The 10 Commandments for CPs


Great critique partners have great critique partners and writers with great critique partners produce great work. So, the dating process is a little selfish, yes, but there are so many wonderful benefits to having a good CP. You have someone to bounce ideas off of, a shoulder to cry on, someone to celebrate with, an example of good writing to follow and someone to look over your work when you’ve gone MANUSCRIPT BLIND. With so many benefits, how can we be the best CP possible in order to attract the best CP possible? Here are the 10 commandments for CPs:


1. Thou shalt be encouraging: 

Surely, even in the worst of manuscripts, there is something good going on. Don’t just point out things that weigh the MS down. Highlight the strong points. Tell your CP, I want to see more of this!

2. Thou shalt be a CP of your word:

If you say your going to read a manuscript, read the manuscript. Don’t browse. Read. And if you say you’ll do it in a certain amount of time, do that. (Sadly, I have sinned and broken commandment two in the past.)

3. Thou shalt be honest:

Don’t avoid addressing potential hangups for fear of offending your CP. You’d want them to tell you, right? Be creative. There’s a way to do it in an encouraging way.

4. Thou shalt be tactful:

Don’t be ugly. Re-read your comments. Ask yourself how you’d feel if they were directed toward you. If they feel a little on the scolding or ugly side then REWORD!

5. Thou shalt be prompt:

‘Nuf said.

6. Thou shalt not take on more than you can handle:

Some of us don’t know how to say that little two letter word. As much as we love good criticism and helping a friend out, if we don’t have enough time on our hands to do it well, then it’s better to let them find someone who can.

7. Thou shalt know thy limits. 

If it’s not your genre or you just don’t read a lot in that category maybe it’s a job for someone else.

8. Thou shalt have thick skin. 

We all know what the business is like. We receive the rejections all of the time. For some reason, we expect that our peers will be all sunshine and cotton candy and hugs towards our MS because they know what it’s like to feel the sting of criticism. But writers are readers and they know what makes a good book. Toughen up, dry those tears. I know it hurts but it’s for the best.

9. Thou shalt see criticism as an opportunity to grow. 

This goes along with #8. When we stop taking offense and seeing criticism as an attack on our writing, we can grow. If what you’ve written doesn’t make sense to your CP, chances are it won’t to other readers. You are too close to your story to know the difference.

10. Thou shalt spit out the hay and sticks. 

All that being said, understand that you don’t have to make every change that is suggested. Sometimes, we just receive bad advice. Go with your gut. If there’s truth in the criticism, trust that you’ll eventually get over the offense and see it and if they are not suggestions that will benefit your MS overall, then dust them off and move on!

I don’t pretend to have all of this down. This is sort of my dream date description, the perfect CP I want to be and the CP I want to have (which I have to say I’m blessed to already have obtained!)

How about you? What command would you add?

14 thoughts on “The 10 Commandments for CPs

  1. I’ve run into #8 a few times. People say they don’t read my genre but offer to read the MS and then can’t offer any good advice because they “don’t know the genre”. And, then they insist if I don’t take their advice I’ll never get published. So, #8 is a tough one for me.

    • I see everyone talking about how much they love their CPs and I feel like I’ve done something wrong. I finally got with someone who understands my MS and the characters. It was tough to get to that place though.

  2. I don’t think that, just because it took time to find your match, you’ve done something wrong. There is an ocean of writers out there. Finding a good match is as difficult as finding your soul mate. Some of us are lucky enough to have stumbled over the high school sweetheart equivalent of a CP and other’s search for a long time, using the method. Neither way is wrong. The outcome is what matters.

  3. Nicely done. The “shout” in #10 is probably a slip, but it makes sense to me. When I get the comments, shout unmentionables, fall on the floor and cry… Then get up, re-read and incorporate most of the comments.

  4. I think more needs to be written about CP’s. Coming from the music industry, I am continually confounded with the social rules (most of which I’ve broken). I know the commandments well enough (as most rely on some basic principals of being a generally nice human), but the how and the where are sort of a mystery. I’ve had some mixed responses approaching writers on twitter. And I’ve had some more mixed responses approaching people elsewhere.

    • I think the “where and how” depends on the sort of writing communities you’re involved in. There’s a world of opportunity out there to meet in person and via cyber space to get involved with writer’s groups. I think the one thing I’d add if I could rewrite this is to be sure to be upfront about the things you like to read and to give yourself an out by swapping only a few pages to begin with so that if you don’t think you can truly contribute to the author’s MS, you don’t waste thier time. I’ve made the mistake of not putting that out there and hopefully haven’t damaged relationships because of it.

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