Last week I discussed the benefits and risks of joining a local in-person critique group. Today’s post will examine the advantages and disadvantage of online critique communities.
To illustrate how an online critique groups works, I will use Scribophile, one of the bigger online critiquing platforms. Many of Scribophile’s operating principles apply to other critique groups as well.
First of all, how does Scribophile work? It is point-based, where you earn ‘Karma’ points for your critique of other people’s work and you spend points to upload a piece of your own work to receive reviews.
On average a critique will earn you about 1.25 points and it takes 5 points to upload a piece of work. Meaning for each work you upload you’ll need to critique 3-4 writings, but you’ll also receive 3 critiques from different people in return.
A piece of work can be up to 3,000 words. It can be a short story, part of a novella or a chapter of a novel.
It takes on average about a week from uploading your work to three people critiquing it.
Now that we’ve examined the operating principles let’s have a look at the benefits and the drawbacks of an online critique system.
Speed. You can have a whole novel critiqued way faster in an online group than in a local group. There is no limit to how many chapters you upload as long as you have points. If you are willing to invest lots of time critiquing other people’s work, you’ll be able to quickly upload your writing.
Time commitment. The time commitment is minimal. You don’t have to drive anywhere. You can log onto your online community anytime or anywhere you want and critique as few or many pieces of work as fits your schedule. Platforms like Scribophile make it easy to critique other’s works providing inline critiques. You don’t even have to download anything.
Wide demographics. You might find that your local group only has members, who are 60+ or has no Thriller writers. Since communities like Scribophile have thousands of users, it will be easy for you to find writers in your genre and readers, who are your target audience.
Quality. You might find that the quality of the critiques you receive is lower. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, someone eager to upload their own work might try to critique as many works as possible in a short amount of time to earn the required points. Secondly, there is more accountability when you have to read your critique out loud to a person’s face than critique someone’s work online.
Consistency. Platforms like Scribophile invite all writers to join, from novices to almost pros. This means that while three experienced writers critique chapter 2, three novices might critique chapter 6. Seasoned writers will spot many more mistakes than novices and thus you might find that some of your chapters received better and more in-depth advice than others.
Lack of feedback regarding overall story development. Anyone who is part of the online platform can critique your work. The person that critiques chapter 4 is not required to read previous or next chapters. Thus, many of your readers will never see your whole story and will only be able to focus on the writing style and tension building in a particular chapter. They won’t be able to rate your overall pacing, character and story arc development. Furthermore, they might get confused and not understand certain aspects of your story.
To summarize there are many benefits to joining an online critique platform, including fast turn around speed, minimal time commitment and connecting with a wide demographic. The drawbacks include lack of quality control, inconsistent feedback and no feedback on overall book development.