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Friday, September 20, 2013

Getting Critiques: Scribophile!

I have posted so often lately about the woes of editing and the difficulty finding people to honestly critique your work that I know I'm repeating myself. Who do you trust? Where do you go?

As with most things, I ended up turning to the Grand High Most Ruler of the Interwebs!

The Googles.

A few clicks on Google links later and I stumbled onto Scribophile. If any or my readers are on this site already, go  ahead a favorite me. We can maybe trade reviews.

Scribophile is an online writing community where you can post works for critique and comment and critique and comment on the works of others. Now before you go getting all excited and rush off to post your entire 400 page Great American Novel and have other writers swarm to read and praise your work, take a deep breath and prepare to work for your readers.

And I do mean work.

After you join Scribophile, you are probably going to want to complete your profile and poke around the site, and you are definitely going to long to post some work for critiques, but you can't. Not yet. You have to earn the ability to post works by reviewing the works of others.

go go magic paint skills!
They do have a paid subscription service (I think it was $75 a year, not awful, but not something I'm interested in right now) that allows you to post more works for less points or gain points faster or something . . . I kind of stopped reading after the $75 part. Have I mentioned before that I am cheap? I marked that with a yellow arrow so you could see it.

Inside the pink oval are my current "karma points," a measly 1.32 (it takes 5 points to post a 3000 word chapter or excerpt) so I'm a ways from being able to post another piece. This section where you can view your points is also where you can go to edit your profile, look at the writing you've posted so far, or post another piece when you have gained enough points.

So since you have to read before you can share, let's go check out that page. On the top of whatever page you happen to be on, you will see a tab that says "writing." Click on that and you should get to the page pictured below:

These are the works that are currently in the spotlight. A spotlight piece is one that has either been recently posted and has not received its first three reviews or which the author has used premium services to put into the spotlight. It is worth more points to review a spotlight piece than a regular piece, so I would suggest starting with one if at all possible.

Now, if you remember me speaking about "genre bias" in a previous piece, you should know that this bites both ways. Look inside my red ellipse. You see that the first piece listed is "Novel, Paranormal, Young Adult."

When you post for your piece you have to select the form of writing it is (novel, short story, script, memoir, etc) and then you are allowed to pick two "genres" (I really wanted to pick three, but I'm difficult that way). As you can see, Robin Pletcher writes paranormal, young adult fiction (at least in this instance). If that is not your cup of tea, do not click on it and critique it saying, "I like it but all this paranormal stuff isn't my cup of tea. You should have less of it."

She  (he? I think that's a girl in the profile picture but you know about assuming. . .) is intentionally writing Paranormal Fiction. She wants critiques from people who like paranormal fiction. You are not her intended audience. Stay away. Your critique will not be helpful to her and will squander one of the three critiques she gets before her work leaves the spot light.

If you are extremely picky about your genre fiction, there is a browse by genre menu at the top of the screen. Go ahead and click on that, pick the genre you are interested in writing and reading about, and go for it. This will not only make sure that your critiques are useful to other authors but will put you in contact with writers who have the same tastes as you which will lead to them noticing your work and you getting better critiques when your turn comes.

They have pretty much every genre and groups devoted to Christian writers, erotica writers (Oh my! Adult content is supposed to be indicated, so if you are like me and don't like reading a lot of sex, violence, and f-bombs, take heart and  just watch out for the "adult content"  label), and even some gaming enthusiasts (green oval). You may have to sacrifice your "bonus points" if you can't find something spotlighted that is in your genre, but you are overall better off having to review a few more things you can give insightful input on than just reviewing one thing you don't really care for and being half-hearted about it.

Oh, and the blue arrow! You have to post your work 3000 words at a time, so most people do it in chapters. It can be difficult to judge a piece half way through, but don't be afraid to jump in to a critique midway through a book (especially if you can't find a "chapter one" you are interested in). They have chapter summaries and other tools to help you decipher what is going on. If you really like a piece, you might want to click on that author's writing and see if she has the earlier chapters up for review (usually they will have fallen out of the spotlight but there is a good chance they are still on her board. They will be worth reduced points, but the writer will probably appreciate you bringing up their neglected pieces for another look and if you are enjoying the piece, it can actually start to be an enjoyable experience, starting from the beginning).

