After author JH Mae commented on my post “Critique Groups for Self Editing,” I asked her to share her thoughts about Scribophile, the online critique group she uses. JH was gracious enough to not only write a great guest post, but she also arranged for a special giveaway from its founder, Alex Cabal. Without further ado, here’s JH:
No man is an island, especially not writers.
If you’re like me, you live in a far-off rural place with few opportunities for in-person critique groups. But luckily, we have something called the Internet, so there’s no excuse for not joining one online. And if you’re going to pick any critique group, I would have to throw my endorsement behind Scribophile, which I credit almost entirely with improving my fiction writing. Seriously.
Scribophile is the brainchild of Alex Cabal, who birthed the idea for the site in college while the “web 2.0” movement was still experiencing its growing pains. Not long after college, Cabal leashed the new site on the world after a couple years of development.
Today, Scribophile is the behemoth of online writing groups. Cabal says the site is almost at the 200,000th mark for critiques. On an average day, over 110,000 words of critique are shared on the site.
That’s a lot of invaluable advice. And that’s what writers need.
“Scribophile is based on the idea that authors need real, insightful, and actionable feedback on their writing,” he says. Too many sites offer little beyond a polite “nice job,” and we all know how useless that feedback is if we want to improve our craft.
When I first got back into short fiction writing, my first goal was to become a better at it. And what I wanted was real, unbiased notes on my work. I also wanted to know if my belief that I had any talent was founded or was a complete delusion.
I tried a couple other sites—which seemed sophomoric and unprofessional—but was drawn to Scribophile by its playful humor, large community of writers, and altruistic, give-and-take system of critiquing.
In a nutshell, the site works thus: To post a work for critique, you must first critique others. The longer your critique, the more “karma” points you receive, and when you’ve earned five, you can post your own work and wait for it to enter a “spotlight.” Works highlighted here earn more karma points for critiquers. It’s a great system.
I could go on for a while about how much my fellow Scrib members have helped me become a better writer. Sharing my work has put the limelight on my flaws (passive voice, poor verb choice, over-stating, weak characters, lack of tension) and helped me fix them. The result—better stories!
A critique group will also help you develop a thick skin and the grace to accept criticism. Because not all of your stories will receive rave reviews—you will be told at one point that your story is just not good. And we all need to hear that every once in a while.
As for Cabal, he has this to say about the merits of critique groups:
A trusted critique group is one of the most important tools a developing writer has in their toolbox. Writing is just as much a craft as it is an art—there are techniques and rules to writing that are just as important as the intrinsic artistic-ness of the work. Having both peers and trusted, skilled advisers to guide you as you develop your work greatly increases the chances that you’ll be able to successfully market it to an agent, publisher, or your own audience if self-publishing.”
JH Mae is a lifelong writer and former reporter, rediscovering the world of short fiction. Visit her blog at By, JHMae to learn more and read her work.
Thanks so much to JH Mae for sharing this great info about Scribophile with us. Remember I said she’d arranged a special gift? The first two readers of this post who email JH at email@example.com will receive a free Premium upgrade on the Scribophile site for one year (a value of $65 apiece). If you are one of those two lucky readers, you’ll need to give her the Scrib pen name you pick get the deal. And be sure you check out her great blog here while you’re at it!