Monday, January 27, 2014

Growing with your critique partners

by Narelle Atkins 

Over the years I’ve been blessed by the friendship and critiques from a number of romance writers. I’ve discovered some critique relationships are for a season, and others evolve into long term friendships. 

I met Suzie Johnson (aka Susan Diane Johnson) through the Faith, Hope and Love (FHL) Chapter of RWA. Suzie came second in the 2007 Touched by Love Contest short contemporary category and I placed third. When Suzie joined the FHL email group, I sent her a welcome email and our friendship was born. The following year we met in person at the RWA Conference in San Francisco, and we stayed in touch via email. Suzie lives in Washington and I live in Australia. 

In 2010 I started critiquing with Suzie and her friend, Stacy Monson, from Minnesota. I knew Stacy from the FHL email groups, and the three of us started exchanging chapters for critique. Stacy and I write contemporary romance. Suzie writes contemporary and historical romance. We discovered we each had different strengths in terms of what we picked up in our critiques. We were honest and tried to highlight both strengths and weaknesses in our stories. 

We have shared each other’s trials, frustrations and triumphs. Suzie and Stacy are dear friends, and our critiquing relationship has evolved over time. We brainstorm proposals and plot points when we’re stuck. We are now reading each other’s mss and looking at higher level editing and writing craft issues rather than line by line critiquing. 

Last year Suzie and I travelled together to the ACFW conference in Indy. I spent a few days in Washington with Suzie before we caught The Empire Builder train from Seattle to Chicago. A highlight of the train trip was meeting Stacy for the first time on the train station platform in St Paul, Minneapolis. We only had ten minutes together because the train was running late, but I treasure those precious minutes when the three of us were together in person. 

2014 is an exciting year for us. We have 7 new books releasing this year, including debut books from Stacy and I. 

Suzie’s second book, True North, is releasing this week. I’m so excited to see this story in print, having watched it evolve over the last few years. And, Suzie also has her first historical romance, Sweet Mountain Music, releasing in May 2014. I love this story, and I was delighted to see the setting in real life during our train trip to Chicago. 

Stacy’s debut book, One of Me, releases in June 2014. I’m thrilled for Stacy, and I’ve loved watching this story develop over the last couple of years. 

Stacy and I are also blogging together with ICFW member Valerie Comer on the new Inspy Romance group blog. If you’re a fan of contemporary romance, please stop by and visit with us. 

Have you been blessed by critique partners? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. 

Her debut book, Falling for the Farmer, will be released next week on February, 4 2014, followed by The Nurse's Perfect Match in May 2014, The Doctor's Return in August 2014, and an untitled release in November 2014.

Narelle blogs regularly with Australasian Christian Writers. 

She is also a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA). 

The new Inspy Romance blog officially launches next week on February 3. A pre-launch Q&A and giveaway is starting this week on Wednesday.

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins


  1. That's exciting news, Narelle. Congrats to you and your critique friends. It's so interesting to hear how well you've worked together.
    I haven't been blessed with a partner, but the nearest I have to this is the advice I receive from assessments I get from Iola Goulton from Christian editing.

    I hope these books really take off!

    1. Thanks, Rita :) In May/June all three of us have a book releasing within four week, which will be exciting and special. I'm glad you've found Iola's advice helpful :)

  2. I've found the internet an amazing tool for writers. We can do research without leaving our desks, we can ask questions of a whole army of other writers and we can build friendships in the farthest reaches of the world. Because of e-mail and writer's loops, I have a good friend in Australia. Nineteen hours apart in time, we still chat like we live next door. Sometimes I question "progress" but world wide friendships is definitely on the good side.

    1. Alice, it's hard to imagine life without the internet. It's a powerful tool for writers. I can submit my mss to my editor in the US and she receives them almost instantly. The obstacles and costs of communication have definitely lessened for international writers. I love how we can chat online anytime with friends from all over the world.

  3. Wow how amazing that all 3 of you are releasing novels in 2014 and many of them!

    The Lord has greatly blessed the 3 of you and you by the sounds of it been wonderful blesses to each other.

    Congratulations to you all: Narelle, Suzie and Stacy.

    1. Thanks, Ian :) We are blessed to all have contracts this year.

  4. Writing blogs (like this one) or writing organisations (like ACFW, or Omega Writers in Australia) are a great way of meeting potential critique partners. There are also some great books out there, and I often recommend books or writing groups in my manuscript assessments.

    Some authors don't know where to look for advice, some are nervous about letting other people see their writing, and some have difficulty finding a critique partner (or editor) they can relate to. It can take a while to find a like-minded person, but it pays huge dividends.

    I'm thrilled to be working with Rita on her books - thanks for the shout-out, Rita!

    1. Iola, I agree. Critiquing helps both the giver and receiver learn more about the craft of writing. Critiquing the work of others helps you to develop an editorial eye that is useful when editing and revising your own work. I learned early on that it's easier to see the flaws in other people's writing than it is in your own. I encourage all writers to seek out critique groups and like-minded writer friends at your level to help you grow as a writer.

  5. Hi Narelle, thanks so much for this post. It's really great to hear how your relationships with your critique partners have grown and lovely to read that you've all got books coming out in the same year. Your advice on getting critique partners is invaluable and it's something that I'm on the look out for right now so it's great to be encouraged to keep searching.

    1. Hi Linsey, I hope you'll find helpful critique partners soon. Sometimes it can take time to find writers who are the right fit for you and your writing. Thanks for stopping by :)

  6. Thanks for the great post, Narelle. I joined ACFW a year ago and have had wonderful critique partners walking the road beside me with the numerous submissions I've made. Some of these relationships have and are developing into deeper friendships and I'm so grateful for these wonderful crit partners.

  7. Thanks, Marion :) ACFW provides an excellent program that encourages writers to join critique groups. I'm so glad to hear you've connected with helpful and supportive critique partners.