Things You Have to Learn for Yourself

Nico (she/her)  
But here we are anyway…

After a full year of critting, these are the things I'm actively reminding myself:

1. The first few crits you receive are hard, no matter who you are or who they are from.

You’re putting your work—your blood, sweat, and tears—out into the world and asking fellow writers to evaluate it at a structural level. Writers are nitpickers when it comes to text, and this is a good thing; it makes your writing stronger. If you're willing to listen, keep an open mind, and put in the work, the process elevates your skills dramatically.

2. Never let anyone overwrite your voice.

It’s the thing that sets you apart and makes your writing worth reading.

3. You are not writing by committee.

Not everyone will like your writing, and that’s okay. You have to tell the story only you can tell. Trust your instincts.

4. Sometimes you need to walk away and come back to feedback later.

It's cool; take a hot minute. Critiques are commentary on the words written, NOT on you as a person. Try not to internalize.

5. Critters want to help you.

We want to see you succeed. And most (not all) of us want to invest in you so that you invest in us. It's an inherently selfish system, but it works when we lift each other up.

6. In general, the more time you invest, the more energy you focus, the more you get out of the site.

That goes for anything in life. Commit, sow the seeds, and the fruit will follow.

While there are plenty of critique sites, I choose to invest all my time into this one. I keep my focus on my current partners first and foremost, and every week, I aim to crit someone new-to-me as well (because partners come and go). For me, this effort and focus has paid off in spades.

7. The more you crit, the more crits you get back—usually from people you critted first.

The site runs on tit-for-tats. Crit widely. Crit anyone once. And don't be discouraged or disappointed if they don't crit back. Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone, either.

Every time you crit, you're upping your own craft game. You develop a deeper understanding of the craft of writing, which makes you a stronger writer. You bring these skills back to your own work, whether you realize it or not.

8. When starting out, seek to crit stories in your own queue/genre.

This will ensure your return crits have the most impact for you, because they will come from other people writing and reading within the genre.

In the long term, people jumping in from other genres can give you a great idea of how wide your market is. They can also unintentionally inspire ideas for how to make your work appeal to a wider audience. However, their feedback always needs to be contextualized; changes shouldn't alienate the target market.

9. Anyone can see any of your crits on any story, so always put your best effort forward.

People (outside of the writer) will read them and judge you for them, and they may want to be your partner if your crits resonate with them. Leading to:

10. A good way to find crit partners is to look at who else is critting the stories you crit.

Read over their crits, and if their crits resonate with you, consider critting that critter's story. If that person crits you back, keep it going.

11. Crit partnerships take time to get off the ground.

I’ve found I need a good three to four crits back and forth with someone to genuinely get a grasp for their style and their goals and to get into my groove as their partner.

12. Don’t be afraid to jump into a later chapter of a novel, especially if you yourself are posting a novel.

This is a potential crit partner who has already proved they’re sticking around and is posting consistently. Critting isn't the same as reading. You don't have to start at chapter 1 to be able to offer helpful feedback.

Read the prior chapter summaries if available to get caught up before you dive in, keeping in mind the writer wrote them specifically with important notes you need to follow the story.

13. Some critters won’t gel with you, and that’s okay.

Not everyone is meant to be your crit partner. Be kind, say thank you, and move on. Don’t disparage them or their crit. You never know when you'll need someone/something in the future, so it’s best not to burn bridges.

14. What works for someone else may not work for you, and that’s okay, too.

Everyone is different. Everyone’s needs are different. It makes things more interesting.

15. Comparison is the thief of joy; your measuring stick is your own.

I have dreams and goals—and my focus needs to be the steps I need to take to achieve them. Every step forward is worth celebrating. Everyone is at a different point in their journey, and everyone’s journey is going to look different in this insane publishing landscape.

Thank you to my wonderful crit partners for all your guidance and encouragement. ❤️

19+ Comments


One question I get asked somewhat regularly is how I handle my feedback on my pieces from my many wonderful crit partners. I wanted to throw the answer here for anyone curious. This goes hand-in-hand with 14–what works for me may not work for anyone else, and that’s okay.

When feedback is “turned in,” I skim the crit to make sure I have no questions, because that’s when it’s top of mind for critters. (For anyone with premium, I ask them to add the note or modify/clarify directly within the crit feedback so that it’s more organized for me and really helpful.) I assume all questions posed in the crit are meant for me to consider and all misunderstandings are meant for me to address within the text. I simply send a quick thank you, and then I return the crit.

