This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a long time.
I’ve been a member of many writing communities in the past, but found that most of them seem to be lacking. They were little more than a venue for people to come together and talk about writing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you’re looking for something more, for something that will actually encourage and help you to keep improving your writing, find that kind of community can be tough.
The biggest challenge is looking for critiquers. Many writers post their work looking for reviews, but there are always five of these types of posts for every one who is actually willing to review. And out of those five there are perhaps two posters who are looking for a rubber stamp more than an actual review, so you can’t be honest about your critique without ruffling some feathers.
This is where CritiqueCircle is all but perfect. They have a system in place that ensures those looking for critiques have to give some in return. When I joined the site in 2008, I had 2 credits toward the ability to post my own story in the queue for reviewers to read. Because submitting a story costs 3 credits and the only way to gain more credits is to review others’ stories (you can’t buy them with real money), the system encouraged (or forced) a culture in which members made sure to give as much as they got, even before expecting any feedback.
Along with the queues CC has a message board. The forums vary in purpose from research (How do police procedures differ in New Zealand?) to character interviews (I’m a half-dwarf princess ignorant of my true heritage and laughably shorter than the rest of my family. Ask me anything!) to publishing support systems (My short story got rejected for the umpteenth time!) to plain old procrastination (Look at this crazy cat video!) The community on the board is small, at least within individual forums, and you’re bound to find familiar faces after a while. This doesn’t seem to take away from the community, but instead makes it stronger. If you’re at all like me, you’ll find it easier to open up about your writing and the issues therein with people with whom you’ve established some degree of comfort.
Many of the members go beyond writing as a hobby and actively work to get their work published in the future. Many of them have had books published already (traditionally and self published.) They have active blogs and active websites, and put as much effort into social media as they do in their own work. This community is actually the reason why I have a blog and twitter account now.
Another thing that I love about this site is the lack of infighting. I’m attracted to internet drama to some degree, and find it entertaining. But there’s a time and place for everything. In the years that I’ve been a member I have seen very little drama. Nobody’s there to pick fights, they’re there to help each other.
One word of caution regarding seeking critiques on this site: You will actually get them. You’ll get wordy, honest critiques about what works in your story and what doesn’t. Your story will be ripped apart and you’ll be told how to put it back together. If you aren’t ready for that kind of feedback, I do not recommend submitting your work. There is a way to grade the critiques on the site, so you can help to weed out the ones who are being genuinely destructive.
This is also not the community for those who wish to post and run. You will be expected to contribute to the site’s community and culture, and take your own work seriously enough to improve it.
Bottom line, CritiqueCircle is a wonderful website for those who are looking to improve upon their writing and make connections with fellow writers. If you’ve been looking for feedback and can’t seem to get it on other sites, this is the place to go. You’re guaranteed to have your work critiqued and have the feedback be thoughtful, serious, and constructive.