide it isn’t. Similarly, never be afraid to cut ties if your CP is disrespectful/negative. They should be building you up, not tearing you down.
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