Empower Your Skill: Online Community with Big Heart

Looking for a critique group, but can’t find one in your area? Try Critters Workshop. I found them online several years ago and became enamored of the concept.

Critters is an online critiquing community wherein writers submit their own works (mostly short stories or short segments of longer projects) for critique by other writers. Members range in skill and experience from “ultra-beginner to multi-novel pro,” according to the website, with ranks several thousand strong.

The site’s Workshops span a range of genres from Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror to Romance to Mystery to Literary Fiction and a plethora of others. It’s a give-and-take community that works like this. Members are allowed to submit their own work (one at a time, please) for critique by other members. In turn, they agree to critique submissions sent by other members on something of a schedule. Every critique (over a certain word count) earns credits for the critiquing member. Their own submissions subtract credits from a members account. Think of it like a bank account. Critiques are deposits of earned credits. Submissions are debits against your balance.

Stories and other submissions are added to the queue by the Critters Captain, Dr. Andrew Burt, who manages the flow and ensures everyone is playing nicely. Each week, new submissions are uploaded to the members-only area of the site, where members may peruse the offerings and select the story they wish to critique. Alternatively, The Captain can e-mail each member a selection of preferred genres for their chosen workshop.

Critiques may be submitted either online or via e-mail to the Captain. When a member’s submission receives feedback, the Critter Captain ensures all critiques for that piece are delivered promptly and accurately. According to the site, much of the process is automated, which is good for the Captain, since there’s a lot going on here at any given time.

Though Critters Workshop does accept donations and is, in fact, supported by them, membership in the workshops is free. Members do, however, have to participate on a regular basis; those who don’t are placed on an “Inactive” list until such time as they catch up. There is some leeway (like for vacations or sick days), and for critiquing longer works like novels, with which members earn more credits than is the norm (1 credit per 5,000 words, I believe).

Still, it’s a considerable commitment. The site recommends that members aim to submit one critique per week, which is why I didn’t join before now. I was concerned I wouldn’t have adequate time to honor that promise. Today, however, I finally joined. The process took me several hours to navigate. There is a lot to read and review. Between the FAQ, the community etiquette, the guidelines and the suggestions on how to offer a friendly critique, as well as just trying to navigate the site itself, I’d recommend giving yourself an entire afternoon to be safe. (Your mileage may vary. If you’re a real techie, it may not take as long for you.) Once I got a feel for how to proceed, I downloaded a story, read it through twice, and wrote an in-depth critique. That bit took maybe 90 minutes for a 2500 word story.

I haven’t submitted anything of my own yet. I want to get more familiar with the process first, but I expect to gain a lot from this membership. A friend told me years ago that if you always stay inside your comfort zone, doing things you already know how to do, you never grow. You never evolve. He was talking about chess, but it applies here, too. The critique process is as helpful to the critique-er as it is to the critique-ee. Critters Workshop is an opportunity to grow and enhance your art on a weekly basis.

(NOTE: If my blog post seems less polished than usual, please bear with me. The area where I live was just put under a mandatory evacuation order by the Governor of Virginia for the approaching Hurricane Florence, so we’re a little distracted at the moment.)

Top photo by Christina Morillo
Bottom photo by Bruce Mars
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