Picture my mom took in Mexico

Editor Hive: Professional Versus Critique Exchanges

How To Have Critique

My son, blowing up critique expectations.Paying for validation is an expensive hobby. Do critique exchanges before considering professional editing.

Avoid overloading your personal network with unfinished prose posts. Pick a dedicated site over social media blasts begging for comment.

NaNoWriMo: Many are writing a lot

Cover of my first published fantasy novel.It’s mid-November, the middle of National Novel Writing Month. I am doing my part by putting the final touches on a 117K fantasy novel that I will self-publish no later than early next month.

Writing a fresh rough draft within a month sustained my writer’s mind for a half-dozen years, but I dropped NaNoWriMo when I became serious. The yearly challenge had reinforced a number of bad writing habits because there was no critique.

Social Media

I exhausted friends and family early with critique requests. Social media is essential for new writers self-publishing, but be careful about clouding the water. It is a constant temptation to overwhelm my online network with appeals to review and comment on my unfinished work.

I may reach out to everyone for therapy, but my personal issues need to be fresh and relatable to seduce commentary.

I shouldn’t expect similar attention from a Facebook post linking to an unfinished novel.

Reality TV trumps drafts of fiction.

I also won’t rely on the currency of likes and comments for honest critique.

Critique Sites

"New York, New York. Italian-American cafe espresso shop on MacDougal Street where coffee and soft drinks are sold. The coffee machine cost one thousand dollars." Library of CongressI wasn’t my best when writing in a vacuum. My best has come out writing within a community.

My life is divided between my day job and family. I don’t have the bandwidth anymore for a coffee shop open mike.

Online is my only option.

I have tried every group and site I could find for free critiques.

Social media groups dedicated to writing failed me.

Within Facebook and Google+, they tended to be disorganized and overwhelmed with spam or too tight-knit and time consuming.

I don’t make enough time for my IRL friends. I won’t sustain online-only ones just to get some artistic feedback.

Wattpad was my first success.

The brutality of teenage honesty on the YA heavy site woke me to stylistic changes I had to make. I found a lot of value in critique exchanges there, but outgrow the editing I was getting.

Figment never reached critique-al mass for me.

I enjoyed the older author ages that worked with me, but the site design and limited popularity capped my development.

Scribophile has been my greatest success.

I have gotten more out of critique exchanges on this site than anywhere else. It has enough potential that I may no longer employ a professional editor for anything.

Unlike Wattpad and Figment, Scribophile is focused on authors helping other authors. It has the best critique exchange system I’ve seen.

Free access limits writers to two chapters being available for critique. This was enough to review the site’s value. I choose to upgrade, but even limited to what’s available for free, it offers more than the other sites.

This is still work.

Getting the most out of this critique exchange system requires building relationships with the other authors. This happens best when I do quality reviews. It takes time I could spend on my own work, but I improve my style learning to avoid what I critique other people doing.

The Professionals

I’ve worked with two full-time editors. The first did a proofreading edit of my first book Destiny’s Hand. She did a great job, but it gave me false confidence as to the value of that work. It has fundamental flaws in storytelling that killed its chances of being successful. I am stubborn enough to rewrite it with my new standards, but it will be a time sink I don’t wish upon anyone else.

With my current book, Ranger of Path, I employed an editor several times for developmental edits.

Ellen Brock was an expensive investment.

She is fantastic and a reasonable price given what she offers, but the cost for so much of her labor emptied my budget.

My writing is more than a vanity project. I must make money.

Ms. Brock helped me, but in a lot of ways that I could have helped myself. In hindsight I should have read more about writing and found my way onto Scribophile earlier. I needed a more refined work to make full use of her ability to critique.

Thank you Ellen, by the way, for the Story Engineering book recommendation.

Happy Medium

A balance between baby and turkey is a critique about gravy life.The big divide in writing is:

Am I trying to make money or have a hobby?

As a hobby, Nanowrimo and social media satisfies. It is great therapy and pairs well with success elsewhere in life.

I, however, require the respect and compensation of a professional writer.

My ego, wallet, and wife, won’t settle for less.

Until the money comes, I can’t justify paying tons for critique, even from someone as talented as Ellen Brock. Instead, I put the time in at odd hours of the morning and night to build up the karma for the modern critique exchange.

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