I'll tell you what they are (IMHO)
Critique partners, Beta readers, and Editors.
Yes, your greatest tools as a writer are those people who take time out of their lives to hack and slash your baby into little red filled pages of suffering. They are the reason we writers need to have thicker skin than a killer whale. They are also the reason why the successful author's books get read, and read and read over again.
It's common knowledge that as a writer we get so involved with our babies, so much care taken to make every word choice perfect, that we don't see the blaring black holes in our plot, or the grossly overused metaphor that needs to go. We need those extra set of eyes to point out the flaws.
So what is the difference between these three things? Um one gets paid? Yes and no. LOL
Critique partners, are writers, just like ourselves. They know the work it takes to turn our imagination into a story for all to read. Those great and powerful people look at your work, tear it to shreds and when it's all said and done, do it over and over and over again. It's important that you don't mind, the more red you see when your work comes back, the more you can improve yourself in the art.
Remember Critique partners are your partners, it gives good karma to do the same for them. Remember not to be spiteful of their work if the last critique you got from them was particularly harsh. They are only trying to help and you should do the same.
Pic taken from Cindy Thomas' blog, check out her thoughts and a great breakdown on Crit partners.
My biggest advice for crit-partners is: you need to have many. Some people can have an opinion on your work, but without a group telling you the same thing, how do you really know if a scene doesn't work? It could just not work for that particular person.
My last note on critique partners... Thank you so much for all your hard work in making a writers scrambled words make sense!
An Editor, most of the time gets paid to go over every detail in your writing (if you didn't win a prize of their editing in a contest), based off of what that editor's expertise is. Let's bring it down to the two main types, Copy Editor and Developmental.
A Copy Editor generally specializes in grammar and sentence structure. Easy enough, till you realize that you didn't pay attention in English class and you forgot what a preposition is or how to use the right there, their, they're. They help with that, but you may want to check out a grammar book and go over it yourself before you pay some one else to do it. Well... that's what I did. Never stop learning, after all, the English language is always changing.
A developmental Editor's job is to make sure that the book flows, that it works and that your plot doesn't resemble Swiss cheese. The look through scenes, through chapters, and the entire book to make sure the last page plot is still the same plot as the first page introduced it. For a better breakdown check out Two Songbird Press or Reader Views.
Random thought: Editors Rock!
Both of these types are professionals that have been doing their work for a while. They know what they are doing and are obligated to help you if the contest has been won or the appropriate fees are exchanged. Either way, they should be a near last resort. Don't try to publish you novel without an editor, but don't send it to an editor till you are sure you are about to publish.
That's where Beta Readers come in.
When you look for a Beta Reader, you want some one who reads your genre. Because, well let's face it, if they like horror and you write romance, they won't be able to get into the book, since they don't usually read that type of thing. You also want someone who hasn't read your book before. You need to know if the surprises in your book work, if the romance/horror/mystery works in all the right places. If your crit-partner reads your final draft, though they may make suggestions, they are too close to it. You need fresh eyes and a Beta Reader is the freshest.
Without these three sets of people a writer could not find the diamond in the rough of those scrambled words.
What do you think? How many critique partners do you have? How many do you think is a good number? Do you have an editor you trust? Did you find them through a contest?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.