Critique partners

Critique partners show their work to one another for feedback before it’s published, they share business advice, and they often become lifelong friends. Some critique partners live in the same town. Others collaborate from opposites sides of the globe. Joanne Lockyer and Elizabeth Essex told us how they manage the huge gap between Australia and Texas. They also explained how their complimentary strengths as writers make them good critique partners. They only meet face-to-face once a year, but it’s obvious how much they enjoy one another’s company!


What is your critique process?

Elizabeth Essex: So for us, there’s no specific—we don’t have a weekly meeting. We don’t have a specific timeframe. It’s a “whenever you need me, and whenever I need you,” and we see how that fits with each other’s lives.

Joanne Lockyer: But we also let each other know when things are coming up, and we have a pretty good idea of when someone’s going to be super busy with something or when someone’s on holidays or when someone’s deadline is.

Elizabeth Essex: Yes, always when the deadline is. I keep Brisbane on my world clock so I know what time it is where she is, and it gives me a readout. Because if I want to send something to her, I like to know what time it is.

Joanne Lockyer: We met in 2007 at the Dallas RWA conference. It was our first conference we’d gone to, for both of us—totally new experience to go to something like that.

Elizabeth Essex: It’s all about what a critique partnership is. We have very different approaches to the material. Joanne plots. She’s very structure oriented. Her structure in her books is absolutely fabulous. I tend to get an idea or get a character in my mind—mostly a character—a very sort of vivid characterization in my head, and I just start writing. And when I give Joanne my material, oftentimes she identifies themes and opportunity for structure or lack of structure that’s really key to helping me underpin my story. And for me, I think what I give her is the opposite of that. She has structure, and I’m always working to try to make it more evocative and more emotional.

Joanne Lockyer: Yeah, emotional. Yeah.

Elizabeth Essex: And more instinctive.

Joanne Lockyer: Yeah, that. Put more emotion on the page, or things like that. Building on the characterization is a strong point that you bring out in mine.

Elizabeth Essex: Yay! I’m really interested in Joanne’s life, and I’m really invested in it in a personal manner.

Joanne Lockyer: Yeah, she is. Absolutely.

Elizabeth Essex: I’m very mother-like. I get very—I want to give advice. But I love sharing that personal aspect of our lives with each other. And that is something I didn’t anticipate when we first became critique partners.

Joanne Lockyer: No, no. And I mean, for me this year, I’ve had the opportunity to go to Dallas before we came to RWA. And so it was just fantastic to finally meet her family, her husband, and to understand the environment in which she works. And I can picture her there now. So we’ll just have to get her to Australia sometime.

Elizabeth Essex: I would love that.

Over the next few years Joanne will be keeping a video-diary (as will several other authors who the Popular Romance documentary film is following).

Download a transcript.

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