Do You Have a Psychic Vampire Critique Partner?

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WHAT do you MEAN I am head-hopping? THAT is my VOICE. You are ruining my ART!
(Image via Carniphage Flikr Commons)

Several months ago, in my Enemies of the Art series, we discussed Psychic Vampires. Psychic Vampires are all around us, and likely, we will never be rid of them. PVs are most likely to show up at a number of critical junctures. They sense the energy shift, and since that energy is no longer all about them, they will fight tooth-and-nail to bring balance to The Force (of Manipulation).

While many of my posts are directed toward writers, most people have these same issues. If we don’t learn how to guard against and handle PVs, we will always be their victims. Psychic Vampires will always feel renewed and refreshed, namely because they just sucked the life out of their victims (us).

Psychic Vampires abound in the arts, and they’re also prevalent in many writing groups. They are vamps dressed in writer clothing. Often they are so self-absorbed they can’t even see the reality of what they are.

This is why confronting PVs is almost always fruitless and will simply lead to conflict that only further feeds them at our expense. Our best option is to be able to spot them, then ignore them or RUN.

Beware the Psychic Vampire Critique Partner

I wish I could give all of you a nice, easy website to find healthy, professional critique partners, but unfortunately those don’t exist. We will have to trust, then use trial and error, then set tough boundaries. Some CPs will make it, but likely most will not.


Too many writers get into this business for the wrong reasons. They really aren’t interested in the life of a professional and just enjoy “playing author.” Writing is for attention and ego-stroking. Their goals are about THEM and this means anyone on board with them will go the wrong direction.

They will keep steering the ship the wrong way…toward the rocks.

Some PVCPs are touchy, sensitive and unwilling to learn and grow. Mistakenly, they believe that their art is just genetically coded into their DNA and that any feedback is just trying to sabotage their “art.”

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What do you mean too many flashbacks? YOU ARE SO MEAAAANNNN!

If you have a critique partner who refuses to listen to honest feedback. If she is touchy and oversensitive? Move on. You won’t grow. You’ll spend too much time propping up an ego that can never get enough propping up. The PV will be a continual vortex of need and if you don’t jump ship while you can? Expect to crash on the rocks with them.

This writer won’t make it unless she changes, and if you’re enabling her to be a PVCP, why should she?

We Are Who We Hang Around

I cannot recommend attending writing conferences enough. Yes, even WANACon counts.  We are having another WANACon the first weekend of October and deliver top tier NYTBSA talent right to you AT HOME. Right now we are having a special, the ENTIRE conference and recordings for $119 (which will expire soon). Just like a writing conference only no travel and at YOUR convenience.

We can arrange a TSA feel-up, but they work for tips :D.


The reason we need to choose friends wisely and surround ourselves with professionals, is that these writers have invested cold hard cash into getting better. When we forge relationships with writers who are professional or stronger, we grow. Water will always find its level, so make sure you’re rising, not sinking. Habits are contagious. This is one of the reasons I cannot recommend joining an RWA chapter enough (even if you don’t write romance).

RWA is full of professionals who work their tails off and understand craft and the business. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the other. Refuse to be in a place that dulls your creative edges.

PVCPs Waste Valuable Time

I’ve been in critique relationships where the other person never learned to think for themselves. Why bother reading Story Engineering, The Writer’s Journey, Hooked,  Save the Cat or Plot & Structure when we can get Kristen to so all our thinking/plotting for us?

I recall two members of a critique group who attended every week with their crappy writing to be critiqued. Instead of learning, they just barfed down junk on a page and let the group “fix” it. Odd thing was, after over a year of enduring the world’s worst writing, nothing changed. When these individuals self-published? NONE of the writing had changed.

This ticked me off. How many hours had we dedicated to helping, when the writer had zero intention of listening? The critique wasn’t a place to grow; rather, it was a captive audience who had to listen to their dreadful “story” vomit.

Most of us are short on time. We often have day jobs, kids, chores, bills and we have to do social media and MOST IMPORTANTLY we need to be writing more books and better books. It’s easier to tread water if we aren’t dragging a PVCP anchor around our necks.

The PVCP Test

1. Is the writer touchy. Does she want every bit of feedback to be handed with a box of chocolates?

2. Does she attend regularly? Or does she always have an excuse of why she can’t be there—great-nephew’s birthday party, helping a friend’s garage sale, washing her hair?

3. Does the writer actually READ? Does she read fiction and LOVE storytelling? I’ve met writers who claimed they wanted to be NYTBSAs, but said things like, “Well, I just don’t like to/have time to read.” Reading is FUNDAMENTAL to what we do. A writer who doesn’t read is like a musician who doesn’t listen to music. TIME WASTER.

