Critique Partner Love
Why you should have criqique partners and why I am not sharing mine
When I was 14 years old, my friend Judith introduced me to the idea of beta-readers. Well, she didn't actually do that. She threw her smutty Yu-Gi-Oh fanfiction at me and asked me to proofread it and because I was a good friend, I did so, even though I only watched the series very casually and definitely did not ship Seto with Joey (yes, there were people who did that).
For me, beta reading always entailed editing to some extent. It was not just general feedback. So when I became involved with the writing commuity I was surprised that beta readers were something else for most of the population: They were just that, readers, who read your book and who gave general feedback, but they neither commented on plot structure nor were they supposed to point out your phrasing and edit your typos.
Then, one of my queens, Maggie Stiefvater, introduced me to the concept of critique partners, and guess what, that was exactly the job I had been doing and the job I needed someone else to do for my book.
Critique partners are writers and therefore look at your work with a writer's eye. If you don't have a lot of money to spare, they can even save you the costs for hiring a developmental editor (this is obviously to be taken with a grain of salt, but if your budget is really low, I would recommend this over just publishing without any edits and feedback).
They comment on plot structure, on whether your story works, if the pacing is right, if your characters are believable and consistent. They will find plot holes, they will rip scenes apart and explain how you can make them better. They are a godsent!
But they have to be a fit and this can be difficult. I have gone through a few instances where I exchanged manuscripts with people and we just weren't on the same level of writing (which leads to one person doing substantially more work than the other) or we were just not on the same page style-wise. If one person likes to write purple prose and the other one has a very restricted writing style, theres the possible that a fruitful symbiosis will come from it but more often than not you'll just be incompatible.
In my case, on top of all this "normal" editing, I briefed my partners on the fact that a) I am not a native speaker and b) my English is extremely British - which is a problem if your book is set in America and about Americans and... well, guess what, "Ripples" (my current WIP) is set in London, because if I learned one thing it's that I am a total mess when trying to write AE. For me, a "purse" is a wallet, not a handbag. I rest my case. Thank the Lord for my two American CPs who managed to find and erase all of my Britishisms.
If you think about looking for critique partners, you need to be willing to put in some work for them, too. If you don't want to spend time assessing someone else's work and making it better, you will have to resort to paying a developmental editor. The word "partner" is really important here. I, personally, have learned lots of things from editing my CPs' work. I have learned to analyze structure and sentence cohesion much better than I could before. Also, with my current two CPs, I feel like I have found friends, which is the best outcome of a partnership like this.
But where to find CPs?
I tried them when they happened and they did not yield a satisfactory result for me. I know they did for others though. As for me, I have found my critique partners on Maggie Stiefvater's google group. Yes, I am not joking, she opened this thing and it just became huge and it is brilliant, so go and check it out!
May you find yourself a critique partner who helps you make your manuscript the best it can be!