A short while ago I mentioned I had joined a local writer’s group. This was really enjoyable as the stories and poems were surprisingly (how much of a snob am I?) good. However while I found reading my story aloud helped me to locate things that needed changing, what I really missed was feedback.
I began thinking about joining an online workshop. A couple of friends I went to uni with suggested Chuck Palahniuk’s (author of Fight Club and Choke) online workshop for cult writers which looks pretty good, plus there’s the writer’s workshop and the SFF online writing workshop (Science Fiction, fantasy and horror). I was only interested in the free ones though, so I joined Critique Circle. Honestly just look in google, there’s loads.
I was nervous at first, and unsure whether anyone would get around to looking at my story or if people were just posting theirs. However you can’t upload a story until you’ve gained enough credits by critiquing someone else’s. I chose a template for my comments to ensure I did it thoroughly, and picked a story from the ‘newbie list.’ The one I chose was over 4,000 words which apparently gives you double credits, so I uploaded my story. I also noticed that the homepage features a different writing excercise every day and encourages activity from members via polls and competitions.
I waited over a week but, as there are quite a few options going down the left side, I was unsure what to do next. I kept checking my message inbox thinking the critiques would appear on there. However today, after clicking on ‘my story’ (should have been obvious I suppose), I found there had been 8 critiques. I read through them, some being more detailed than others of course, but the different templates the site offers for critiquing allows most people to be quite in-depth about their suggestions. The process highlighted areas I hadn’t realised needed work and, despite the occasional differences of culture between UK and America (a letterbox is something we have on our doors, not the thing on a stick) it was very good.
Quite intimidatingly you grade them on the helpfulness of their critiques via multiple choice, but this is also probably good otherwise you’d just get hundreds of “I liked it it was nise.”
I’m always self-editing but it can only get you so far. You do need to be quite ruthless with your work which I’m sure you already know; if you have to read a sentence more than once it probably needs changing. It can’t beat having other people look at it though. We have such a clear idea of how things are in our minds that we sometimes don’t realise other people can’t quite see it.
So there we are, free doesn’t necessarily mean bad. I hope it was useful. Au revoir!