Recently I experimented with two mutual feedback writing sites: Scribophile and Critique Circle. My main motivation was to receive feedback from other writers without having to pay for it, which is what you have to do on most publishing and competition sites.
The principles for each are similar i.e. critique a lot of other people’s work and you get to publish a little of your work for critique. I have no problem generally with that give-and-get model and not only did I get to read some great stories but I received many encouraging and helpful crits.
The down sides from my point of view (come on, you knew where this was going) include these:
- Critters (i.e. people who provide critiques) are from all skill levels and experience and range from never published to published. So it’s natural that crits will vary considerably in quality and usefulness.
- The systems for accumulating points (apart from being arcane and confusing) are built around a minimum length of critique of you want to add to your points tally. I imagine this was originally designed to discourage crits such as ‘I really liked this story. The end.’ and promote useful and helpful detailed feedback. However, especially for short story writers, this system has resulted in many instances of what’s known on Scrib as karma-farming i.e. providing crits full of pedantry and less than helpful opinions with the sole purpose of getting to the minimum of 125 words.
- Both sites are dominated by novel writers (including, I kid you not, one who is up to 600,000 words and growing) and the majority of these novels are sci-fi, fantasy, horror and dystopian nightmare stuff. So the feedback you will receive for traditional short stories that have something to do with the lives that most people lead will largely be from the limited numbers of members interested in that genre.
- These sites are not for the thin-skinned. Any feedback that questions the quality of your writing, even when put gently as most critters do, is challenging to accept. (‘How dare they attack my carefully raised and precious child!’) But when a critter uses a sledgehammer to drive a tack into what they see as a flaw it makes it that much more difficult to suck it up and consider that they may have a point. Even worse are the few that seem to take vicious delight in undermining your confidence. And don’t get me started on those who demanded that I write like an American and not use words or expressions they haven’t come across before.
- The moderators of these sites (as is common with many web entities) will not brook any suggestion that their rules and systems lack perfection and their apparatchiks will descend upon you from a great height to defend them.
- Finally, and the killer for me, both of these forums ended up consuming an enormous amount of time that I could have devoted to my own writing.
I’m particularly interested in your thoughts if:
a) You have also used these sites (or similar) at some stage and what your experience was of them.
b) You know of other sites that you’ve found more useful in getting good feedback on short stories.
However, anything else you might want to add to the discussion, fire away.