Friday, 10 May 2013

Scribophile Works.

Scribophile is a creative writing feedback site. You upload work. You offer reviews to others. They offer reviews to you. It's a format used by many sites, yet the majority I've dabbled in have been dire- lame reviews, inactive accounts, bad writing to begin with. I have been trying one site after another.

Scribophile is different. The writers are good at writing. They are fine reviewers. The system is fair and effective. Check out why.

When you sign up to the site, you can choose between Basic- a free account- or Premium, for $9 a month, allowing you to upload multiple pieces and with a guarantee of exposure to other writers on the site. I went for Basic.

Basic promises you the opportunity to upload 2 pieces of writing. This promise is fulfilled once you've dished out enough critiques to other writers.

After setting up an account, your next task is to review. As April was NaPoWriMo, I focussed on reviewing poetry. The poetry section was under “fiction”, which was a little confusing, but it appropriately filtered out the prose fiction and articles. I'll be referring to poems in this blog post as an example, but the same descriptions of the site could apply to fiction.

To pick out a piece to review, you can choose to search for newest writing, work with bonuses (more karma points, more on this later) or random writing (any format or genre). After this, you're shown a poem by another site member. When you decide to review this, you're offered 2 different forms through which to give feedback: a comment for general feedback (i.e. “I liked this”) or a critique for real feedback. At first, I wondered why anyone would bother with the former. We're using the site to improve our work and prepare it for publication, so who wants general nicey-nicey feedback?

It did occur to me, though, that sometimes critiquers might be starting out with writing and might not spot any errors in a piece of writing. We all need to find our feet somewhere, so this site might help those. Also, if a writer is particularly skilled, their poem or story might be too good for a lot of people to be critical about. So comments may work in these scenarios.

The site is versatile. When you start your critique, you're offered three different methods for giving feedback: Inline, Template or Freeform.

An Inline critique allows you to insert your own annotations into the text of the poem itself, to point out specific details. These appear highlighted to distinguish them from the original writing. This style is effective as you don't have to copy sections of the text to back up particular ideas or suggestions, and the reader doesn't have to wade back through their own text to check the specifics- the advice is placed right where it's best seen. I found this to be the easiest to write, and probably the most helpful to receive.

A Template review asks you to write suggestions in separate boxes that relate to plot, pacing, description, point of view, characters, dialogue, grammar and spelling and finally general comments. This is good for those starting out in the critiquing field. The prompts encourage you to check the work with a more detailed, investigative eye and indicate the kind of writing elements that a good critiquer should be aware of.

A Freeform review allows you to put your thoughts into a standard block of text. However, if you want to quote the original piece to draw attention to something, you may have trouble copying and pasting. I couldn't do this using Firefox's browser.

The more words you write in your review, the more “karma points” you receive. With enough points, you can post work and unlock critiques other writers have written for you.

After you've written a review, you can read other contributors' reviews of the same piece. These reviews come with “review” options themselves- you can click to mark them as “thorough”, “enlightening”, “encouraging” and “constructive”. There's also a “like” button and an opportunity to flag a “bad critique”. The amount of clicks you get on these reviews will increase your “reputation points”, indicating to other site members how much respect you've gained from the reviews you've given.

Before long, you'll be allowed to upload a piece of writing and your work will go into the Member Spotlight, which is basically the top section of the list of reviewable pieces. Reviewers will get full karma points for critiquing your work. You'll receive knowledgeable, helpful critiques quite quickly. It will leave the spotlight after receiving 3 long critiques. After uploading my first piece- something I've been sitting on for 2 years- I woke up with 18 notifications, a couple of reviews and LOADS of replies from The Writing Forum- a section for discussing the writing process, which I'd been contributing to.

Again, people in the Forum have good ideas, interesting questions and good discussion and debate. Reputation points are given and received in this section of the site too. I love the site's witty update notices. When you post in the discussions, the site will inform you to “hang in there” or will notify you that it is “reticulating splines” while it saves your message.

Also on the site is a Member Publication Showcase, a section for showing off published pieces of writing that had previously been critiqued on Scribophile. (You need to go Premium for this.) You'll also find tons of writing advice (from the Scribophile admins themselves and the best of the reviewers on the site) in the Writing Academy. This is a collection of free writing resources- advice on storytelling techniques, grammar and legal issues.

The only problem I had with the site related to responding to reviews. Other sites will let you comment on the reviews that you receive, so that the reviewer- and other site users- can engage in conversation under that specific review. On Urbis, a similar feedback site that stopped working a few years ago, all of this could be seen in the same place on the same screen. With Scribophile, you're asked to thank reviewers by going to their “scratchpad”- like a wall on Facebook, a place to leave messages for that person but are visible to all site users- to discuss the piece reviewed. I found this difficult as there's no instant hyperlink to the story / poem you're discussing.

Regardless, Scribophile seems like the site I've been searching for since Urbis' days came to a close. Join me on the site here. Let's help each other out.

1 comment:

Brandon Jones said...

Very useful insights offered here.

Many critiques of Scribophile restate the same things, but your comments gave some new information that I can use.

Many thanks.