Writing Workshop: Critique Circle

Critique Circle is a writing workshop site that uses a ‘credit' system to encourage users to write critiques in order to be able to post their work for critique. It is open to stories and novels of all genres and types, but with a focus on fiction rather than non-fiction.

Critique Circle can be used for free. I have paid for the subscription for this site before, and I did make a lot of use of it. There are a lot of interesting features in the paid subscription, including submission tracking, goal tools, and manuscript tracking tools. Mileage may vary, the site provides you what you might want to use, but it is up to you to make use of the tools provided.

Right now, I haven't been using it a lot, for a variety of reasons. Being busy is at the top of the list, and I tend to only have enough concentration to do one or two workshops at a time. I might return to using this site in the near future, as the submission tracking tools are very convenient.

Thanks to the nice folks over at Critique Circle, I have a second login just for the purpose of this walkthrough, so I don't have to give up any private information… like my normal username. So three cheers for customer service. Critique Circle typically only allows each user to have only one login, and they do a manual acceptance into the website, so they check for name matches and whatever other tools they use to catch trolls.

Now, getting started. Below is a screenshot of the landing page. Click Sign up (or fill in your login details) to access the site. When you sign up, anticipate up to a few hours for your login details to be sent to you. Unlike many sites this is a manual process. You must wait for someone who works for the site to process your log in. (I like this.)

Critique Circle Login screen

This is the information you will need to give the site in order to have your log in created.

Critique Circle Requird Information Sign Up Page

Time to log in. A potential problem with Critique Circle is the sheer amount of tools and features that this site has. It is a lot to learn. So, I'm going to try to break this down in such a way where you can start using the site immediately.

The critical aspect of this site is the Story Queues. Unlike many writing workshops, like Book Country, this site functions on one week cycles. Stories are put up in a queue for a week, where users critique what is available in the queue. If you are a non-paying member, you will need to do critiques before you can receive critiques. You earn credits for each critique that you do. New members start with two credits, and it requires three to post a critique.

This is an image of the basic home page. To the left hand side, you will see the main interface.

Critique Circle Logged In Screen

We will start with the Story Queue. It is located to the left hand side of the page in the links frame near the top. Basic members have a certain number of Queues. These are: The Newbie Queue, General, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Women's Lit (Chick Lit and Romance), Children's (Young Adult), Mystery (Including Suspense and Horror).

Here is an idea of how the Story Queue is laid out:

Story Queue Critique Circle

Now, it is time to critique a story. You will pick a story from one of the Queues. You can check the genre by looking at the genre column. You can also see how many critiques a story has gotten prior to starting to read. This lets you decide on helping a story that needs critiques more than others. Since each story (or chapter) has only one week in the queue, this lets users make sure everyone gets sufficient feedback on their stories.

In the past, I've gotten no fewer than 2 critiques on any specific chapter. The highest number I've received has been 11 on a short story.

To be blunt and honest, this is actually not a bad number of critiques. Due to how critiques are done in Critique Circle, it is easier to get higher quality critiques. The quantity isn't necessarily as important.

I am going to pick out a story at random from the Fantasy Genre in the Newbie Queue for purposes of critiquing. Yes, I am critiquing the story as I'm putting together this walkthrough, as I feel that this is the best way to show how the site functions.

Click the title of the story you wish to critique.

Selected Story Critique CircleAt the top, you can see the Author's requests for critique. In this case, the author makes a general comment. Something to note about the author request dialogue is that all content advisories will show there. So, if you want to avoid stories with graphic sex or violence, check the top for red text. This is where the advisories are located.

Many authors will request a certain type of critique. However, as the critic, you do have options on how you can leave a critique. You can just leave a comment at the bottom after you read, or you can follow the link at the bottom to leave a more thorough critique.

The inline critique function is one of the best features of this site, which makes it one of the easiest to critique in a useful fashion. Inline critiques are for those who are brave, don't mind grammar corrections, and want to make sure the reader is able to leave the best critique possible.

In order to leave a critique, you will need to read the story. Below the Reader's Comments text box, there will be a link. It will read: Click here to Critique this story.

This is what you see when you click the link.

Critique Options Critique Circle

Click on Inline Critique. You can choose two other critique types, but for the moment, we will discuss what I feel is the most useful type of critique that this site has to offer.

You will also see a star with “Author requests this critique type”. When in doubt, use the requested critique type.

If you don't know what you should put in the opening comments, click the Important Things to Consider link. It does open to a new window. This system does rely that you read the story prior to critiquing, especially as it allows for an opening commentary which should include data on things like dialogue, plot, and general feelings about the story.

Now, let's make use of the inline functionality of Critique Circle. Hover your mouse of the paragraphs. When you click the paragraph, it opens a pane. This lets you leave a comment ‘inline', which is excellent for line-editing commentary, as well as pointing out sections you thought worked well.