I blurred out  names and faces because I didn't ask permission to use them.
 Remember two paragraphs ago when I said that reviewing authors with similar taste/styles will get you better critiques? That is because they get what you are trying to do. They are probably  fans of the same genre (authors can also post their favorite writers on their profile page which is a good thing to look at) and will hopefully understand where you are coming from.

The first two authors whose works I critiqued I'm going to call "Gray" and "Blue," both wrote me on my profile's "scratchpad" letting me know that they appreciated my critique and would be willing to review  my work in turn when it was posted. They both kept their promise and those are two of the three critiques I have received so far. They were also the most helpful of my critiques as the third person, I feel, didn't really get the character of the Dragon and wanted me to make him more sinister/suspicious. You have to choose who to listen to, and the writers that you have read and had positive input about are going to be the ones whose opinions you respect the most.

And you do have to pick and choose because your readers are not going to always agree. For example?

This reader did not like this description at all. 
The reader (Gray from above) went out her way to tell me that the exact same passage was "lovely."

Which am I going to agree with?

Well, I am already biased towards the positive review, but I have been reading Gray's work (it is honestly my favorite on the site so far. I'm about to tell her that if she does self-publish as she intends to I'll feature it on my blog etc), and I think her writing is more in line with what I like. That is why I'm more inclined to accept her negative along with her positive and that is why when she disagrees with reviewer 1 (who I have not had the time to look up yet to see what he writes), I'm more inclined to agree with her.

I finally got some useful feed back and words like "lovely description" are thrilling my little writer's heart. Also  the other writer, Blue, I mentioned posted this:

Yes, it is technically criticism but it is the very definition of CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. This I can use. This is something I can work with. Yes, it means I have work to do, but I know what that work will be and I'M EXCITED!

DID YOU HEAR ME? I'M CAPS LOCK LEVEL EXCITED! SEE ME SCREAM!

So in conclusion: Scribophile is a lot of work, but it is also very useful. I can't wait to earn more points and post more work!

Oh, a note, if you are really concerned about people being "mean" to your work, the site has a lot of guidelines against non-constructive or nasty reviewing. You are allowed to rate reviews to say whether they are constructive or not and flag reviews you feel are not helpful. Because of this, a person who is on this site just to be nasty would not last very long, so while you will have to be willing to stomach criticism, you should not have to deal with trolls who may lurk on less structured review sites.

EDIT: I just wanted to come back and add in the one major disadvantage I have found to a free account verses a paid account: you can only post two chapters up for critique at a time.

Now on one hand this is annoying. However, you can work around it. If you have already received enough critiques on a chapter to give you an idea of what needs to be done, simply print up the critiques (or copy/paste them into a file on your computer, write them down in a notebook, etc), and delete the chapter. You can post it again after you've done the suggested edit and get new feed back or you can post a later chapter in its place.

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5 comments:

  1. Your blog is so full of writing information it makes me so excited :)

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad you like it. I've had my blog bouncing between being a mommy blog, a homeschooling blog, a crocheting blog, and I think "writing blog" is where I would like my true niche to be.

      That said, if you decide to use scribophile, let me know and I'll favorite your profile so I can watch you post things.

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  2. That really is something to be grateful for. Like you said it's hard work but it seems as though it's work you love. Which makes it hard work worth doing - nothing comes for free after all.

    Good luck with your reviewing :)

    Thanks so much for linking up!

    Sarah @ A Cat-Like Curiosity

    ReplyDelete
  3. All the best with Scribophile! It's lots of hard work. P.S. Your title is missing the "r" in Scribophile. Thanks for linking on my blog! I can't wait to see your book that I won. Enjoy your weekend and the week ahead!

    ReplyDelete