Beta swaps and critiques are the lifesblood of networking with other authors, and there’s a lot to be said for getting beta reads on your own work. But there are a lot of benefits to offering critiques for other writers as well.
1. It can improve your own writing.
There’s a lot of focus on receiving critique from others and how much it can help your writing. Which is true, but critiquing others can also help improve your craft.
Sometimes you’re too close to your own work to see your repeated habits and quirks. But when reading someone else’s work, you may notice how often they use action beats and dialogue tags, only to realize you’re doing the same.
By analyzing other people’s work, you can develop your own critical eye and apply it to your own revisions.
2. You can find your writing crew.
I originally met many of my critique partners (CPs) through a group writing challenge, but we really gelled as friends and writers after we began to read one another’s work. You can cheer on writing friends and empathize together without reading each other’s stories, but those beta swaps did help deepen bonds I’ve had with other writers. It’s so nice to bounce ideas off a fellow writer who knows your work, and help them with their own brainstorming.
3. It can help to know other writers’ rough drafts aren’t perfect either.
Reading published novels can help you see what you want to be, but seeing a work-in-progress from another writer can provide so much peace of mind.
While drafting, it’s so easy to look at your own work too critically, measuring it against the finished product you want it to be, and finding it lacking.
However, when I read through a rough draft from one of my CPs, I can say “this needs a little polishing but I can see the shape of what it will be when finished, and it’s gonna be glorious”. Then I can look at my own work with a more objective eye and forgiveness. It’s so helpful to read through other work that might need a rewrite or some murdered darlings and know that I can do the same.
4. Getting to see other books grow up.
This one is a “warm and fuzzy” reward rather than a measurable benefit, but it’s so fulfilling to see my friends’ books grow from an early draft I beta read into its final form. It’s like watching a sibling’s children grow up and graduate. Getting to be a part of that journey feels like an honor and is a very special type of joy.