In Line Critique Critique Circle

In order to complete your critique, fill in both opening and closing comments, as well as thorough comments in the inline text. Once you are done, click view critique at the bottom. It will lead to this page:

Critique Circle - Completed Critique

This gives you a chance to review and to submit your review anonymously. You can also opt to have staff comment on your critiques if they think there are ways they can improve your critiquing skills. If you are learning how to critique, I would recommend taking advantage of this. It doesn't guarantee you that you will get feedback, but it gives you the chance to get feedback if they feel your critique could use improvement.

It has been a while since I've used the site, but I believe you will need to post two critiques of decent length and thought before you can submit a story of your own to be critiqued.

As I mentioned above, Critique Circle has let me temporarily have two accounts. My real account, and the one for the purposes of this critique. This is taken from my new account, which doesn't have sufficient credits to queue in. However, Critique Circle does allow you to prepare your piece for queuing even if you can post to the queue yet.

This is stage one of posting a critique.

Critique Circle Select Queue

In stage two of the critique, you will submit your piece for review. Critique Circle is best for pieces of roughly 3,000 words of length, or short stories. There is a novel system available for those who have a premium subscription.

Critique Circle submit story

Stage 3 is where you fill in your author notes.

Finally, you will confirm your options and submit. Paying members, by paying a 15 credit fee, can ensure their critiques come in the next critique period. Free members must queue for a spot in the critique cycles.

A few things worth mentioning here:

If you want to make the most of critique circle, you will want to aggressively critique in the period your story is in the queue. Garner favors from other readers of your genre. In order to make the most of a site like this, you need to use tit-for-tat. In other words, if you want to receive a lot of critiques, you need to give a lot of in-depth, thorough critiques. If you give a critique that does not have useful information for the writer, do not expect to get useful information for your story.

Not everyone will respond in kind and leave a critique for you, but the more aggressive you are about critiquing, especially in the week or two before your story makes it into the queue, the higher the chance that you will get the feedback that you need.

This is a basic for any writing workshop. If you want the best results, you really, really need to put in some elbow grease. Plus, you learn more about your writing just from the act of writing.

When you've finished submitting your story, you will go to a page which tells you roughly which week it will go up for critique. This is also the period of time you have to gather more credits, try to do tit-for-tat critiquing, and otherwise cool your heels.

At the original time of posting, I was a premium member of critique circle. I'm not anymore, so I can't show you some of the cooler tools, but I can show you some that are usable for all members.

Please note it takes anywhere from one to two days for a premium account to be activated. It can take shorter, but once again, it is a manual process. Payments are done through Paypal's subscription services. If you only want one month, make certain that you cancel the subscription after the payment is made. (To do this, you will need to log into your paypal, click details in your archive history to access the prepayment section. From there, you will click the name of the subscription you wish to cancel, then click cancel profile. This will stop any future payments. By default, your subscription is indefinite.)

Now, to the shiny screenshots showing some of these new tools.

The Notebook. Pretty self-explanatory, you can keep notes on the site relating to your writing, or whatever else you may want. You do not need to be a premium member to use the notebook.

Note Feature Critique Circle

Manuscript Progress Tracking. This tool lets you see how many pages a day you add to the story. You do not need to be a premium member to use this tool. This one is pretty simple — add a story, and record how many words per day you add to it. It's nice for anyone who likes tracking that sort of thing. No screenshot is really required for this one because it's that simple.

While I can't provide a screenshot of Submission Tracking Tool, it is one of the features well worth the money to have a subscription for the site. This tool is awesome. I've used it a few times, and it is really, really convenient. It might not be worth it if you hold a membership for Query Tracker, however.

There are a lot of features you get with the basic premium subscription, but I honestly found the submission tracker to be the one most worth the money — IF you can get into the habit of using it. I was using it for a while. If you submit to a lot of places, this tool will be SO worthwhile for you. You get personal queues, full manuscript critique options, you can lessen the impact of ads, and so on.

At the end of the day, you will have to decide if the tools were worth the cost of a trip to McDonalds or a Starbucks coffee.

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1 comment
TheMedi8or says December 26, 2013

I used to love this site. My writing improved immensely and the people I worked with were a lot of help. Then I got frustrated over a story and decided to take a break. I came back 4-6 months later and the entire feel of the place had changed.

Now, the number of crits you get is negligable. No one will do anything but go over grammar because people are terrified of mentioning that a story has a truck-sized plot hole. If you tell someone they have a plot problem you get nasty name-calling emails. Your forum submissions will get pulled if you disagree with the prevailent “ego-stroking” attitude. Offending people is not allowed and it’s IMPOSSIBLE not to offend someone.

I miss the old CC – the new one is useless if you want actual help with WRITING.

-tM

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