Writing is an art form.
(That may sound pretentious, but I’m setting up an analogy here, so roll with it.)
Storytelling should be evocative, on some emotional level, whether that emotion be excitement, empathy, poignancy or panic. Its value is in how it makes you feel.
But, like all art forms, storytelling requires two things: creativity and skill. You can be the greatest wordsmith in the world, but without emotional content, you’re just writing a thesis.
In the same breath, you can have the greatest story stewing in your brain, but without the means to convey it, that’s where it should stay.
“But writing is subjective!” my readers cry (in my mind). Well, yes and no. Some writing is just plain bad. You need to learn the craft. Painters learn how to paint; musicians learn to play music; actors study acting – and writers gotta write.
It doesn’t hurt to have a little help on the way.
I discovered Scribophile two weeks ago, when a fellow writing blogger (Alexandria Sturtz –go check her out) found my post Calling for Critique and pointed me in its direction. I was initially unenthused: Another social media platform – what joy.
But Scribophile is more than that; first and foremost, it’s a critique exchange.
How it works
Each critique you give earns you “Karma” points, which can be spent on posting your own work to the forum. There’s a constant cycle of incentive to keep people critiquing, and to reward discussion. There are also bonuses one can give as thanks, marking people’s comments as Thorough, Enlightening, Encouraging or Constructive. It therefore pays to critique well.
Your profile page shows your stats, with an overall total (and associated label) to convey at a glance your experience on the site. Turns out, I’m rather funnier than I am insightful, with practically nothing to teach anyone.
It’s a freaking time sink though. I’ve written 30 critiques in two weeks, on flash fiction, short stories, novel chapters and query letters. This has enabled me to post three stories, in seven parts (each piece mustn’t exceed 3,000 words) resulting in the pleasingly karma-neutral stats below:
Yes, I’ve written almost 15,000 words of critique in two weeks, all of which, I am acutely aware, are words that aren’t going into my novel, or my blog, or my short fiction. That’s a lot of work.
Is it worth the effort?
So far, with these stories up, I’ve received 30 critiques in return, which is more coincidence than one-for-one trades. Some people I’ve critiqued are yet to return the favour, while some critiques I’ve received have come from people without work to read, or they’ve given notes on two of my stories but they only have one posted for people to assess.
Is it good critique? Well, it’s a mixed bag – mostly of yumbo Fruit Salads and Gobstoppers and Refreshers. But there’s the odd bitter liquorice hidden among them, or wafer-thin sherbet saucers. (#ANALOGY)
But yes, overall, people pick up on things that would have otherwise gone completely unnoticed. I’m particularly bad with my filter words and over-use of the verb “to be” in all its mundane conjugations. Not to mention the odd malapropism, including one in the first sentence of one of the stories – yikes.
It’s great. Though, I will say, waking up in the morning to find your creative work ripped to shreds by a stranger can be a little disheartening first thing in the morning, but there’s just as much chance you’ll receive compliments, constructive criticism and encouragement.
The quality of writers on the site is varied and ranges from experimenting novices to published professionals, which means you get to play both the guru and the greenhorn.
And the community element is great – the forums are active and lively; the Academy pieces are informative, and their authors forthcoming; and there are writing competitions to get people motivated and practicing. It really is a useful site.
It’s rather limited if you don’t pay the subscription, though. You can only have two pieces of work posted at a time if you use the site for free, and only 10 messages in your inbox. But the comments I was receiving on my first story were so useful, I knew I wanted to dive right in.
So, to any of my readers who are already there: look me up! (I’m right here!) To you guys wondering if it’s worth a punt – join it, and THEN look me up. We can critique the living bejeezus out of each other.
You’ll love it.
(I’ve also joined a blogging reader site, which you can use to follow my posts and a multitude of others by clicking this handy link: Follow my blog with Bloglovin )