4. Does the person give back? Critique partners should be partners. I’ve had writers who took and took for months. They wanted me to plot, then re-plot, then they had a new and BETTER idea they needed “help” plotting. Never once did it occur to them, that we hadn’t talked about my book in months.

5. Does this person ever grow? Or do they keep making the same newbie errors over and over? If they are? They aren’t listening, so move on. This is a PVCP. RUN.

What are your thoughts? Have you been the victim of a PVCP? What did you do? How did you handle it? What are your horror stories? How did you stake the PVCP? What might be some other ways to spot a PVCP? What might be some good resources for finding a good CP? I recommend trying WANATribe, join RWA or attend conferences. But, maybe you guys have some better suggestions!

BTW, Image number two courtesy of best movie ever Army of Darkness.

I love hearing from you!


Since it was such a HUGE success and attendees loved it, I am rerunning the Your First Five Pages class SATURDAY EDITION. Use the WANA15 code for 15% off. Yes, editors REALLY can tell everything they need to know about your book in five pages or less. Here’s a peek into what we see and how to fix it. Not only will this information repair your first pages, it can help you understand deeper flaws in the rest of your manuscript.

My new social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU. If you REGISTER NOW, you get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE (and all recordings) for $119 (regularly $149). Sign up today, because this special won’t last and seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.


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  1. Oh Kristen, I always love your posts. But it took a bit of therapy after all the clown business. This? I just peed a little. 😉

  2. When people ask for criticism…they’re really seeking praise.

    1. What if they’re seeking both? Is it so awful to seek some praise, to keep you going…as long as you take the criticism to heart and take action?

      1. Some people only want to hear everything is perfect. I’ve been writing 14 years and I still hire editors, use beta readers and want honest feedback. People who are mean-spirited and just tear us down are useless. But they are just as useless as the person who blows glitter up our skirt non-stop. We won’t grow. They are like the friend who didn’t want to tell you your skirt was tucked in the back of your underwear in the restaurant because “she didn’t want to ’embarrass’ you”.

        1. YESSSS!!!! Thank you 🙂

    2. I think a good CP will offer positive reinforcement on what he/she likes as well… but that the critique is where the value is. If you didn’t like it you hopefully would not have written it… so it is the constructive feedback you should be seeking not praise.

      1. So, we need to be strong enough to be our own praisers and strong enough to handle the criticism. Sometimes it’s hard not to get discouraged. Don’t look for praise from our CP?

        1. Yes, I do know what you mean. I ask my friends/readers to be honest but not cruel. BTW Good luck on your new blog 🙂

      2. Honestly, as I say below, I think a good CP shows you what not to throw out when you make the changes because of the criticisms. It’s not just about positive reinforcement, it’s about actually evaluating the work.

        1. Agreed. Positive feedback is always appreciated but is NOT what we need at this stage of the game. If you are so fragile and sensitive that you find you are craving positive feedback and reassurance more than the opportunity to grow then you may need a different type of person or group setting to build up your self-worth and confidence… and that is okay!!!

          There is NOTHING wrong with feeling this way! It is just beyond the role of the CP to address your need for approval, any self-esteem deficits and to be a cheerleader for you all the time.

          Remember, the purpose of a CP is for writing. Let her help you with writing! Get your need for others approval addressed by listening to self-help CD’s, reading a good inspirational book, meeting with God, hiring a therapist or meeting a dear friend at Starbucks. Otherwise, I am afraid to tell you, that you may indeed become the Vampire we fear.

  3. I’ve met some really great CPs through conferences, including WANACon and DFWCon, and from WANA connections. Yes, I’m all signed up for the next WANACon. I’m looking forward to it!

  4. We are starting a critique group in my little town and I’m very afraid. One of the women I think may be a PV. Last year when we were both writing ghost stories for a contest, she asked me to read and give feedback on her story. I did and found some areas where she could change or tweak. She basically “defended” her choices. Then when I hinted several times “Would she like to read mine?” She never asked for it or said, “sure, send it.” I am not comfortable being so pushy as to say, “I read yours, now read mine.” Should I be? (side note and ego stroke–my story made finals, hers did not).

    And about ego stroke. Balance? We need some ego to keep going and not think our work is shite, but how much is too much. What if I’m a PV and I don’t know it?

  5. I have been in two different critique groups and each one has had what I refer to as a shredder. They completely demeaned and demoralized the authors instead of offering any constructive criticism on the manuscript. If I do venture back into the shark tank I will definitely be using you guide and take everything with a grain of salt. Thank you for the informative and entertaining post!

    1. We also have to make sure we don’t have too thin of a skin. I recall being called all kinds of names in two critique groups, “shredder” being one of them…simply because I didn’t say the writing was perfect and made of unicorn gold. I began with what I liked, then addressed the problems and faults, then gave ways to fix those problems. Criticism and critique are different. We need to have tough skin, yet at the same time, someone who just throws glitter/rocks at us can be equally destructive.

