Writing and publishing is a roller coaster ride, with ups and down and periods where there seems to be no forward movement, only to be followed by times when everything is moving so fast you feel out of control. Luckily, you don’t have to take the ride alone. That’s the beauty of critique partners, especially the kind of critique partners that turn into really wonderful friends. You can cheer each other on when one of you feels down, believe in each other, keep the other one from quitting when all seems lost, and curse every last no response means no.
Yes, critique partners will get you through all the “lows” on this journey.
But it’s the “highs” that might strain your relationship.
Let’s face it, it’s easy to commiserate when you’re both getting pummeled in the query trenches. But it gets a lot harder when one of you suddenly hits that next milestone and the other feels left behind. It doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, ruin your relationship, though. Just keep the following in mind.
You are not the only one this happens to.
Pretty much every longtime CP relationship goes through these kind of growing pains. It’s extremely common. It happens when one of you gets into a contest, or gets an agent, or a book deal or a starred review, and the other…doesn’t. And the feelings you are both having of jealousy, guilt, discomfort, sadness, a need to talk to celebrate, they are all normal and common feelings. They are all valid. Stuffing them down and not dealing with them will only make the problem worse in the long run.
Be open about your feelings.
It’s okay to let your CP know that you love them and are happy for them, but right now you just can’t hear about another agent offering on their manuscript because you are in the depths of despair. They understand. I promise. And protecting yourself from negative feelings that you can’t handle in a healthy way will prevent grudges from popping up.
If you are the one shooting forward in your career, make sure that your CP is feeling okay with everything. Not in a condescending way, but just in a way that gives them an easy out. Let them know that you, of course, want to celebrate, but you understand if they can’t hear it right now and that they can always tell you to cool it for a while without any hard feelings.
Talk about how you will handle certain events BEFORE they happen. One of my lovely CP’s did this right after she signed with her agent and was getting editor interest before she even went on sub. We had an open and frank conversation where I admitted that I knew she was going to sell her book before me and she asked how we should handle our communication if that happened. We dropped the pretenses and the, “No, you’ll totally sell your book first!” talk. We could see what was coming and we planned for it. And when she sold her book, I had about a day of moroseness and then I was fine. I’d prepared for that day, on my own, and with her. It made all the difference.
Remember that you will probably take turns with your times to celebrate.
One of you may get an agent first. The other may get a book deal first. One of you may have the bigger platform, the other may get better reviews. Be sure to always be supportive and celebratory of the others’ accomplishments, because it is 99% likely that eventually your places will be switched in some way and you’ll want the good karma.
Critique partners are some of the best parts of the writing journey, keep them around for the “lows” AND the “highs.”