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In Which the Ninja Cap’n tells you Why Critique Partners Rock!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh has been amazing blog-friend since April last year, when I met him as one of the hosts of the A To Z Challenge. We’re co-hosts this year  and his warm, friendly presence has been a big source of support for me and the entire team.

He’s now coming out with a new book—CassaFire, the sequel to his first book, CassaStar. Today’s he is a guest on this blog, telling us all about critique partners and his experience with them…visit him and leave a comment during his book tour for a chance to win CassaFire, CassaStar, and a CassaFire tote bag and mug.


Critique partners are important. Maybe not as vital as air, but to a writer, they are definitely in the top ten.

For CassaStar, I had two test readers. They weren’t writers, just readers who enjoyed science fiction. They provided some great feedback, but neither could offer detailed writing tips. (Although one is still my go-to guy for dialogue.)

After completing revisions on my second book, I knew I needed more. (I was really feeling the pressure to make CassaFire better.) I put out a call for help on my blog and eventually selected Rusty, Jeffrey, and Anne. Trust me, it was the best writing decision I ever made. Now I have three critique partners who rock!

What are the advantages? Your critique partners see mistakes you don’t. They notice repetitions of words and phrases. They catch when something seems out of place or awkward. They come to the manuscript fresh, so they don’t read what you meant, only what you wrote. And they’ll be able to suggest how to fix the problems since they are writers as well.

If you’ve never sent work to a critique partner, there is always a sense of fear. What if he hates it? What if I suck? What if he rips it to shreds? Rest assured, if you selected a good critique partner, you’ll be all right. Yes, you could end up with a bad partner. (That’s when you say thanks and find someone else!) But critiques are rarely harsh or demeaning. The comment are meant to make your manuscript better. And you’ll often discover strengths you never knew you possessed.

My three critique partners were awesome and added so much to the quality of my writing. I considered every suggestion and never felt threatened or angry with the comments. Besides, how could one be angry when you see a comment like this:

  “We’ll have to play when you’re not rusty then.” – “Hey! That’s my name! Woo hoo! I’m in your book.”

Now, go find yourself a critique partner or two!

And if you already have critique partners, let me know why they rock. The Ninja Captain wants to know…



by Alex J. Cavanaugh

CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend – to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities.

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Available now!

Science fiction – space opera/adventure

Print ISBN 978-0-9827139-4-5, $15.95, 6×9 Trade paperback, 240 pages

EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-6-9, $4.99, available in all formats

CassaFire is the sequel to Cavanaugh’s first book, CassaStar, an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller:

“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” – Library Journal

Visit the author’s site at

Barnes and Noble –

Amazon –

Amazon Kindle –


Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Damyanti says:

    Alex, you rock. I’ve been under the weather lately, and not responded to any comments. My bad.

    And I wish wish wish I could find a critique partner—am working on a novel and could use the exchange!

    • kittyb78 says:

      I joined a crit group called Critique Circle a little over two years ago. I’ve gotten some awesome feed back from them and done my best to return the favor when i can.

  • Cherie, Rusty will be happy to hear that!

    Shannon, you get the right critique partners, it’s not scary at all.

    CM, when you’re ready, find a good one.

    Thanks everyone!

  • huntress says:

    If it wasn’t for my CPs, nothing would get done right. They are priceless.

  • Between my critique group and a few beta readers I found online, I’m fortunate to receive great feedback. I’m glad you have the same support, Alex. 🙂

  • C.M. Brown says:

    I have never used a critique partner as yet either, but I can understand the points you have made Alex! I too find this a little scary, but I suppose as one grows as a writer it is something that eventually becomes more comfortable!

  • Robyn Engel says:

    I was lucky to land in a great, local writing group. I don’t know what I’d do without their critique and can’t imagine aiming to publish a book without constructive, supportive feedback along the way.
    Thanks, Alex and Damyanti.


