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May 30, 2009

owwAfter seeing references to it pop up all over the place recently, I finally joined the sff online writing workshop (OWW).  First month is free so I intend to poke around, do some reviews, and get a feel for the place before shelling out $49 for the year.  Assuming the the reviews I get are helpful, I’ll be happy to pay.

I’ve been a Critter ( for a long time so the critiquing game is not new to me.  Why the switch?  A few reasons:

  • Many writers who are just above my current status herald OWW.
  • There are numerous professionals that are reportedly active there.
  • People paying for criticism are likely to be both more qualified to give it and more likely to benefit from it.
  • I felt like 9 out of 10 critiques I was getting at Critters were little more than grammar police or writers looking for a reason to not like a piece (despite not offering reasonable advice on improvement).
  • 19 out of 20 stories I read there were very weak.  If I read too many, I found my own prose slipping.
  • While reviews are necessary both places, they aren’t time sensitive at OWW like they are at Critters.  I can take a couple months off from reviews and not have to do a ton to catch back up.

What I’m going to be looking for is a signifcant upgrade in the quality of the critiques.  Sure, I want to know if I use the word “leach” fifty times when “leech” would have been more accurate (yes, I did it and Critters caught it), but I’m looking for advice on something beyond the surface.  What is going to stop this story from selling?  Why isn’t this character likeable?

Too often at Critters I would read a critique and think “is that it?”  I was a beginner once and I reread some of the critiques I wrote with a frown. It deeply resembles those 9 of 10 critiques I didn’t really find beneficial.  I’m not looking for advice from beginners anymore.  I want to be on the low end of the talent in the group.

Sure, Critters has pro members.  When I go pro [knocks on wood], I may go back to offer my insights to beginners.  But the pros are few and far betwixt; some of the ones I discovered there were not all that.

So I’m giving OWW a try.  Advice from the experienced is appreciated.  I’ll post something there soon, but I think I’ll start by reading other members’ work and offering my own insights first.  Now I just need to pull in at least $50 a year writing to offset the cost.  I’ve only had one year so far where I made this, but my production is way up and the workshop should help me that much more.

Critters is still a fine program for writers of different levels, especially on the side of critiquing the work of others.  My post about how to get the most out of Critters is linked to at the top right of this page (sidebar).

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 31, 2009 3:06 am

    I’ve found that answering crit for crit reviews is the best way to get reviews on my own work, as is of course offering crit for crit (or C4C as it’s often denoted). I don’t generally promise c4c since I’m lazy about doing reviews and like to pick the things I review.

    One of the thing I love about OWW is that you can post a bit about what specifically you’re looking for and ask questions of potential readers, so be sure when you post your stories you put comments in the specified section. I’ve found people generally pay attention to that section.

    Let me know when you have something up. I’ve got three things up at the moment, all sections of novels (which get less reviews than short stories, but hey, every little bit might help).

    I’ve also found that the shorter a story is, the more reviews it will likely get.

    So there’s my experiences of it. If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know. 🙂

  2. osomuerte permalink
    May 31, 2009 7:17 am

    A lot of that sounds like Critters: shorter stories get more reviews, chapters get fewer than stories, etc. No c4c at Critters, though. Maybe I’ll try that on my first one as a way to dive into the community.

    Thanks for the advice.

    • May 31, 2009 7:50 am

      if you want to email me at izanobu at gmail dot com I can set you a sampling of the reviews I’ve gotten there to show you what you might expect?

      I never did Critters, I looked at it and decided that I didn’t really have time to keep up with reviews and wanted something I could do at my own pace when I had things ready. The writing quality at OWW varies wildly of course. People post stuff that I can barely find anything to suggest and other post things that I’m not even sure where to start there is so much that needs help. I have found that most tend to be between these extremes, and trend more towards the better than not. I don’t usually find myself groaning, which I do a lot of when reading on free writing forums. And I think I’ve learned more about my own revision process through reviewing too, so it’s been really good for that.

      However, people definitely aren’t (generally anyway) as blunt as they are over at JBU slush, which is both good and bad. While I always want to know what isn’t working about something, sometimes it’s good to hear what is as well. I read through over 100 pages of slush stories and comments at JBU and find that praise of any sort is few and far between so to speak. It’s easy to fall into the critical trap there 🙂

      • May 31, 2009 8:32 am

        Of course, now it occurs to me that you can read other people’s reviews right on the site. Heh. I need more sleep 😛

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