Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: critique

An Online Writing Group that Looks Like It Could Work . . .

I’m not the kind of writer who works well with groups, though there’s no way I’d ever discourage others to take part in good Writing Groups.

Writing Group

Image courtesy of carl dwyer ~

My Best Friend, a writer in Australia, has been in a small and dedicated writing group for many years.

Others I’ve known have treasured the time they spend receiving critiques and sharing literary opinions.

So, I want to introduce you to what seems a very promising endeavor—Scribophile.

Here’s some info from their site:


“First, earn karma points by critiquing the work of others. Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to critique—we’ll show you how, and it’s easy, fun, and improves your own writing too!


“Next, spend your karma points to post your own work for review. Each work you post is guaranteed to get at least 3 long critiques, and you usually get a lot more!


“Improve your writing in our workshop with insightful critiques from other writers, with our professional writing blog, and by talking shop in our writing forums.

Make Friends

“Writing can be lonely. Lucky for you there are thousands of writers on Scribophile every day, and we’re a pretty friendly bunch. You’ve never seen a writing group like this one!

A little more about how it works…

“We’re a writing group that works on a karma point system. Members spend karma points to post their writing for feedback from the community. To earn karma points, members submit thoughtful critiques for the work of others. Everyone has to earn karma points before they can post!

“This system ensures that every work you post gets awesome critiques from other talented writers. Forget about sites that are popularity contests, get spammed with work that sits unviewed, and “reviews” that say nothing but “good job.” At our writing group every piece gets the full critiquing attention it deserves.

“Don’t feel like critiquing? That’s OK! Hang out in our busy writing forums to chat with other passionate writers, read our writing blog for tips and tricks, and meet and connect with writers from all over the world.

And there’s even more for writers…

“Keep your rights protected. You have full control over your writing. Only other members can read it.

“Get quality feedback, guaranteed. Every work posted is guaranteed at least 3 insightful critiques.

“Win cash in free writing contests. We give out hundreds in cash and prizes each month!

“Be part of a busy, vibrant community. We’re one of the largest and most active writing groups online.

“Everyone welcomed, from beginner to pro. Everyone’s here to learn, and we want to help!”

So, that’s what Scribophile is all about.

If you’re already a member or if you decide to join, do, please, leave a Comment, ok?

Naturally, any comments about writing groups, in general, are also very welcome :-)
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How Writers Handle Criticism

The roots of “criticism” are “able to make judgments” and “to separate, decide”. 

Authors Response to Criticism

Image courtesy of Trish Parisy ~

Many folks feel it means something more like “to lash severely with a whip”

Of course, there are critics who carry whips in their judging minds and love to use them.

So, should “good” criticism be easy to take?

Naturally, it all depends on the writer’s attitude

Two past posts on this blog covered various aspects of criticism:

How A Story’s Integrity Can Save It From Certain Criticisms

Facing Negative Criticism ~ Is Thinking Like An Artist The Same As Thinking Like A Normal Human?

A couple months ago, FlavorWire had an article most any writer could find valuable—11 Writers on How They Deal With Criticism—from which I’ll share a few excerpts [one from each of the eleven] (though, if you have problems with criticism, do go read the whole thing):

“I try really hard to consider the source before I let myself feel insulted or get defensive, but if it seems like a legitimate critique, I try to take it in and be informed by it. That’s often easier said than done, of course.”

– Sari Botton

“I’m the obsessive type. I’ll read every single review, every single email, every single rejection, every single damn Goodreads/Amazon review. I’ll read between the lines, looking for something that’s probably not there. I’ll take it personal.”

– Michael Seidlinger

“I remember being desperate for tough criticism of my work.  I felt like if no one had any real criticism, that meant it was such a mess that they weren’t engaged enough to say anything.”

– Jacinda Townsend

“I don’t know that I do bounce back from negative criticism. I absorb it and move on.”

– Cari Luna

“In large part, I deal with negative criticism (and positive criticism, which isn’t all that helpful either) by ignoring it.”

– Matthew Specktor

“For me it’s important to acknowledge the inevitability of negative criticism. If I continue to write and to publish, it is going to happen.”

– Laura van den Berg

“First of all, you have no choice but to bounce back. What else can you do? You are in an audience-based industry. To think everyone will love you or your work or try to go for that is a really delusional empty enterprise.”

– Porochista Khakpour

“…often times a critic’s gripes are actually the things you like about your writing.”

