Most people avoid criticism, but writers (at least those who are serious about improving their craft) go looking for it. Someone else who writes in the same genre can read a work in progress and point out flaws that others don’t see. This critique partner (or “critter”) can be a writer’s best ally in the battle against mediocrity.

I’m privileged to have a couple of highly skilled yet compassionate “critters” in my corner. They understand the hard work that goes into every scene and sequence of dialogue, so they don’t dismiss my latest submission out of hand. At the same time, they are uniquely qualified to identify my shortcomings. Like a team of surgeons peering into my abdomen, they pull back skin and fat to expose a malfunctioning organ and deftly decide whether it should be repaired or removed altogether.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy,” an ancient writer observed (Prov. 27:6). Family will give a writer facile praise with the very best intentions; but the result is not nearly as helpful as the “faithful wounds” he receives at the hands of his critters.