I don’t really look at feedback “individually,” and I don’t get into the weeds on anything until after it’s all in. Once the crit period is over and I’m ready to revise, I press “View All Crits” for the piece and treat it as one deep edit.

To kick off, I review the closing notes for an idea of how people are relating to a piece. If there are big-picture things, I do address those first. For example, if every one of my critters is bored/disappointed, the chapter/story arc may need to be replotted/rewritten from scratch.

Then I start at the top and go line-by-line. I see how critters are relating, follow along with their thoughts, and make adjustments as I go for things that aren’t hitting the way I want them to. I do the line/copy edits as well. When I finish, my piece is always a zillion times stronger.

Some of the feedback is repetitive, but I think it’s a good thing because it means I’m hitting the notes I want to hit for multiple people—and it’s not just a fluke. If five people said the same “change this” comment, then I’m definitely addressing, but there are a variety of ways to address and it depends on the situation. I may need to make it more clear why it matters, I may need to beef the scene up or reinforce the element, I may need to address a characterization mishap from three chapters ago, or maybe I will just laugh maniacally and wait for it to all make sense in my banger of an ending. :japanese_ogre:

There have been plenty of times where someone comes in and says the most perfect offhand thing, and it blows my mind and makes me feel like a dumdum for not thinking about it myself. But the one-offs, if it doesn’t align with my vision, I remember, okay, one person said this, but twenty didn’t, so I don’t need to change unless I agree with it. This helps me personally keep my perspective and my vision together. The caveat is, if the person is directly in my target audience, their thoughts are weighted more heavily—because I’m not writing for a committee, but I am writing for them. I may not change the element, but I do need to monitor how this critter reacts to the element going forward. It’s a matter of “what is the story I am trying to tell, what is the vision I have, and what feedback does/does not align?”

Sometimes I don’t jive with critters/their crits, or I don’t feel like I can help with their piece in the way they need, which is fine, as 13—Some critters won’t gel with you, and that’s okay. If I don’t think I’ll be a good partner for whatever reason, or even if I just think they’d connect really well with someone else, I try to point them to people who would be a good partner for them. I’ve made dozens of connections for people.

All of this goes back to knowing your critters and forming the partnerships.

Bonus: The process has helped me feel more stable within all my partnerships and the community as a whole. People come and go, and life happens, but I’m not relying on any one specific person for feedback.

This is what works for me. And this is the very long answer to why I personally say “the more, the merrier.” :slight_smile:

Yes, it takes a lot of time and a lot of work to return the crits and maintain the partnerships. That said, I love to read, I’m a fast reader (especially when I’m familiar with and invested in a story), and it makes me happy to support my crit partners and see them grow as writers. I’m able to invest the time, and it’s worth it to me. I’ve paid for professional edits from freelance editors who work for big publishing houses, but they didn’t even come close to the value my crit partners bring to my writing. :sparkling_heart:

Apr-07 at 00:05


I agree with every one of these. The only difference for me is that I find that I can get overwhelmed by too many crits which is why I normally stop crits at around 12. As you said, that’s number 13… different things work for different people! I also tend to keep to the private queues most of the time as I get to know my crit partners there and can contextualise my feedback better from them as I get to know their strengths and tastes. However, I occasionally reach out to the main queues for fresh blood and that’s fun and useful too.

Apr-07 at 07:29


Excellent blog, Nico.

For me, another thing is: Set boundaries and stick to them.

That’s why I lean towards Michelle’s sentiments about having a certain number of crits that I’m willing to do. My time each week isn’t infinite, but I could choose each week to crit more than fifteen critters. If I did that, however, it would take more than three days away from my own writing each week, and that’s not something I am willing to do.

Apr-07 at 12:09


very superb.

I think we need more such blogs that help people use the site better. Not just for newbies, but I think many people who are sporadic posters don’t use this resource optimally.

Purely selfish reasons, of course. the more people are active, the more it benefits us all :wink:

I like the “high volumes life” overall too. When I’m active, I’m belting out several crits a day, every day. I do process crits individually, though if a piece has diverse feedback or something I don’t feel sure of, I may go the view all crits route.

For me, it isn’t so much about what “everybody” is saying. I don’t care if they agree or not. Each comment triggers thoughts, refinements, edits. So if a chapter has four crits, I’ll use them to do four edits rather than one.

Apr-07 at 12:19


I’ve started doing this recently. I’ve told a couple of people that I’ve enjoyed their work but I can’t promise to follow their story consistently because I’m following four novels on here already and I work full-time. It sets the expectation politely and fairly, and lets them know if don’t comment every week it’s nothing personal or because I didn’t like their work.

