I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m a member of Scribophile.com. I’d like to tell you all about it and how it’s helped me. Nearly a year ago, I was considering getting back into writing, and I fished out some chapters of a couple of novels I’d attempted to start a few years previously. Up until then, I’d had major problems finishing a project. Or even getting a decent way into it, if I’m honest.
My problem was, that when I read back over what I’d written, it sounded immature and shallow. I wasn’t able to put down on paper what was in my head and have it come out sounding like a real book. So I decided to have a look around on the internet for a writing group, with the idea of getting some people to comment on my work and maybe tell me how, or if, I could improve.
I did a lot of browsing around various free sites, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with the quality of critique I found. I then also became aware that posting material on the internet uses up what are called ‘first publishing rights’. This means that if you post something on a public website, even just for review, a traditional publisher would consider this work to have already been published, thus lowering it’s value and the likelihood of them being interested in it.
In terms of paid sites, Scribophile seemed to have the most positive reviews. Plus, it has both free and premium membership options, so it’s possible to “try before you buy”. I joined up with a free membership to start with.
How Scribophile works
Scribophile works around a give and take system. You critique other people’s writing to obtain an internal currency called “karma”. To post your own work on the site for critique, you have to spend karma points. So it’s impossible to get anything out of the system unless you put some work into it. This means that it’s not really a site for people who are hoping to get a full critique of their novel in a couple of weeks. It’s a site that revolves around forming relationships, networking and taking your time learning to provide valuable feedback on the works of others, in order to receive the same yourself.
You may think that there’s no point joining a site where you have to critique others members work, when you have never critiqued anyone before. This is not true. Every reader can offer valuable critiques, and the site has numerous resources and some groups that are designed to ease people into the critiquing process. You can also read critiques which other people have done, as well as those you are given. It all adds up to a valuable learning process.
The difference between free and premium membership
- You can post a maximum of two works for critique
- You can store a limited number of private messages (the internal “email” system)
- Full access to all forums, groups and articles
- You can post and store an unlimited number of works for critique
- You can store unlimited private messages
- Advanced formatting controls on works
- No adverts
- You can save the critiques you do to finish off later
I had free membership for about three weeks before I decided I wanted to get premium. You can buy premium membership on a monthly or yearly basis. I took out two single months, before deciding I was going to stick with the site and going for annual membership. The cost is $65 for a year or $9 a month. And worth every penny.
There is a huge community of writers on Scribophile from all over the world. I’d say the majority are from the US but I’ve met people from many other countries. There are certain differences between my writing as a Brit, and those from the US, but the technical differences don’t cause any particular problem and the cultural differences are no barrier. There is, however, very little writing that isn’t in English, although I believe the odd non-English group does exist.
The Scribophile forums are extremely well moderated. Spam is minimal. A ban on the discussion of religion and politics can seem heavy-handed at times, but certainly leads to a pleasanter environment for all.
I’ve made many friends and met lots of great people on Scribophile. I’ve had excellent feedback as I wrote the first and second drafts of my novel, and to be quite honest, I’d never have got that far without it. It’s a lot more motivating when people are keen to both read your work and help you improve it.
So, in the end, I never tried another online writing site because Scribophile offered all I wanted. Is it perfect? No. I could quibble about some of the small annoyances on the site, but to be honest, they are petty niggles rather than major problems. I would wholeheartedly recommend joining Scribophile for any aspiring or published writer who wants to get great feedback and improve their skills.