Every writer must seek honest feedback on their work if they want to improve. Period.
I see the same question posted all the time in various Facebook writing groups: Where can I find people to read/critique my writing?
Some may decide to hire professional editors, but this approach is cost prohibitive for most of us, especially in the early stages of our writing career. Luckily, there is a wonderful alternative called Scribophile.
It is an online writing community that has helped me tremendously over the past 2.5 years. As such, I wanted to share my experience and some of the reasons I recommend it so highly.
(In my post on 6 Must-Have Writing Tools, I purposely left this one out because I knew it warranted a full blog post of its own!)
The Administrators and Moderators are Awesome
All the forums (i.e., group discussions) are moderated and conversations are quickly shut down if they are not respectful. Every single comment has a “bad post” button that you can use to flag the comment for a moderator. The administrators strongly encourage users to help identify inappropriate posts. The Code of Conduct is taken very seriously on this site, which includes a strict policy against discussing religion or politics. This keeps heated discussions to a minimum.
Site is User Friendly
The whole site is intuitive to navigate. It’s very easy to find what you’re looking for, and where you should be posting certain types of questions. (This is a big problem for me on another forum I belong to.) Within the forums there are 6 categories, as seen in this screenshot:
It’s practically impossible to get lost in here.
This is just one example; the rest of the site is just as easy to use (updating user profile, tech support, etc.). Two thumbs way up for organization and easy learning curve.
The reason I originally gave Scribophile a chance is because it’s FREE. Not like a 30-day trial offer, but free for life. For those who are hesitant about trying something new, or who want to be sure they will enjoy it before plunking down cash, this is perfect for you. There is no fine print, no hidden fees or costs. It’s just free. How awesome is that??
I used the free version for a couple of months and decided the premium version was worth it to me. Some of the downsides of the free version are:
- having a limit of 10 for your private messages inbox;
- having a limit of 2 for the number of works you can post at a time;
- not being able to use bold/italics/underline in posted works;
- not being able to save drafts of critiques you write; and
- having longer wait times to receive critiques.
Another great perk (which I think is rare for most subscription-based services) is that the premium membership doesn’t renew automatically. They do not charge your credit card until you ask them to. You get a reminder that your premium membership is expiring, and that’s it. [EDIT: While annual payments do not automatically renew, I’m told that monthly payments do.] If you do let it expire, there is no harm done if you want to return to premium. You can let it expire for six months, and then pay the dues and pick up right where you left off. Win-win.
Karma System for Critiques
On Scribophile, you get out of it what you put in. In order to post a piece of your writing for feedback (max of 3,000 words), you need to spend 5 “karma points”. You earn karma points by critiquing others’ work. The more you write in a critique, the more points you earn. You can always choose what you want to read; nothing is forced on you.
I typically earn 1.5 to 2 points per critique, and each critique takes me between 1 and 2 hours to complete. That means it could take 5 hours of work to get feedback on one short story or chapter which sounds like a lot, but it’s so worth it. In return, I receive at least 6 critiques, which are always helpful. Also, I’m AMAZED how much I’ve learned by analysing the writing of others. When I don’t like something, I think of ways I can avoid the same issue in my own writing.
Contests and Community
Contests on Scribophile have prizes such as karma points, cash, and even publications in anthologies. These are a great way to put yourself under a deadline and see something to completion. This was key for me to get several short stories written, one of which was published this year. Without the Scribophile YA group contests, I never would have written it, and without the community helping me polish it, it never would have been published.
This is an amazingly supportive community of writers. Everyone is dedicated and willing to help. Will you get harsh criticism sometimes? Yes, absolutely. But it’s generally done in a respectful way, and that’s how you learn! You’re never going to improve by hearing only “great job”. I’ll take the criticism any day.
There are sub-groups for almost any writing-related interest you can think of: YA, blogging, first drafts, memoirs, social media tips, etc. These narrow the pool a little so you can find your “tribe” more easily.
I’ve made some great connections through Scribophile. So far, I have done 2 full beta reads, which means I read their entire manuscript and offered general feedback on the story as a whole (outside the karma system on a voluntary basis). Both writers have offered to return the favour if I ever need beta readers. Any aspiring novelist will tell you that these offers are invaluable.
I’m very grateful I found this little corner of the internet. I’ll be sticking around. 🙂
*Note: I have no affiliation with Scribophile.com. I have not received anything in exchange for this review, nor have I been asked to provide such a review.
Have you ever joined an online writing group? What was your experience?