  6. Reblogged this on The BiaLog and commented:
    I think it’s safe to say we’ve all encountered this at some point or other.

  7. How lucky am I to be following you! I am a newbie blogger and before your inspiration never even dared say ‘aspiring writer’ let alone… I am one! ;o) Add this great post to the list of ways you are a true inspiration and time-saver in my life! BLESS YOU!!!

    I believe as do you that PV’s are in ALL aspects of our lives! It is funny to me that I have never thought about it like that before… great ideas are like that. I will definitely keep these “warning signs” in mind if I and when I get a CP to help me out. THANK YOU!!!

  8. I really like this, I wanna do some, but my hubby is a psy. vamp. He always just says “yeah” when I try to show him something I have done.Even when I show him a crochet project, he is the same way. I found out a long time ago that he could not do it, “maybe he is just jealous” I would tell myself..?????Is it him or me???

    1. My husband is not interested either. He’s not discouraging, just not interested. Keep going. Find friends or other family members to support you. Our hubbies can’t be EVERYTHING we need, that’s what friends are for. Best of luck, hang in there 🙂

      1. Thank you very much.

        1. And for what it’s worth, I don’t know if its jealousy as much as disinterest. My hubby tries to tell me about soccer and listen politely and try to ask intelligent questions, but I’m just not “moved” by soccer. I would guess, that your hubby as well as mine is not “moved” by crochet or blogging or writing? (I’m new to these kind of blogs.comment pages—Kristen is it okay for me to post to posters? Am I over-doing it?

          1. thank you for answering……….

    2. Him. I learned a long time ago not to look to empty wells for water. You need encouragement? Hop on Twitter and hang out with us at #MyWANA. We give a mix of love and tough love so it’s a great environment to grow as an artist.

      1. thanks, I think I will, thanks Kristen!

  9. Reblogged this on IndieWritersReview and commented:
    Very Awesome post:)

  10. My crit partners are all as tough (i.e. honest) as I am. We treasure one another because we know we can count on a crit that will help take our work to the next level. I feel blessed to have them.

  11. I’m lucky to be in this very constructive critique group, but I’ve met them at writing events 😛

    1. with “them” I mean the psychic vampires

  12. Having been through and given critiques of architectural work in design schools, I can safely say that the best critique partners have something that they like about your project. Because when you focus on the good, you can make the rest of the changes so the good gets better, and it makes it clearer what not to keep. That’s always how I used to go about it. When I critiqued writing, even if I marked up pages, I usually included notes like “love this!” It’s not about stroking their ego or making the criticisms go down better. It’s about telling the author/designer what’s working, so when they take their writing/design apart, they don’t lose the gold with the sand.

    I have also had faculty in school who were the PVCP. Actual faculty who enjoyed nothing more than tearing apart ideas, rather than teaching the students how to get better. They enjoyed it, because it made them important because ‘they knew better.’ I remember TAing and going back to a student who was in tears and ready to quit. So, we got her on track, and she finished for her deadline.

  13. Reblogged this on kristin nador writes anywhere and commented:
    Continuing from Monday’s subject of critique groups, here’s the always awesome Kristen Lamb advising us, as only she can, on the importance of choosing critique partners. Maybe writer’s garlic will help… 🙂

  14. I used to worry that a few of my critique partners hadn’t bothered to educate themselves about the craft, and I felt they lacked the ability to critique my work. But then I had two realizations: one, they do represent READERS, those peeps who aren’t authors but love to read, and in that sense, their feedback can be really valuable. Two, if a writer is always defensive or in some other way wastes my time in the critique group (e.g. wakes up that morning, vomits something onto a page from a dream she just had, and brings the piece to group for a first look), I don’t critique it beyond an oblique compliment. We have to protect our time and energy. PS I am LOVING Rise of the Machines. When I print out the Kindle highlights it’ll form a small book.

    1. SQUEEEE!!!! Thanks! But people who give good feedback and maybe aren’t learning craft aren’t what I would consider vampires because they ARE giving something, not just ALL TAKE ALL THE TIME.

  15. You can have an incomplete person as your critique partner, too. One whose chief delight is sadistic jabs at a person’s work. Their reason for reviewing the work of their partners is the fun they have in destructive criticism. If they are intelligent, though flawed, it can take you awhile to see their game. If even the praise is back-handed, then you should consider changing mentors. Good post as always,

  16. This was an awesome post. As someone who spent a few months this year stumbling around various critique groups as a sole-critiquer (nothing to have critiqued), I grew so weary of people feeling the need to respond to e-v-e-r-y comment I’d made on my line-by-lines, justifying their words or ideas. My response to that always is: are you going to look over the shoulder of every reader? You don’t have the benefit of justification. What the reader sees is what they get!