  • So far, I have used beta readers, but haven’t sent my MS. to another writer/critique partner. I think that’s scarier! I will when I am ready, though.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  • kittyb78 says:

    Personally I feel crit partners are vital to the success of any MS. Without them we would get so many more rejection letters than we already do,

  • Maria says:

    My critique partners save my a$$ every single time and they make me a better writer than I’d ever be without them. Here’s to Bren and to Kate and to Toni. They are the wings that hold up all of my hot air {wink}.

  • Cherie Reich says:

    CPs are awesome! I don’t know what I would do without mine. And like Rusty, I do the same thing when I see my name in a book (technically my name is a French endearment, hehe!)

  • Laura, they are!

    Edi, yes I am, although I’ve only critiqued in depth two of those writer’s works.

    Mary, seven? Whoa…

    Georgina, I didn’t think I’d have time either, but I did, and it’s amazing how much it helped me with my own writing.

    Thank you, everyone!

  • My very first critique partner had a degree in journalism. She really helped me with lots of grammar stuff I’d forgotten.

  • I don’t have critique partners at the moment. I read everywhere that they’re integral to improving your work, though, so I suppose I’ll have to look into finding some in the future once I have a project that isn’t in its first draft state. 🙂

    Great post!

  • I still don’t have a critique partner per se. My husband has been my quality manager from the very beginning but with his MBA his probably most apt to tell me how to promote myself that how to re-write that stupid paragraph that still doesn’t sound as good as I’d like. Still, I don’t have time to critique somebody else’s work. I barely have time to write as is, and that’s why I feel bad about asking others to do something for me I can’t possibly repay. Maybe in the future. I hope. In the meantime, I know Alex will have a heap of success that I can ride on to and gain my own 15 minutes of fame by starting a rumor about how big a crush he has on Lindsey Lohan.

    Go on, my pals. Be great and make me proud. 😉

    From Diary of a Writer in Progress.

  • MPax says:

    Crit partners are an invaluable tool in the author’s arsenal. I have 7. I <3 them. 😀

  • Marta Szemik says:

    I’ll be in search for critique partners in April for my current WIP. I agree it’s important to have them. I had a couple for my first novel, but I think I could have used a couple more.
    Great post Alex!

  • ediFanoB says:

    As I’m reader and not a writer I do not have experience with critique partners. But based on your post I can imagine the advantages.

    So you belong to a lucky group of writers.
    Are you also the critique partner of your three critique partners?

    Before I forget I want to say thank you to Damyanti for hosting Alex and his new awesome CassaFirE.

  • I agree, it’s very important to have honest feedback on our work. I find critiquing for others can be useful too as if I nag a friend about a particular error I’m going to have to be careful to avoid it myself.

  • Laura says:

    Your three sound like total gems, Alex.

  • Maryann, and I’ve never met one in person!

    Enid, I provide a sample and see what they do with it. I had over a dozen offer when I sent out the call, selected six to send twenty pages to, and from the critiques, I felt Rusty, Jeffrey, and Anne all understood my writing and what I was trying to accomplish. And I was right!

    Roland, I’d take that! And Ann is really cool.

  • Alex, you are definitely right on the money there. I have been blessed with some great critique partners. Ann Best is even now looking over THE RIVAL with her keen eye. I couldn’t be in better hands! May your sales soar past the known galaxy … or at least into John Locke’s territory! Roland

  • Melissa Bradley says:

    Could not write without my crit partners. they really are the best and have strengthened me as a writer. They are also a massive source of encouragement and support.

  • Enid Wilson says:

    How do you assess which one to choose as critique partner, Alex? Are there certain criteria to follow?

    The Spinster’s Vow

  • CPs are incredibly important. I’m lucky enough to have great ones too. 🙂

  • Dani G. says:

    Rock on, Cap’n!

  • So true about the value of critique partners. I have not yet tried a virtual critique partner, but I have belonged to several groups that met in bookstores to read and critique. I agree with Alex that the experience helped me to hone the craft. We know what we mean to get down on the paper – or the screen – but sometimes it doesn’t make it from our brain to the keyboard. Good critique partners are a god-send when it comes to catching inconsistencies in our stories.

