How Laura Pepper Wu’s own search for a critique partner inspired her to start Ladies Who Critique: It’s like for writers!

Handing over your work for someone else to read for the first time is one of the most terrifying things you can do as a writer. Ironically, it’s also one of the most beneficial things you can do.

While having friends and family as beta readers is all good, it’s unlikely to help do much for your writing other than give you a big confidence boost (which is indeed needed once in a while!). To really take your writing to the next level though, a critique partner or group can do wonders. Someone to not only shower you with praise, but to help you see exactly where you are going right, and where you are going wrong, in your story. So where does one find such a thing?

To help better my own writing, I joined a writers group in early 2010. It was fantastic, and not only because we met each Saturday over coffee and pancakes, though arguably that helped. Each week before my reading I would get superbly nervous. However the comments and feedback I received would help me see things with new eyes, give me fresh ideas, improve the story’s structure and fill in the gaps and holes in the story that were blindingly obvious to the listener, but had completely passed me by. My writing improved thick and fast that year.

As my writing developed and I started my first attempt at a novel, the feedback that I was getting from the writer’s group was missing that je ne sais quoi. Perhaps it was because the ages in the group ranged from 18- 75, or because there was no one else that wrote – or read – my genre (chick lit by the way). Was it entertaining? Did it hit the right chords for the audience it was intended for? In addition, I would cringe when reading out some parts of the story that weren’t appropriate for some member’s ears! (70-year-old Steve never missed a meeting!)

Chick lit is an attitude, a sense of humor and a set of issues that not everyone understands or has any interest in. I admit to zoning out during some of the other genre readings so I don’t expect every writer to “get it”. It dawned on me after about 10 months (and a lot of pancakes) that what I needed to really improve my novel was to find a critique partner who understood, and loved, chick lit… Someone who would actually be entertained by the story and who might even buy it if it was published.

I turned online to find this group or partner, as this seemed to be more time-efficient that attending a three-hour in-person meeting only to have 20 minutes of reading and feedback time, and found tons of blogposts and Facebook threads of writers lamenting their unsuccessful searches for a critique partner.

It was clear to me that critique partners and groups were not only a necessary part of a writers journey to improvement, but also that working with another writer (such a lonely process) can bring a certain energy and buzz. However, finding these partners was not an easy task. I wanted to help other women writers have access to the benefits of a critique relationship, and so Ladies Who Critique was born!

Ladies Who Critique is a place where any writer looking to find a supportive critique partner/critique group can find a compatible match. It’s like a dating site, but for writers! Writers sign up, create a profile, join their preferred genre group, browse members and when they see someone who catches their attention, they can contact another writer for the ‘first date’, which usually involves switching up a few chapters to see if they are compatible.

“…through this site I’ve found a crit partner I adore” – Jessica

The details of how and how often you will critique with your partner are then left up to members. Ladies Who Critique simply provides a place where writers wanting critique can find – and be found by – potential critique partners.

“My critique partner is so helpful that my novel has improved a lot. Your idea for the site was what on-line writers needed” – Marianne

The site is intended for writers of all levels – published, unpublished, agented, unagented, aspiring, hobbyists, even closet writers or complete newbies! There are no requirements or criteria for Ladies Who Critique membership, even men are welcome with open arms, except that members should be 16 +. It is a completely free resource, and always will be.

“Thank you for creating Ladies Who Critique! It’s really opened a lot of doors to me as an aspiring writer” – Chiaki

Since the site beta launched in August, I’ve had some great feedback from our members. Many have found partners and are finding that the accountability of having a CP waiting for their work is motivation alone to keep writing! The site is still in the beta phase, so we are still working on some kinks on the site and improving functionality but if you are a writer looking for a critique partner, we have 20 genre groups, close to 500 members and we are still growing. So come join us and see what having a critique partner can do for your writing.

“I am so excited to find just what I’ve been looking for as a writer” – Frances

Laura Pepper Wu is a writer, marketer and entreprenette. She is the co-founder of 30 Day Books: a book promotions studio, and the founder of Ladies Who She adores women’s fiction and chick lit and loves connecting with other readers and writers. Contact her at or buzz her over on Twitter.

1 comment on “Finding the Perfect Critique Partner”

  1. When I first started writing, I LOVED critique groups. I was addicted. I was also soooo eager to be thick skinned that I was taking on EVERY bit of advice given to me. (uh, not good!) I still think it helped me grow a lot. It helped me grow to the point where I realized that to improve further, I needed to learn some things on my own. I read books on writing, studied what I liked about the books I read, worked with a writing coach on things like voice and style, learning what I did well naturally (so I could retain those qualities) as well as what my main areas of weakness were (so I could stay most open to changes in those areas). At that point, finding individuals who were a little bit beyond the beginner stage really helped me. I don’t think it would have been fair to trade with these people when I was starting out, but I’d hit the point where I’d outgrown my current critique group and needed partners who could help me take it to the next level. I found people who had opposite strengths and weaknesses as me, so I could be sure I was giving them something back. Still, sometimes I think I don’t deserve my crit partners! They are SO talented! Anyway I think this article asks some really great questions. I share my experience as a way of adding to this that maybe a writer should also reassess these questions about the current critique groups every so often. I think I’d found about 5 partners who will definitely be my partners for the long haul, but you know what? I still post my work to groups or feedback sites every now and then, even to work with writers who are newer, because 1) There’s nothing like a fresh pair of eyes and the eager feedback of a new writers and 2) I want to give back to the writing community. I was new once, too, and while I’m no old pro, I do know enough now to offer to others what had once been offered to me when I was first getting satetrd.For me, the hardest part has been learning to trust my gut. It’s still all too easy for me sometimes to want to change something that 20 people loved by 1 person thought was bad. I always think maybe they just see something the other 20 people didn’t! For some writers, accepting criticism may be the hard part, but others of us, we do need to learn when to pass on some advice (I was impressed you included a question along those lines in your questionairre.) But it’s still the hardest part for me. I always worry am I really rejecting advice I don’t need, or am I being married to my words/story/character right now and I’m just too arrogant to see it? Anyway, that’s when I usually bring out the big guns and have my trusted critique partners help me hash out the advice and see what needs to be done. I’m growing more confident as, at least most of the time, my tried and trusted critiquers tell me I picked the right advice to pass on. In closing, though, I’d say that there is nothing like a skilled editor. Not only will hiring one help you see what you are doing right and what you really do need to work on, but it really allows you to feel a little safer going along with most of the advice (that’s assuming you hire an editor who knows what they are doing.). Anyway, I’d say for anyone working on their book to find the right group as Lynnette suggests. Grow on your own, too. And when you’ve gotten as far as you can with critique groups and self-teaching, bring in a pro.

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