Slamming The Breaks – How To Know When To Stop In A Writing Critique Relationship

Last weekend I went up to northern Minnesota fishing. Great fun with family and a bucket of pan fish. The glass top lake with it’s tree mirror images and the Minnesota Loon surfacing a fishing pole length away held me mesmerized till I absolutely had to leave to get the kids home for school the next day.

As the dusk settled on my swagger wagon, as I call my Sienna minivan, I drove on the soft whispering breaths of my young children blending with the quiet piano music in my CD player.

I rounded a curve in the road, and straight in my headlight beams two deer glared back at me…from my lane of the road. I slammed my brakes jarring my kids from a fitful sleep and my muscles from a happy existence.

Thankfully, the car behind wasn’t riding my bumper and the deer regained their senses as my car screeched to a halt.  If I’d slammed on those breaks any later, I’d have had a new hood ornament at best. At the worst, there wouldn’t have been much swagger left in my wagon.

Do you know when it is time to slam on the brakes in a critique relationship or friendship?

Friends are a must for all of us and critique buddies also for us writers. But just as they can be a joy and an iron sharpening iron situation, they can also cause a lot of hurt.

Sometimes all it takes is the knowledge of when to slam on the brakes to bring out the best in friendships and critique relationships. We all need boundaries and a definition of our role in a situation.

5 Hints That It Is Time To Stop In A Writing Critique Relationship:

*Boundaries have been crossed. At the beginning of a critique relationship it is important to set up clear boundaries of what you expect in a critique buddy and what you can offer. If these boundaries are constantly pushed, or not respected it is important to speak up. Share your concerns and if the situation doesn’t change it’s time to slam on the brakes.

*You Don’t Trust Your Critique Partner. Usually this occurs over time when confidences are broken, or feelings are hurt in a way that is stronger than just feedback on your work. You don’t trust your critique partner to have your best interests at heart.

*The Relationship Has Become Toxic. If one or both critique buddies have developed a defensive or unteachable spirit in the relationship, or one of the critique buddies is bullying you to change your voice it is a sure sign to slam on the breaks. If the spirit of the relationship is no longer encouraging although challenging each other to excellence, if unkind words are the norm it is time to slam on the brakes.

*When Critique Partners Are Unable To Find Matching Commitment Levels. By this I mean that one partner is doing all of the critiquing and the other is too busy to guide the other through critiquing their work. You may get along great, but your commitment level doesn’t match. Over time this is likely to cause a lot of friction.

*When Your Personalities Don’t Gel. Not everyone works the same way together. It isn’t awful to admit someone may not be the right fit for you in personality. Critique buddies and friends should challenge and inspire one another. If your personalities don’t mesh well enough to foster that type of relationship, then another one may be more successful.

If any of the above descriptions match your situation:

*Sit back and take some time to pray for guidance.

*Speak the truth gently but firmly.

*Give an opportunity for God to work.

If that doesn’t work:

*Be honest and say that you are feeling that your critique relationship might not be a good fit.

*Continue to encourage to each other as writers.

*Realize that you are a not a failure just because things didn’t work out. At least you had the common sense not to waste any more valuable time trying to force a situation.

What are some other hints that it is time to slam on the brakes in life or in a critique relationship?


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

8 thoughts on “Slamming The Breaks – How To Know When To Stop In A Writing Critique Relationship

  1. Great suggestions on this sensitive topic. Thankfully, I haven’t encountered a critiquing relationship that went sour, but it’s good to have guidelines if ever I do.

  2. jeannemt says:

    I love the reference to the Swagger Wagon. 🙂 I laughed. 🙂 You cover a number of good points about relationships in general and critiquing relationships in particular. It seems like a healthy level of respect for the person/people you critique with would be necessary to foster good relationships.

  3. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Ending a crit/craft group relationship is tough, Michelle, but sometimes it has to be done. It takes a lot of prayer and courage to do the right thing — for you and anyone else involved.

    • Michelle Lim says:

      Prayer and courage are definitely important in tandem in this situation, Beth! Sometimes what helps is that we set boundaries before we get to this kind of situation and are cautious as we begin a new critique relationship.

  4. Melissa Tagg says:

    I’m in the “experimental” stage of having a crit partner right now. We gave ourselves 30 days to try it out, see how well we work together, etc., with an easy out if either of us feel it’s not a good fit. We decided the friendship is the most important thing, so we’re not going to force something if it simply doesn’t work. We also set clear guidelines on what we send, how often we send it, etc. I really think that’s going to help us avoid ever getting to the “Ahhh, what did I get into, must get out!” stage. 🙂 So, like you said above, being cautious in the beginning stages is so helpful…

    That said, I’ve never been to the point of needing to end a crit partner relationship, but yeah, I would think prayer and kindness are the keys. And also, a realization that some things, many things, simply have seasons. And that’s totally okay. It’s okay to close the door when needed.

  5. Michelle Lim says:

    Melissa, having a trial or experimental stage is a fantastic idea! Sounds like you started things off the right way!

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