When some people think of getting their writing critiqued, the image of a group of like-minded people sitting in a circle and reading their work of fiction aloud tends to come to mind. In this day and age, where everything we do is based around social media and the internet, the idea of in person writer’s groups is starting to fade. They aren’t dying completely. There is still the option of in person critiquing or workshop groups, but there are a few downsides to that. Maybe you have to work or don’t have time to attend a meeting? Maybe the group decides to meet somewhere far and you can’t commute? Maybe the group is only into a certain genre?2016-02-15 10.52.58 (1)

That’s where online critiquing comes in handy. Online critiquing is a form of writing workshop that allows you upload your work onto a website and get feedback from other writers and editors.  I was introduced to online critiquing about four years ago by a fiction editor. After I had given her my manuscript to read, she suggested that I upload a few chapters to a critiquing site to see what readers would perceive about my plot, characters, and over all story arc.

It’s been a huge help. I uploaded a chapter one night after work and the next morning I had two critiques. They pointed out the confusing parts, the moments where the characters needed a bit more development, and their overall impression of my story. All of this, and I didn’t even have to leave home! With work, school, and other activities, time for meeting with a writers group isn’t always available. So whether its four in the afternoon or four in the morning you have the option to log on, post a chapter or two, log off, and come back at your convenience to check for a critique. Here are a few reasons why I think you should consider giving it a try.

  1. You can share any genre of fiction, non-fiction, or poetry. Some writer’s groups tend to limit themselves based on the people that are in them. This meaning that if most of the people in the workshop are critiquing each other’s fiction you probably won’t get much help with that poetry piece you’ve been working on. However, some critiquing sites don’t discriminate against any type of writing. Whatever you’re working on, from screen plays to non-fiction pieces, there’s someone in that genre on the site willing to be helpful and give you their best advice.
  2. Free perks along with your critiques. Aside from the fact that sites like this are completely free, you will be able to gain access to tons of advice on writing and publishing from experts. There are forums with discussions that can spark motivation and allow you to improve your writing and critiquing skills. Some sites also offer writing contests to its members.
  3. You don’t have to use your real name. When I first started out posting work on critiquing sites, I shied away from using my real name. For me, I was just starting out and didn’t like the idea of strangers reading my work. If I received an extra picky critique, like the lady who refused to read any more of my novel chapters until I put the whole thing in present tense, I didn’t connect the writing with myself but rather my pseudonym. You also have the option of controlling who sees your writing. If you like the feedback you get from certain users, you have the option to limit the viewing of your piece so that only those people will be able to read and critique it.
  4. Variety is the spice of life. As a writer, sharing your work is important. It not only helps you improve your writing skills but gives you a better idea of who your target audience really is. Online you don’t have to limit your critiques to the people in your workshop class or the members of your writers group. On any critiquing site there are probably thousands (maybe more) people uploading, reading, critiquing, and blogging everyday stretching from Canada all the way to UK.

I’ve tried out many critiquing sites, but I chose to share my top three favorites with you. These sites are free and offer lots of helpful advice whether you’re just starting to write or you’ve been writing for years.

  1. Scribophile.com. I’ve been using this site for nearly three years now. The entire idea of this site is based off of karma points. Meaning, in order to post your work, you have to critique the work of others. The site gives you different type of critiquing forms, inline or filling out a questionnaire. The amount of karma points you get is based off of how long your critique is. This ensures that the writer gets the most out of each critique. The site also offers a premium option that you can pay for which gives you more perks.
  2. CritiqueCircle.com works similarly to Scribophile in the ways of uploading your story. Instead of karma points, however, you get three credits when you first sign up. It takes 3 credits to upload a piece, and you receive one credit for every critique given. Therefore, you have to critique three times to upload another piece. Your critiques must be 150 words long. One of the many awesome perks of this site is that you get the option to write for their blog!
  3. Critters.org. This site works a lot differently than the first two. They used to only be a workshop for Sci-fi, horror, and fantasy writers but have since then expanded their site to accept all genres and forms of art. What you have to do is email a chapter of your novel or short story, it will be placed in queue with other writer’s work and once it gets to the top of the queue it will be posted on the site for others to critique it. Critiques have to be reasonably lengthy, and you can receive up to 20 of them at one time.

These aren’t the only sites out there. You have to get out, explore, and research which one sounds best to you. Critiquing sites offer tons of perks and each site is tailored with the author in mind. You don’t have to be an expert at writing or critiquing. These sites are helpful ways to get your writing out there, develop your skills, and help others like you do the same. Being a writer is sort of a lonely occupation, but that doesn’t mean you’re alone. We want to hear what you have to say, offer you reassurance, and show that we have your back.