    Fantastic read. Your ‘Rise of the Machines’ book looks very interesting as well. ^_^

    1. Thank you! So happy you are enjoying the new book, and thanks for taking the time to comment. I always enjoy hearing from you guys. Y’all are the highlights of my days.

  17. I haven’t had any real CPs. Maybe I should find one. But at least I know when to run if neccessary. 😀

  18. I learned something here today! Love your comment on “love” and “tough love.” I’ve found many just want to be heard (read) but rarely take the time to listen (read). Would be great to join a writer’s group full of passionate and giving people.

    • annerallen on August 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm
    • Reply

    Fantastic advice for anybody who’s in a critique group. They can so often be self-perpetuating failure clubs. Nobody wants to learn or change. Nobody wants anybody else to succeed. It’s sometimes hard to leave, but you have to just walk away.

  19. Ah, critique groups…difficult topic for me. I was in a group with friends and my sister. I was one of the few who routinely brought stuff to critique. Then when I had to travel for work (overnights in a hotel during the week) and couldn’t get to meetings, no one wanted to critique by email. So I dropped out.

  20. A lot of PVs live on FaceBook and masquerade as trolls, or perhaps it’;s the other way round. Be wary in whatever incarnation, they suck out your positivity and well-being through a negativity straw.

  21. I’m not yet at the point of joining a critique group (don’t have enough to share). And quite frankly, I’m scared to join one. I’m not afraid of open and honest critique; I’ve been presenting my artwork to one and all for critique since I was 14. And as a professional copywriter, my work gets critiqued and edited all the time.

    I’m just scared of that one person who’ll sense “fresh meat” and rip me to shreds for the hell of it.

  22. Last time Kristen blogged about this topic, I complained about not getting a good critique so much that she offered to give me one. Boy, that was one tough butt chewing. But it really opened my eyes to some serious deficits in my story structure.
    I followed her advice and I think I’m getting better. If I ever win the monthly drawing, I guess I’ll find out *cringes* Good luck to all my fellow commenters?

    1. You did GREAT, just made the same noob errors we all do. If you want a good laugh I can send you the first fifteen pages of my first novel (but I like you, so that might be bad juju :D).

      1. You crack me up. When I’m having a rough day, I know reading your blog will make me laugh, so I look forward to it.
        As for the critique: Sometimes, a butt whipping is all that will help us *shrugs*

        1. Well, if you ever need to feel better about your writing, my first novel is chained in the garage…eating the sheetrock.

  23. Years ago I joined an online writing site called “Poetry-Free-For-All”. It really is a fantastic site where people who are serious about poetry go to give and receive feedback. (For every poem you post you must offer three critiques before you can post again) I joined because poetry is very difficult to write well and I thought working on poetry would improve my writing in general. One of the critiques I got on my first poem posted was “Read a thousand poems before you attempt to write another one.” Ouch. That stung but looking back I think his comment was a huge gift to me. My writing has come a long way since then and I remember that as being a bit of a wake up call, you know, a shift in thinking when I began to consider “hmm maybe good writing takes some work….”

  24. I love my critique partners. It took two different groups, one on line and one in person group to find this one. And thank goodness, even when they tell me I need to re-write something I always leave group feeling inspired.

  25. i consider this post – and your next – great advice for Any one, writer or not. great stuff.

  26. Reblogged this on Visions and Revisions.

  27. I have to admit: I’ve got the most wonderful and supportive partner a writer can have!! Who is actually sucking my enthusiasm and stamping it into the ground is my mother… but I have learned just not to talk about her anymore about my writing… I’m getting sick of her comments.

  1. […] Kristen Lamb‘s blog today is called Do You Have a Psychic Vampire Critique Partner? It deals with identifying and getting rid of awful critique partners (Kristen calls them psychic vampires because they suck the life out of you). Critique partners have been on my brain recently because one of my goals, when I go to a writer’s conference (like the one I attended two weeks ago), is to find an awesome critique partner. It doesn’t happen often. In fact, it’s only happened once for me. I met my first critique partner, Melody, at the first writer’s conference I ever attended. It was in Seattle, and she seemed even more terrified than I was. It was her first conference, too. I listened to her pitch what sounded like an awesome story to The Agent, sympathized when she was shot down (I was, too), then later I asked if she’d be interested in swapping chapters via email. She agreed, and we’ve been critique partners–and friends–ever since. It worked out beautifully.  […]

  2. […] Psychic Vampire – (Thanks Kristen Lamb!) This critique partner has no interest in helping you with your story.  They want your undivided […]

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