Critique Partners are an invaluable part of your writing career. I'm forever in debt to the people who have bravely gone where no man has gone before and read my manuscripts.
One of the first beta readers I ever had on my YAUF is someone you may have heard of. She has a book officially coming out in September, although it has been spotted in the wild! (subliminal message: Go buy the Duff!) Yep, Kody Keplinger was one of my original betas. And guess what? I got to do the same for her on The Duff. She was gracious and awesome enough to include me and some of the other beta readers in the acknowledgements!! :)
Anyway, I digress. Writing is often an isolating hobby. We hunker down in strange locations, clutching our laptops or notebooks as we escape into the uncharted realms of our imagination. In a way, we become Gollum from Lord of the Rings with our own “preshus”. If you've ever had a word count deadline or been in revision hell, you know how feasible it is to actually begin to resemble Gollum physically. And when this happens, you should seriously step away from the computer for a period of time.
So, stay with me here as I continue to use the Lord of the Rings analogy for critique partners. After you've taken that first brave step and had someone, or several people, read your work, it's only natural that you become comfortable with a select few. The bond you form with these people is very much like that of the Fellowship of the Ring. You're out for a common good: making that manuscript the best it can be either for querying, for an agent, or for an editor. The best critique partners are the ones who give a mixture of tough, constructive criticism as well as comments that can talk you down from the ledge or stop you from torching your laptop in rage.
But the greatest gift I've found with my critique partners is the friendship. These are people who will pick me up when the publishing game has left me bloodied and battered on the floor. They are the wind beneath my wings, and the reason I get up, brush myself off, and try to fly once again. Some people say it takes a village to raise a child. I think this is true in the publishing world as well. I know I couldn't have made it this far without my critique partners....my manuscripts most CERTAINLY could not have made this far!
So, if you've got your own group of Sam's, Merry's and Pippin's, then hold tight to them. They're what make the journey--the quest up to Mt. Doom feasible.