I'd love to know about your critique partner, how you met her, why you chose each other.Do you send chapters as they progress or a big bunch of pages?
Every beta reader/critique partner hook-up is unique. So, even though I have no problem telling you my story, this is certainly not the only way it can happen.
First, I have several beta readers, not the least of which is my own husband, who is also a writer and an occasional contributor to this blog. But. I have different CPs for different things. Some for my sci-fi and fantasy, some for my YA contemp, and (when I was writing it) some for my women's fiction. And I love ALL of them. But...
Not every beta reader is going to like reading everything I write. Even in the same genre, different readers have different tastes - specific likes and dislike regarding content, style, etc.
Fortunately, I do have someone available who is willing to read just about everything, whether it be sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary romance, novels, short fiction... you name it, she'll read it. And not only that, but she gives spot-on feedback for everything.
That's why she is my main CP (like I said, I have others for specific things, but she sees everything of mine). We just... clicked. From the beginning. And the only way you're going to find someone like that is through trial and error. We didn't know when we started reading each other's stories that we would still be doing so years later, and not have killed each other in the process...
Her name is Laurel. (she blogs here, and tweets here) And you're probably going to hate me for saying this, but we kind of first hooked up by accident. Neither of us were actively looking for a CP at the time we started swapping stories. It just sort of... happened.
I don't even know the exact date we first got together. Sometime in the fall of 2009, right after I'd finished novel number 2, which was one of the first things she beta read for me.
And she read it in one night. The whole novel, in one night. She's a fast reader. That's a really REALLY good quality in a beta reader. Not just that, but she reads fast and can still make accurate assessments of the story-- feedback that makes sense and is helpful.
Other good qualities she has:
--she doesn't bullshit me. If something needs work, she tells me. If something is hitting the mark as is, she tells me that, too. You can't have a beta reader who only tells you positive things, or who only tells you negative things. You need a beta reader who knows how to balance, and who is, above everything else, HONEST.
--she's really good at giving encouragement when I need it the most, and again, she does so without patronizing, lying to make me feel better, etc. She's very factual and straightforward, but also knows when to throw the confetti.
--she's a good writer herself. She reads way more of my stuff than I do hers, but that's just because I am constantly throwing new stories at her... and she never once complains, btw. The stuff I have read of hers? Is better than most of what I see on crit forums, not gonna lie. She's a damn good writer, so I trust her feedback.
So how did we meet? That answer is simple. Le R.
We both read and commented regularly on The Rejectionist's blog. One day I made a comment about my first novel (which was under revision at the time, but has since been trunked), and she emailed me later saying she was interested in reading it. This also happened to be the same time I'd just finished my second novel. She wanted to read that one, too. I offered to read something of hers in return... and it went on from there.
We have never met in person or even talked on the phone. But I wouldn't trade her for anything.
Our process is a bit more complex. It's very "go with the flow." And that's mainly my fault, because I never seem to write the same way from project to project, and I tend to jump around between things until I figure out what to focus on fully.
The first couple things I sent her were complete, finished drafts. After that, I would send her whatever I had going that I was excited about.
Quite often this is just the first few chapters of something, just to see if she thinks I'm on the right track with a new idea. Sometimes it's just one scene, a few pages. Sometimes it's just a one-paragraph pitch. Then, once I've committed to writing a complete work, I'll wait until I have a good chunk finished and send it to her.
I'll send her chunks until I get to a certain point, and then I'll say, "I'm really close to the end now so I'm not going to send anymore until it's done being written and then has been through at least one rough edit." That email is always exciting to send.
But then the revision periods are the hardest. They can test your CPs more so than at any other time. For example, I've sent her (literally) three "updated" versions of SOCIAL GRACES just in the past week. It's not always like that, but yeah... it can be. And when you go through periods like this you need an extremely dedicated and patient beta reader to partner with you.
Especially since this also happened to be right after she sent her kids off to start school and then moved into a new house that same week.
Did I mention how much I love her?
I got lucky.
Here's hoping your perfect CP just falls into your lap someday, too.