Why should a writer have a critique partner? What do they really do? It's really hard to take what I have here and define it. And critique partners can mean one thing to one writer, another to the next. To put it as simply as possible, I'll say that ...
... a good critique partner:
- knows and respects your writing goals
- is familiar with and appreciates your writing style
- doesn't try to conform your writing style to match her own
- probably isn't related to you--your family members aren't likely the best to judge your work
- is fair in her criticism as well as her praise
- understands The Sandwich principle: praise (bread) + criticism (meat and cheese and sometimes mayo--but never more than you can stand) + praise (bread)
- respects your time when asking for your input
- respects your deadline when you ask for input
- knows the value of an encouraging word
- understands the publishing market (if your goal is to be published)
- admits when a particular genre is not her forte
- admits when grammar isn't her forte
- reads--and reads widely
- is honest in her assessment but never harsh
If you haven't found a critique partner, check online for area writing groups. Attend a few and see who you connect with. You might enjoy the support of a group that meets in public or find that an online group better suits your schedule. For us, a mix of both works well--much of our communication takes place via email but we meet for lunches two, three, four at a time and as a whole group whenever possible.
In closing, may I add that the Track Changes feature in Word can be a critique partner's best ally? If you're not using it, check it out.