-Sharnita Sanders

Jess for BlogPoems have existed much longer in formal structures than they have in the free-form structures that many modern poets favor. If your well of inspiration has run dry, or you’ve been struggling to revise a poem and it just isn’t working with a free-form structure, your choices are anything but limited. There many forms to choose from when it comes to poetry, but if you need a boost I challenge you to try any (or all!) of these four poetic forms.

  • Haiku

The haiku form is of ancient Japanese origin, and usually concerns some facet of nature or the sublime. Traditionally written in Japanese, the American approximation of the form is three lines, the first with 5 syllables, the second with 7 syllables, and the third with 5 syllables. Read more about haiku here. An example of a (translated) Japanese haiku is one by Masaoaka Shiki (found here):

“Consider me

As one who loved poetry

And persimmons.”

  • Sonnet

Sonnets can be difficult to revise due to their iambic pentameter and changing rhyme scheme, but are very rewarding to puzzle together. This website explains sonnets well, so you can try them yourself! Some of the best known sonnets include Shakespeare’s love sonnets. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 (found here) is a good example of an English (Shakespearean) rhyme scheme within a sonnet:

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.”

  •   Rhyming couplets

Rhyming couplets can be a lot of fun! They are simply a stanza of two lines which each end in the same type rhyme. You could even take the rhyming couplet from the end of your sonnet, and use it so spark a while new poem written in couplets. Robert Frost has a great example of a poem written in rhyming couplets. Here are the first five stanzas:

The Tuft of Flowers

“I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the levelled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been,—alone,

`As all must be,’ I said within my heart,
`Whether they work together or apart.'”

(Read the rest of “The Tuft of Flowers” here.)

  • Villanelle

Like the sonnet, the villanelle has a complex structure, involving repeating lines and rhymes. A villanelle has nineteen lines organized into five tercets and a quatrain. The repeating lines (refrains) will change position depending on which stanza they’re in, and the rhyme scheme will as well. This website explains the villanelle in more detail and the history of the form as well. Despite sounding very complicated, villanelles are quite fun. Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night” is a well known villanelle (also found here):

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

There are many more poetic forms to learn and to try, it doesn’t stop here. Formally structured poems can be a great way to break out of your normal writing routine. Some are simple and some are puzzles. Maybe one of these forms will speak to you and you’ll decide to submit your work. Our Submittable is always open and we’d love to see what you come up with. Happy writing!

– Jessica Born

It seems like a question with an easy enough answer, right? A writer is someone who writes. But for anyone who has actually ever seriously tried to make writing a large scale endeavor, they know that this question is triggered by even more intricate questions: When do I legitimize my writing? Is it when someone “big” recognizes my work, or perhaps when I’ve finally managed to get my stories published? How many books do I have to sell before my creations are relevant, and make me worthy of puffing myself up and saying, “Yes, I am a writer”?Camera 6-15

This is what I urge every aspiring writer to do in the face of uncertainty. Believe that you are.

Regardless of how many hours you’ve put into your work, how many people know your name, how many contests you’ve won, or any publishing deals you may have acquired, none of these guarantee the world will agree in unison, “Yes, you are a writer.” The harsh reality, especially in the world of media, is that your writing can reach millions, accrue waves of praise from your audience, and yet a handful of people can turn their noses up and discredit it in an instant. Truth is relative. What may be the novel of the century for one can easily be the most ludicrous promotion of garbage for another; and I would say both are correct, because that’s how they individually experienced that work.

You can’t weigh your own legitimacy upon the fickle feelings of your peers, and that is probably the quickest way to lose your determination to keep trudging on. I’ve learned –  after catching myself comparing my work to others, picking at my own form, word counts, and storylines – that trying to measure up to everyone else’s expectations can not only strip away the uniqueness of your stories, but strip away the joy that undoubtedly started you on this path in the first place. There is no magic number, word, or accolade that opens the gates of authenticity and brands you among those who can never be questioned. As creative people, we have to make peace with the fact that the only person who can legitimize us is ourselves.

Of course, you can’t simply say, “I’m a writer everybody!” and then proceed to do everything except write for months, or even years. You must stay in practice if you wish to see your work improve and take off places you’ve never even dreamed. But beating ourselves up for not writing 10,000 words a day (like the great Stephen King), or getting a manuscript rejected by every single agent we query to is essentially placing our worth in the hands of everyone but ourselves. Much of being a writer is finding that balance between living life and then coming back to the page to try to express life to someone else. It’s perfectly okay if those periods of living are longer than the periods of writing.

So are you a writer? Well, I don’t have all the answers for you, but I’m willing to bet that you do.

-Camera Martin