American Christian Fiction Writers
Angie Breidenbach

Angela Breidenbach is Mrs. Montana International 2009 working with Hope’s Promise Orphan Ministries, the Jadyn Fred Foundation, and drawing awareness to Fair Trade practices. Angela’s calling is as a purposeful life coach and educator. She’s also certified in mentor/peer counseling as a Stephen Minister and Assisting Minister. She serves as the American Christian Fiction Writer's Publicity Officer and is a multi-award winning inspirational author and speaker. Not only did she walk the hard line of deciding to donate her mom's brain, but she is also on the brain donation list at the Brain Bank-Harvard McLean Hospital. She is married, has a combined family of six grown children, one grandson. Purposeful Living Educator & Coach. Personal growth = Powerful living! You can interact or learn more about Angela Breidenbach at these sites: on Wednesdays each week.

To Critique or Not to Critique

Critique partners are one of the most valuable tools a writer can rely on for support and objective feedback. But how do you find a partner? How do you know they know how to critique, and do they trust you?

American Christian Fiction Writers organization has put together a wonderful program that helps provides a way for authors to develop critique skills and establish relationships with other authors. Each month, ACFW provides a two-day critique class. After taking this course in basic critique skills, new writers are able to enter the large critique loop and work with hundreds of other authors. We’ve developed this program intentionally to raise the level of not only writing skills, but also the critiquing skills of our authors. Once everyone knows the basics, it becomes much easier to find a partner out of the many who are searching for a comfortable fit.

Critique is a special kind of relationship. It’s built on trust and commitment to always work for the good of one another. Several other issues come to play: different personalities, genres, and levels of education, and even distance may interfere with meeting a crit partner personally. The large group allows authors to share at any time while giving back critiques for others. In the process, small groups and partnerships that mesh well form. Many of these small groups and partners have been meeting for years.

Benefits of critique are the support system and the meeting of like minds, but many attribute publishing success to the feedback received in critique—feedback that sometimes takes courage to hear. Being in the writing business means thinking of it as a business—learning not only the craft, but also how readers respond. If the reader is confused, then brainstorming how to tighten and clarify is a critique blessing.

Though reading a manuscript, query, or proposal is very much a part of the barter system in the crit world, learning how to professionally and inoffensively convey the weak areas is an important skill. By taking the two-day course offered through ACFW, you’ll be sure to learn the ropes prior to entering the larger group. The skills learned in the course will make you 1) feel more comfortable critiquing; 2) more aware of the standards; and 3) able to know how to both give and receive.

What happens once you become part of the group? You’ll begin interacting with other people within the safe environment and guidelines everyone agrees to follow. As you become familiar, you’ll start to recognize names and begin to trade critiques. You are welcome to stay in that larger group and never move into a smaller one; however, participants are also welcome to build relationships with others. If that critique group or partnership doesn’t work out for any reason, you can go back into the larger group until you find a good fit with someone else. Whatever plan works best for your writing is the plan for you.

The beauty of joining the ACFW critique group is that publishers and agents expect it of you. It’s good for your writing career. It’s part of the business of writing. Filtering your work through the critique process shows agents and editors you are serious and willing to accept help and direction. Without this key element, it will be very hard to convince anyone to take a serious look at your work. No agent or editor wants to be the very first to lay eyes on a book. They know the amount of work it takes for a new author to produce quality work. They’re not going to double their work with one who hasn’t received help from a crit partner to ferret out the major issues and errors of a manuscript. Save yourself this reason for rejection by taking care of business and showing your professionalism right up front.

Does your critique partner or group members have to write in the same genre? The answer is yes and no. It helps for the person to know your genre well, but some people find it works well regardless if they are at least compatible in personality. My critique partner writes futuristic fantasy, while I write both Christian nonfiction and fiction. Writing different genres, but knowing the others, keeps our relationship and skills fresh and interesting. It also keeps us aware of changes within the industry. This is truly a personal choice.

Finding a critique partner or small group used to be difficult prior to the establishment of the critique loop by American Christian Fiction Writers. Watch on the Main Loop (see last month’s article) for the ACFW Volunteer Officer announcement about a week prior to each new class. Margaret Daley sends out a message with a link on how to sign up and get started. She’s developed the mentoring project and teaches the how-to and then releases the newly blossomed writers into the large critique pool to swim with their peers.

If you are an American Christian Fiction Writer member, all you have to do is respond to the notice. If you are a member, but are not on the Main Loop, please contact Margaret Daley (volunteer officer) at to request your invite to the next class. If you are not an ACFW member, please visit and join. The very small fee gives you incomparable value just in the opportunity to join the critique pool for free, not to mention the education you can get from our monthly course and main loops.

Before closing, I’d like to draw your attention to the ACFW Ezine, the “Afictionado.” We’ve revamped it and added a free monthly Writer’s Toolbox! This is an abundant wealth of teaching from well-known authors, a different one each month, who will include a downloadable pdf worksheet. You do not want to miss out on James Scott Bell’s article and special download! We’ve also changed the release date from mid-month to the first of the month from now on. Please come and enjoy the “Afictionado” by visiting, and be sure to peruse the archives.