  • Liza, the one we have in common will do a fantastic job – trust me.

    Kitty, we need to make it so!

    Morgan, except for my test readers, I’ve never met with a group.

    Helen, I learned a lot do that as well.

    Rachel, most of Rusty’s comments gave me a laugh!

    Leigh, thank you!

    Thanks, everyone!

  • D. G. Hudson says:

    If you find a critique partner who is compatible, they’re as good as gold. I have two of the best right now. On the down side, I’ve had one bad experience in a group situation with critique partners. The personalities need to mesh somewhat. I work better with small numbers, otherwise, too many conflicting suggestions muddy the waters.

    Thanks Damyanti for hosting Alex! We know you give good advice, Alex.

  • Definitely it is so important to get another set of eyes on your work. A writer just can’t catch all the issues.

  • I have a few critique partners and they’re awesome! My editor is also a critique partner as he does an initial read through before the editing stage. Gotta look for the flow and the major holes before doing any editing. Great post!

  • I’m so excited about this book. It’s going on my next amazon order which HOPEFULLY will be happening soon!

  • “We’ll have to play when you’re not rusty then.” – “Hey! That’s my name! Woo hoo! I’m in your book.”
    That must have given you a good laugh when you were reading through the feedback!

  • Helen Ginger says:

    Once you find a great critique partner, you have to remember that it is a partnership. You have to critique for them as well. And do a super job. You’re right, critique partners are really important.

  • morganmandel says:

    I believe in critiques also. It’s amazing what others pick up that I don’t even notice, even meanings I hadn’t even thought of. Maybe they were subconscious. (g)

    Chicago-North RWA is a great critique chapter. Every meeting we have at least one critique and we learn tons from being critiqued and and doing critiques of others.

    Morgan Mandel

  • Yes, they do, Alex. My writing improved 100% from the input of CP’s. I couldn’t go to print without them.

  • Old Kitty says:

    Hello Damyati, hello Capn Ninja! CPs are fab! I love their fresh perspectives and eagle eye-ness when it comes to wonderful feedback!

    There really should be a CP Day a year to celebrate their utter awesomess!

    Take care

  • Liza says:

    I have finally sent my manuscript out to crit partners ( I think we have one in common.). I’m scared, because I know they will find a lot to critique…but I can’t learn or improve if I don’t have readers, right? Great interview Alex!

  • Rek says:

    Haven’t got to that point yet. You put it across well, the importance of knowledgeable, fresh pairs of eyes.
    I plan to use the Critique Circle for my poetry and short ones once April has passed by.

  • Yvonne, yes we did!

    Anne, I got the best.

    Susan, I think Clarissa Draper has a service for matching up critique partners…

    Rusty, your full name was right there up front! Couldn’t have done it without your help.

    Sean, and that’s the best. My three partners all come at it from a different angle as well.

  • I’ve had ups and downs with writers groups and critique partners. For my Civil War novel A FINE LIKENESS I was lucky to have three very good, and very different, critique partners. One really knew his military history and was always asking questions about terminology, line of fire, tactics, etc. Another was more character-driven and fine-tuned my dialog and protagonists’ motivation. The third was an excellent copyeditor and picked out my typos and repetitions. Together they made one hell of a critique!

  • Rusty Webb says:

    Thanks Alex! I was in the second book too! I saw my name right there in the front. You’re the best.

  • Will says:

    We definitely need others to see what we’re unconsciously filling in. Even the best need this, and I’m glad that I’ll have the Blogesphere to go to when I need this.

  • susanroebuck says:

    Alex, your blog tour is full of great information. A critique partner is fantastic and a luxury I don’t really have. Wish I could find one 🙁

  • anne gallagher says:

    Critique partners are a writers most valuable asset today I think. If you don’t have one, get one. Just make sure, like you said, to get a good one.

  • yvonne lewis says:

    As always a wonderful post of information. Thanks for hosting Alex. One of the best, met on the first A to Z.

    Have a good day.

  • Thanks, Damy!

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