Back when I decided to put on my serious cap and dive into getting paid for what I write instead of pounding the keys for naught, I asked a good friend where he was ‘honing his craft’ so I could get going. Finding a people critique your work beyond the OMG! YOU’RE AWESOME! is a hard road traveled. He recommended two places: Critters and Scribophile. I joined both.
Each had the same requirement. You had to give to get. Meaning, please critique your fellow writers and be respectful when doing it. That’s the nice way of saying don’t be a dick. Find a choice of words that say “gawd, this is tripe” that still encourages. It’s a hard skill to learn. It’s also hard for new writers or shy writers to dip their feet into. Best way to do it, in my opinion, is to read it from a reader’s perspective if you’re not the best at grammar nazi stomping. A story’s got to be appealing first and foremost. Most writers figure out sometimes the public in general isn’t looking for absolute brilliance. Shades of Grey anyone?
While I enjoyed both communities at the beginning, I began to see cracks in the Critters system. Great bunch of people to work with as a site. Unfortunately, all the critiques are via email with no formatting whatsoever. I had trouble getting my point across because I couldn’t change the color of my text or get down to certain passages. Forget pinpointing spell errors and the like. All I could do was an overall impression. Worse yet, they emailed three a week, and it became increasingly difficult to find that diamond in the rough. Remember, it’s impolite to tell someone “please stop as my brain is bleeding and I’m about to hemorrhage from this swill you offer as a story”. Plus, keeping up with the pace just to get into the queue was too much. If I fell behind, I’d lose my spot.
Critters was lost to me. Too much time in reading manuscripts that could be over 10K in my mail box taking away time I needed to write.
Scribophile, on the other hand, worked much different. The site is private so I don’t have to worry about it being considered ‘published’ by the houses I wanted to send work to. Plus I could choose what I wanted to critique. If the first paragraph gave me the willies, I walked away before I had a brain seizure or vomit attack. All I need to do is give a meaningful critique and earn five karma points to post something of mine. Unlike Critters and the monsters I could get, Scribophile suggest you keep your word count to around 3K. It’s a fair system. It works to about a 3 to 1 system for me. About three critiques before I had the karma to post. Depending on how you critique, it could be less. You’re a writer helping writers.
With Scribophile, the free membership gives you the opportunity to post up to two works at a time. Become a premium member and pay a small fee per year, you can post unlimited work. It also gives you the chance to skip the main spotlight and have a private spotlight. Since I’ve been there awhile, I’ve gained a following. This is great in many ways. People look for you to post something and will crit it because they dig your style. I also follow a lot of people for the same reason. The unique part about the private spotlight is I don’t worry too much about the word count. Why? Because only my favorites can critique it. Selfish? Not really.
The Main Spotlight is where most of the works go. In order for another one to get into the spotlight, three critiques of whatever work must be done before it’s kicked out. You can also get in the spotlight by being a first time n00b or a prolific crit monster. Three and out. Period. My private spotlight yields six. Oh did I mention you gain more karma for going after what’s in a spotlight?
While Scribophile has Moderators, I don’t think they’re heavy-handed. Follow the guidelines of the site and don’t be a douche, you’ll be just fine.
Yes, she is responsible for my ascension into the world of naughty smut writing. And for that, I thank her.
Now, course, there are also cons to Scribophile. People tend to get their panties in a bunch over trivial things. You must be 18 or older to join. Sometimes the critiques are less than satisfactory, whether it’s because they’re karma humpers or they just have no idea that you’re looking for flaw not accolades. The forums, in particular, can be a huge time sink and unless you have hours to burn, avoid them. Most of the time people rehash the same “ADVERBS BAD!” “SHOW VS TELL” drivel over and over and…
It’s tiresome. Much like people picking apart ‘stereotypes’ in writing. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but most plot devices have been used in the writing world. It’s not what you’re writing about, it’s about how you write it.
I also find that talking about the erotic romance I write isn’t worth it either. There’s always that one pea in the pod that screams “Like, OMG, it’s like totally porn and gross and stuff. Like Ewwww!”. I’ve taken to using some of the private groups available for my jabberjawing on that. It’s less of a facepalm moment that way.
Still, Scrib would be the first site I would recommend to someone looking for constructive feedback on their draft manuscript. Just remember if it goes into the realm of “I can’t find anything…OMG FUCKING AWESOME!”, Scribophile has a handy dandy ‘bad critique’ button that, after review, turns it into a plain old comment. Why should your work leave the spotlight before its time because someone doesn’t have a clue.
And there are a lot of clueless people in the world.