Wow! This thread is turning out better than I’d hoped! 😀 This is great!
Something I feel is important to mention:
When I was just starting to critique, I felt very intimidated by the experience of those around me. I would hear people had been writing for a billion years and think I had nothing to offer them. Or I assumed they wouldn’t want to be my critique partners because of my lack of experience.
But having gained more experience, I don’t believe this is true. We are all writers. We are all also readers. Even if a person has never critiqued something before, I think they have a lot to offer their critique partner. You can always point out places in the story that seem confusing, too convenient, not explained well enough (a biggie for us fantasy peeps), if the surprise/secret was truly unexpected.
Even with a seasoned critique partner you still need to ask them questions and get a feel for their particular style. As many of you have pointed out, personality plays a huge role in how productive a critique goes. If someone is really sensitive and uncertain about their writing, they might not want the sort of person that will mow through and point out every tiny little mistake in a blunt fashion.
Conversely, some people WANT to be kicked in the pants. It’s really important, I feel, to figure out where in the spectrum you are so you can convey these needs to your partner, and so you can match up with someone who fits you best.
You always want to be honest. I’ve known a lot of people who have felt frustrated with staying at the same level of writing, because their critique partners were too “nice.” They simply said “Oh I loved this book. I think it’s great.” And that’s that. If someone has broccoli between their teeth, I think they would want to know. I feel the same way about my manuscript errors. If I’ve done something totally unbelievable, I would like to know BEFORE I send the book off to an agent. 😀
So, just in case anyone was feeling insecure about their critique experience, don’t fret. It sounds like everyone knows what a good critique looks like.
Also, I like that we have the possibility of swapping entire novels. There’s a big difference in critiquing a chapter versus the entire book.