Posted by: mlawrencekey | August 11, 2011

Finding an online critique group

Today, I decided that I might be about ready to start shoving my baby birds out of the nest. That is, I’m ready to start sending my unpublished stories out into the wide, cold world again, hoping to find them good homes where readers might enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

I don’t expect to make much money doing this, but I do want to experience the thrill of acceptance and recognition that comes with being published in an actual magazine. I know I can do it, because I’ve done it before.

Naturally, I need to get them all out, dust them off (metaphorically speaking) and edit them. That’s where the title of this post comes in. I’m a decent editor, and I’ve got my wonderful wife, who is always willing to be my first reader. However, there comes a point where any author wants to have someone else read his or her work, someone who isn’t related to him or her, someone who will tell him or her with completely honesty what they think.

Enter the online writer’s critique group.

Several years ago, I was part of a group called the Writer’s Workshop at ChristianWriters.com. I really enjoyed the camaraderie of that online community and the feedback I got there for my writing. However, I eventually left the community for a couple of reasons. First, I felt that ideologically, it was a bit too constraining for the kinds of things I wanted to write. Second, even though I got some good feedback, it ultimately was from too small a pool of writers and wasn’t specific enough in some ways for my needs. The way the critique system was set up was too free-flowing and subjective, which meant that many critiques ended up being less than helpful.

Another group I joined a bit later was ReviewFuse.com. That one was much better, and its critique system was (and is) one of the best I’ve seen on the internet. In fact, the only real criticism I might have for them was that there were too few “serious” authors there in their ranks and the pool of available critics was too small. I still have a free membership with them and may eventually upgrade, but I’m holding back to see if they grow some more.

Today, I decided to give another online writer’s community I’d heard about before another try: Scribophile. This community works on a similar system to Review Fuse (and other groups) by giving you “points” according to how many reviews of others’ work you do, which you can then spend on uploading your own work for others to critique. Scribophile, however, has a much larger community than Review Fuse, so there’s a much larger pool of potential “serious” writers who have experience with writing at a level that is publishable by book and magazine publishers. Since I have the goal of being published on a regular basis in the larger royalty-based publishing world, these are the kinds of people I want reading and critiquing my work.

I’ve gotten really good feedback on my stories so far from the first two communities I mentioned. That feedback has been invaluable for keeping me encouraged and moving forward, as well as helping me improve what I’ve written. However, I think it’s time to take things to the next level, so to speak, and enter a larger pond.

Admittedly, it’s not quite as comfortable, but that’s fine. I need to get used to being the small fish, if I’m serious about wanting to be published in the larger “mainstream” publishing world.

Again, the point is not to be published, but to be read, to have my voice heard and recognized in a very large world. I’ll keep posting here on my experiences at Scribophile as I try it out.

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