Apr-07 at 14:00


I always die—just a little—with happiness any time my work has the Lizzie seal-of-approval :rofl: :sparkling_heart: It’s the gold standard!

I am such a slow, intentional writer that it takes me an hour—sometimes more—to get a measly 200 words on the page. I’ve probably already edited the sentences/flow/scene a dozen times in my head before the rough draft of the chapter is even finished. I can’t imagine editing it all again with every crit. I’d drive myself insane. :flushed:

Apr-07 at 16:06


@Nicolaysen, What an excellent blog post! I can resonate with most of it. I’ve been on and off the Critique Circle since 2012 (wow, 12 years!) I’ve gone through several iterations of partners and even generations of the Critique Circle site itself (different features, evolution of rules, Story-a-day, The Hook, etc.)

I spent some years being very active and some being just passive, but for the most part, what you posted rings true to my own experience with the site.

So, very well stated!

I am also so glad to have you as a crit partner! It’s always been a quality, thoughtful, and mutually beneficial experience.

I appreciate all your efforts, and thank you for this wonderful blog entry. All newbies should read it! Maybe the admins can link it in the newbie FAQ :wink:

Apr-07 at 16:36


I’m officially at 1 year today! So, happy anniversary to me :rofl:
Is there cake? I feel like there should be cake. :thinking:

Apr-07 at 19:01



Apr-07 at 19:35



Apr-07 at 19:55


Are we allowed to eat dragons?

Apr-07 at 20:39



No. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Apr-07 at 23:55



Apr-08 at 03:45


I enjoyed reading your blog post and agreed with everything except the jumping into the middle of a story. Big picture is the most important component of feedback in the first/second drafts of a wip, imho. Reading summaries doesnt really work because most of them don’t say very much (mine included).

Other than that, great post.

Apr-08 at 06:09


I think it depends on a critter’s style. I can jump in in the middle of books too and still give structural feedback from first crit onwards, though obviously not continuity. But it is a first crit. If things work out, I can circle back to the beginning. For “jumping in”, a middle chapter might actually give more info on big picture than the first. Spotting chapter 24 in a queue and beginning from chapter 1 at half credit isn’t likely without knowing if the relationship is working. Not to mention the submission will be so old, it isn’t a good idea to crit without asking.

The bigger point is someone posting a later chapter from a book (particularly if their history shows weekly posts) has a big investment here, and is likely to be a stable critter for a relationship. It’s like dating, You don’t want to be waiting idly at a restaurant too often…

Apr-08 at 08:56


Interesting take and makes sense. It’s a personal thing, I guess. I don’t mind starting at the beginning of a work (I’ve asked before doing it). It helps me to absorb and understand character/plot and get used to the writer’s style. We’re all different, and I can see why starting at the beginning of a longer work might be daunting.

Apr-08 at 09:14


It’s not about daunting. It is about what is in the queue. If chapter 24 is in the queue, that’s what the author wants crits on, not chapter 1. So I’ll do that. If the return crit is useful and they seem interested, forget daunting, I can knock off a full book in under a week, start to finish. With good crits, continuity, microcontinuity, character psychology like I should get therapy fees, the works. This isn’t about dodging effort.

But if I crit chapter 1 when some other chapter is in the queue, I’m basically doing “whatever I want”. If chapter 10 is in queue, and a person is posting once a week, chapter 1 is over 2 months old, has received crits, and the author has probably integrated feedback, so the version I’m critting could be outdated!!! I wouldn’t crit chapter 1 in public queues without checking with the authors first. OTOH, if it is a private queue, it is understood you begin at the start and wade through at whatever pace works for you. Then I’d do prologue, or chapter 1, etc.

The effort should be useful.

Apr-08 at 09:26


This is why I use private queues because I don’t really find random jump ins to my work at chapter 20 etc very useful. I like people to start from chapter 1-5 (at latest). Again, there are ways to get around all of our crit preferences though. I only post early chapters on the main queues these days so I don’t have people jumping in too late for me.

Apr-08 at 09:37


Same here. I don’t mind if people jump in late - if they are able. Usually they are not and it proves to be an irritating exercise. I don’t post in public queues. But I’ve often jumped into stories in the middle, and can usually land on my feet - obviously I don’t know past events, but I can crit the current scenes without struggling usually. Scenes have their own structure (or should), so even if you don’t know the big picture, you can see what the scene sets out to do and how it does it.

But loads of people don’t have premium accounts. Many with premium accounts post in public queues anyway for the volumes or because they’d like to get feedback on one chapter at a time.

Apr-08 at 09:46
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