– Kevin Sampsell

“Tell myself that it’s just one opinion and might be right but also might be wrong or somewhere in between.”

– Caryn Rose

“If you don’t have something new to work on, criticism of older things just spirals blackly.”

– Gideon Lewis Kraus

“Remembering that I exist in a big world in which the majority of people do not read negative criticisms of me, and might not even know what I do for a living, is freeing.”

– Jen Doll

So, one criticism of those excerpts that I can give myself is that they are epigrammatic and don’t necessarily convey the full attitude of each writer

You might want to read the whole thing and come back here and leave your own criticisms in the comments :-)

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Critique Is Not A Bad Word

Many people see the word “critique” and seem to secretly replace it in their mind with “criticism”.

When I look in my dictionary, I find this for “criticism”: “Disapproval expressed by pointing out faults or shortcomings”.

And, I find this for “critique”: “A serious examination and judgment of something”.

When I look in my Etymology Dictionary (showing the root meanings of words), I find both words coming from the word “crisis” which also gets a bad rap in common usage. Crisis actually means “to separate, decide, judge”.

Oh, yeah, our attitudes regularly warp words’ meanings. Criticism and critique are both instances of dealing with a crisis. Kinda hard to shake the bad vibes off that word “crisis”, eh?

Authors regularly deal with crises, regularly face criticism, regularly seek critique

I found a post on The Stenhouse Blog featuring Kate Messner, a teacher and author who said, “…I find myself on all sides of the critique fence—giving critiques myself, teaching kids how to critique one another’s work, and receiving constructive critiques from my writing group members and my editors.”

She goes on to reveal a letter from her editor with annotations explaining how the act of separating, deciding, and judging helped her in writing The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.

Whether your a teacher, writer, manager, parent, or social media participant, I feel you’ll get some wonderful perspectives on the critique process by reading the full post: How to critique writing.

Kate closes the delightfully warm analysis of her editor’s critique with this: “Remember, real revision takes time, and it can be messy, but the results are well worth the long trail of marked-up manuscripts and sticky notes they leave behind!”
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What Kind of Feedback Do Writers Need? What Helps Them Most?

Our last post had me offering to put your name and Bio and web link in a Special Listing in my forthcoming book.

All it takes is getting the free copy of Notes from An Alien and giving some feedback.

I need to quote part of C. M. Marcum’s comment on that post:

“But we’re such good friends now. Why spoil it?

“No, seriously, I have run the gauntlet of writing sites and I have found the relationships to be dreadfully one-sided.”

I think part of that one-sidedness is folks not knowing what writers really need when it comes to feedback. Though, I think C. M. knows exactly what kind of feedback to give, even if it’s not appreciated :-)

People who give feedback on a WIP [work-in-progress] are sometimes called “beta readers”.

I’ve even known writers who only let beta readers have their WIP if they follow a prepared outline of what questions to answer about the piece.

Personally, the very worst form of feedback is, “Great job!”, and its many variants.

If they meant those words, fine, but what was “great” about it? And, if they didn’t mean it and were thinking they “protected” my feelings, the faux-comment is actually an attack against honesty and fairness. “This sucks!”, is much more welcome…

There’s an interesting discussion about what writers want and need in feedback at the Absolute Write Water Cooler.

One of the most interesting comments was: “Beta readers should be used to critique story effectiveness.”

Exactly! What effect does the writing have on you? What did it make you think? What did it make you feel? What was your response to various characters? Was the storyline understandable? Where did the piece disappoint you? Why did it disappoint you?

Another person in that forum thread said: “…’train’ your beta readers to read with a pencil in hand. Have them mark any section, phrase or word that pops them out of the story, even if they have no idea why it did. Sometimes that’s all you need to see a problem.”

Now that is some excellent advice :-)

I’ll end this post with some quotes about feedback and critiquing:

“A guest sees more in an hour than the host in a year.”
~ Polish proverb

“Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.”
~ Christopher Hampton

“Constant, indiscriminate approval devalues because it is so predictable.”
~ Kit Reed

“Don’t judge any man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.”
~ American Indian saying

“It is easy – terribly easy – to shake a man’s faith in himself. To take advantage of that, to break a man’s spirit is devil’s work.”
~ George Bernard Shaw

“He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.”
~ Abraham Lincoln

“When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself.”
~ Oscar Wilde

“Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee; rebuke a wise man and he will love thee.”
~ The Bible

“To escape criticism – do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”
~ Elbert Hubbard

Please, leave your feedback and criticism in the comments :-)
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