Where to Get a Writing Critique

By Maeve Maddox

From time to time, I receive emails from writers, asking me to critique attached poems or short stories.

In the early days, I would send a polite reply, explaining that I hadn’t time to critique their work. Now I simply delete the email and attachments and get back to my own writing. The DWT Contact page states the policy that our writers don’t answer questions via email.

Critiquing a manuscript of any length is time-consuming. Time is the most precious possession of a working writer. Asking another writer, especially one with whom you have no personal acquaintance, for a free critique is the equivalent of asking a stranger for a gift costing anywhere from $300 up. I have arrived at this figure by browsing the sites of professional critiquing services.

Rates are based on word-count, number of pages, or some combination of the two.

One service that specializes in science fiction, fantasy, and horror charges $300 for the first 20,000 words and $15 per every 1,000 words thereafter.

Another service offers a flat rate of $260 for the first 50 pages, but applies a per-page rate thereafter. A manuscript of 100-199 pages is priced at $6 per page; from 100-199 pages, $4 per page. A manuscript of 200 pages is priced at $3.75 per page.

Paid critiquing is neither a practical nor sensible solution for the beginning writer. Such services are for writers who have already done everything they can to improve their drafts with whatever help is available to them without an outlay of cash.

On the other hand, writers need the feedback of other writers. What’s the solution? Where can beginners find suitable readers for their early drafts without an outlay of cash?

First, they must be willing to critique the work of others in exchange for critiques of their own writing.

Ideally, they will find another writer or writers in their own vicinity. For example, I belong to a writer’s critique group whose members live within a radius of about thirty miles. We meet weekly, varying the meeting place so that no one has to drive the farthest distance every week.

Not every group is a good fit for every writer. In approaching an established group, writers need to evaluate the writing level and interests of the members. Some groups specialize in different genres. Not every group critiques poetry or illustrated children’s books. Not every group is made up of beginners. A group of published writers may not be the best choice for an unpublished writer who is still struggling with basics.

A good place to find kindred writing spirits is your local public library. Browse the bulletin board. Ask the reference librarians if they know of authors in the area.

Writers who can’t find other writers locally can look for critique partners on the Web. Here is a starter list of five sites that offer help in finding a partner:

Kingdom Writers
An email critique and fellowship group for Christian writers.

Ladies Who Critique
Ladies Who Critique is a critique partner-matching site for writers of all levels – “published, unpublished, aspiring, hobbyists, even closet writers or complete newbies!”

Nathan Bransford
This free writing forum offers a thread devoted to connecting with a critique partner.

Poetry-Free-For-All
This site boasts 23,000 members “of all skill levels” and is described as “a non-stop online poetry workshop for beginners and experts alike.” Participants must agree to offer at least three critiques of others’ work for each poem submitted.

Quantum Muse
This site is for writers of “science fiction, fantasy and alternative writing and artwork.” It offers the opportunity of publication. Membership is free, but participants must complete three critiques of the work of others before receiving permission to submit.

Scribophile
This free site is for writers of all skill levels. Members exchange detailed critiques. Reciprocity is a must.

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8 Responses to “Where to Get a Writing Critique”

  • Lauren Ruiz

    As an editor, previous clients have asked me for what amounts to a free critique. In those cases, I’ve pointed them to Scribophile (last on your list). I’ve gotten useful critiques on my own writing there. Sometimes one really isn’t ready to pay for more, not when they are just exercising their writing muscles.

    I do offer professional critiques now, and people who really want to take their ideas further have used that service and been grateful for the feedback; they’ve been happy to pay for an editor’s thoughts on writing projects they consider important.

    Spot-on post. 🙂

  • Lauren Ruiz

    As an editor, I have had**

    I was making lunch when this sentence started floating around in my head! Haha.

    Oops. Editors need editors too.

  • Curtis Manges

    I’ve been in about five online critique groups. One (my old favorite, the Yahoo Critical Writing Group) has gone pretty much dormant, but you could try it. Another was closed by the publishing company that had operated it; LegendFire isn’t much use because they have no requirement for critiques, and I just recently quit Scribophile because I just didn’t like the way they were set up.

    The only one I’m active in now is critique.org. They make you post in plain text only and they mutilate your paragraphs, but I’ve gotten the most useful critiques there since the Yahoo group went to sleep. The participants seem to be mostly mature and their commentary is insightful. You can stay current with about one crit per week.

    I may consider trying the Online Writing Workshop; they charge a modest fee, but offer a one-month free trial. I’ve signed up with their email list, which is free and doesn’t require membership in the site; they don’t do crits there, but they do have discussions about various topics.

    Youwriteon(dot)com and bookcountry(dot)com are a couple others that I’ve looked at but haven’t tried.

    Thanks for the other references!
    C

  • Marilynn Byerly

    Finding a good writing course that involves a critique is also useful. A good teacher can point to the problems in your writing and show how to improve it.

    There are a number of sites on the web, that offer inexpensive courses although ones with a critique tends to be more expensive.

  • Writology

    Thank you for the great idea of joining the groups of writers of the same level in the pursuit of professional growth! The thing is that the newbies in writing, as well as in any other sphere, need not only the opportunity to get free of charge critique of their work; first of all they are in need of support from the people struggling the same everyday battles as they are. There is a nice quote by Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” It is really so! Let’s support each other to achieve more!

  • Kate

    The problem I mostly run into is I do my part of critiquing someone’s work, and then they disappear without helping me. I’ve tried Scripophile, I didn’t like the set up though of having to earn a certain number of points before you can critique and post. I’m willing to help beginning writers with their manuscripts if they’ll help give feedback on my own. 🙂 It’s really hard to find help though, I have no money at all or very little from week to week that I can’t afford a professional service. Since I live in a nowhere small town, the closest writing groups are almost 4hrs away. 🙁 What’s a newbie to do? Are there any other sites that can be of help? I’ve tried Wattpad to no avail, and Figment has offered some great feedback but has sense gone dead.

  • Agua Caliente

    I simply submit drafts to my spouse, who teaches college-level English Composition and who also is an editor. Problem solved! (Everyone needs an editor.) In return, I take care of all the technology needs. I’m not sure who’s getting the better deal here—probably a wash. Any scribblings of mine here are unedited; blame can be placed squarely on me.

  • Michael Rush

    It seems as though a lot of the critique groups which are commonly listed on various indexing sites have fallen by the wayside now. I agree with the comment by Writology that joining online forums is a good option, so long as you can find the right one for you. The process of engaging in critique on other people’s work can be of as much benefit as being critiqued yourself, although I sympathise with Kate that a lack of reciprocation can be off-putting.

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