I posted a comment on a Reddit thread recently, where I talked about my writing, and someone replied asking who CP is. I believe I mentioned something one of my CP’s said.
So, who is CP?
CP stands for critique partner, and also for incredible human. They voluntarily read and critique your manuscript, and you do the same for them. It’s a partnership. Depending on how long your novel is, or theirs, you’re going to be working with this person for a while. So choose carefully. A good CP bounces off of your writing, and points out things you may have missed, or suggests improvements. If they don’t like your book, they’re not going to make good suggestions. Or even worse, try to turn it into something they would have written instead. You don’t want that.
You want to read their comments and say, “OHH, right. How did I miss that?”. Or nod your head excitedly as they describe what could work better in this particular scene. This doesn’t mean you and your CP have to be writing the same genre, or even the same age group. It helps, sure, but it’s not necessary. It simply means you and your CP have to be aligned in what makes a good book.
I have worked with four people so far on this book. Two in a previous draft, and two in my current draft. These are the people who have finished my book. I did try about three others, one of which stopped leaving comments on my draft a quarter in, never heard from her again. And another who never replied to my first chapter, after I had critiqued hers.
After receiving full feedback from my first two CP’s, I did another round of revisions, and rewrote a good chunk of the book in order to apply that feedback. I felt pretty confident in that draft, but because so much of it had been re-written, I knew I needed to give it to another pair of fresh eyes before I began querying it. The second critique process took about two months. I have applied the feedback as I’ve received it this time, and it was a much quicker turn around. I am honestly floored by the amount of great comments I have received, and how much the little things have improved my overall draft. I am so much happier with this draft than I’ve ever been with anything I’ve ever written. I read it aloud to myself and giggle. At my own jokes, yes (I’m that kind of person), and also at just how nicely it reads, and how incredibly excited I am to be reading my own book.
It’s important that expectations are shared at the beginning of the CP relationship. How much time can they spare on your chapters each time? How fast should the turn around be? Is it going to take a month, or half a year? It’s not nice having to wait forever for your draft to get back to you, but it’s also important to remember that these people are not being paid for this. They have their own life; their own families; their own books to worry about. They are doing you a favour. And sometimes life gets in the way. And that’s okay.
The best CP’s are those who give you a heads up if they know they will be busy for a time. So you don’t gnaw at your fingers, waiting, thinking they’ve given up on you. The best CP’s are those who you can talk to. Even about things that are not each other’s books. I know authors tend to have the same CP’s for the majority of their writing career. They become friends. They push each other and they console each other. They’re there when times are tough and one of them is stuck. They’re happy when the other is successful.
CP’s are writing buddies. I highly appreciate mine.
The process of acquiring these writing buddies varies. There are many writing communities out there, and you can be sure someone else is looking for a CP to help with their work too. I found mine through Reddit, specifically, /r/writing, and through the lovely Kim Chance’s blog, where she regularly hosts a CP Connect, designed for this reason. Youtube is a great resource too, for there are plenty of writing channels out there, and you can find help in the comment sections of those videos. And of course, NaNoWriMo’s forums are always open to writers, whatever time of year.
I think it’s also worth talking about Beta readers. Beta readers are different than critique partners. CP’s are writers themselves, and you exchange work. Beta readers are readers. They don’t leave line-to-line comments or suggestions, but an overall impression of the book. Did they find the main character relatable? The plot engaging? Could they see the twist coming from a mile away?
I’ve opted out of having beta readers for this manuscript. Perhaps I will incorporate them into future projects, but for now, I felt my CP’s gave me plenty of feedback on the above questions and more.
So, this is where I’m at now: I’ve finished my second round of CP revisions, and I feel quite strongly about this draft. I think it’s ready. Finally. I’m waiting for one book to arrive, The Emotion Thesaurus, to go through it and maybe improve some of my emotion descriptions–hopefully that’ll be a quick process. After that though, I just need to polish up my query and synopsis (I will make a blog post about those) and dive straight into the querying trenches.
Wish me luck!