I used to be involved in a critique site called Critters. It was one of two sites a writer friend of mine suggested when I decided I needed a fresh pair of eyes to glance over what I was writing. Finding a group of friends for a bit of quid-pro-quo isn’t as easy as one might think. Any writer who thinks they can pound the keys and not have someone check for errors, consistency of plot, or just overall crunchy goodness is kidding themselves.
The way Critters worked was you first had to critique works of other aspiring authors. Give to get as it were. You could do this one of two ways–have a few stories automatically sent to you or go to their site and pick something. You sent your comments back referencing the number assigned to the document. These stories ranged from short story size to over 10k monstrosities. When I first started, I was lucky to get that diamond in the rough story that I really thought had potential to be something. Most times, however, I wanted to gag.
Still, in a tactful and respectful way, I hope I helped these people in their quest for publication. I think it took me about six critiques, maybe less, to get a story in the queue. The more you did, the faster you got thrown in. Fair practice, I think.
The problem I had with the whole concept was this:
It’s email based and there is no effective way to toss in your comments because the story is in the body of the email. It’s all unformatted with no color variation so to differentiate your critique from the author’s verbage was difficult to say the least. Since it’s unformatted and sometimes has a whole bunch of “>>”before each line, printing it out to read it was a big waste of paper. I could literally hear lumberjacks cheering me every time I hit the ‘print’ button. I had to give it up. I didn’t want to search the site for something I enjoyed reading and the emails–Oh the emails!–really started making my skin crawl.
Don’t get me wrong. The critiques on the one piece I sent through their system were wonderful and a great benefit to the story. I probably have enough ‘credits’ to send something else through but I really don’t have anything of note to do that at this time.
Critters is a great system for those who like to be surprised at what they get to critique. Eclectic readers, if you will, like me. And just because you’re set up on the email program doesn’t mean you’re obligated to critique the stories you get. There’s always the website to pick something else. I also liked the site owner. They are very good at shouting out when you get a publication, and it’s a free critique service that takes donations to run. I highly suggest anyone that uses a site that runs on donations to give something, even if it’s only five dollars, to help it keep going.