Scribophile

Happy New Year, everyone! As one of my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve resolved to write biweekly updates to my blogs (every two weeks, just to clarify). So be on the lookout for more writing-themed blog posts in 2015!

I stumbled on Scribophile, an online writing sharing community that strives to create a social media platform for writers, while I was participating NaNoWriMo last November, since it is an affiliated website. Overall, I recommend Scribophile as the most comprehensive website for writers seeking feedback on their work that I have seen thus far. I think it has a lot going for it, and I recommend that you check it out. It is not perfect however, and its complexity can seem daunting, especially when you first join it. I’ve been using it for about a month now and I’m still getting the hang of it.

Scribophile is mainly a platform for sharing writing and connecting with other writers. Essentially, on the site, you can read other writer’s work and critique it, using various methods including “in-line” comments, or a form with specific questions about particular aspects of the work, such as its plot, structure, or characters, or a “free form” critique in which you write whatever you want. For each critique, you earn a certain amount of “karma” points. The number of points you receive depends on how long your critique is, and on a number of confusing factors including whether the work is in the “Main Spotlight” or not or whether you have added the author to your favorites. I haven’t quite figured out the way to maximize karma points yet, but even if you just edit whatever things you find interesting, you’re bound to get some points from your critique.

Once you’ve accumulated 5 karma points, you can post a work on the site. Each work “costs” 5 points, so once it’s up there, you have to start all over again building up karma points. You can also submit your work to a number of contests on the site, but that will also cost you some karma points. A “work” is usually no more than 5,000 words, so if you have a longer story or a novel, you can post it in chapters. This potentially allows for you to create a serial following, like on the sites JukePop and WattPad (see my article about them here). But Scribophile is not just for novelists. You can post short stories and poetry on it too. Once you’ve posted a work, you sit back and wait for the critiques to roll in.

One of things I really do like about Scribophile is that it is a website for serious writers. The critiques I’ve received on the site so far have all been pretty detailed and insightful. The karma points system creates an incentive for people to write longer critiques. Also once you’ve received a critique, you can give it one or more labels including “enlightening,” “thorough,” or “constructive,” and for each label, the editor will receive a few karma points (but not nearly as much as they get from the critique itself). When you receive these labels, it also increases your reputation on the site by giving you “reputation points.” Reputation points have no tangible benefit, as far as I can tell, but they represent your experience as an editor.

The site also makes you tick off an agreement saying that you will write constructive edits and will not just insult the writer and/or their work, which I found to be comforting. Obviously, it’s an honor system, but if you find a critique particularly mean-spirited, you can report it. Scribophile’s rules, while complex, do create an environment where serious, respectful editing gets done.

The site also contains forums, groups, and contests, really attempting to create a sense of community among its users. I still prefer to bond with writers in person, but it is nice to have that option online. It also acts as a quasi-social media site, allowing you to write message on other writers’ “scratchpads” and to announce publications. It also contains its own blog with writing advice, interviews with writers, and the site’s latest updates, and it has an “Academy” section with articles specifically written to help you tackle writing challenges. The amount of sheer stuff on the Scribophile website is a bit overwhelming, and I’ll admit I haven’t had time to sift through all of it. But I’m sure a lot of the resources on the site are really helpful.

The site does have some drawbacks, however. First of all, Scribophile is primarily used by people writing novels. This isn’t a bad thing of course, but the way that it’s site posts the newest chapters of writer’s works up for review on the “Main Spotlight” is a little strange. When you’re flipping through works to review, you will see novels that are on Chapter 21 or 39. How are you supposed to jump in and start editing from that point in a story you haven’t read? Scribophile tries to solve this problem by allowing writers to post summaries of previous chapters so that reviewers have some idea of what the hell is going on. But I don’t think reading the summary of a plot and then editing a chapter in the middle of it is very effective or helpful for the editor or the writer. So far I’ve tried to avoid editing novels that are very far into their plot, instead I’ve been editing short stories or novels on Chapters 1, 2, or 3.

Of course, if you have several hours of free time, you read all of the chapters that came before the one you want to critique (but by that time other people will have critiqued it and it will no longer be in the spotlight, meaning you get fewer points from critiquing it). Or, you can find some novels that you like that are in a nascent stage, add the author to your favorites, and then get updated every time he or she posts a new chapter. I personally think it’s far more helpful to edit stories knowing their entire context.

Secondly, Scribophile requires a good deal of patience and free time (luckily, I have both). Depending on whether you choose to edit stuff from the Main Spotlight or not, it can take you a while to rack up 5 measly points to post one chapter. In my case, it’s usually taken me about 3 critiques to gain 5 points. I think Scribophile did this on purpose, so that everyone is getting at least three responses to everything they post. But still, it means you have to spend a lot of time critiquing other people’s work.

Thirdly, the feedback you get on your writing from this site can be thorough, but it also can be a bit overwhelming. You can get opposing reactions from two different editors. Of course, this happens in any situation in which you ask people to review your work. But when I ask my friends who are writers to review my work, I know their work too, and I know, in general, when to trust their advice and when to ignore it. If you’re just getting random critiques from different people, it’s hard to know which suggestions you should consider. I’ve had a similar experience before in writing workshops. The difference, though, is that in a writing workshop, all of the writers are in dialogue with each other. They hear everyone’s comments on a particular work, and then discuss them, coming to somewhat of a consensus on it. Since, on Scribophile, you’re not required to engage with the other people who have critiqued the work you are critiquing, the website does not manage to replicate a workshop experience.

Still, these flaws are by no means deal-breakers. This site has a lot offer, and you might discover that you really like it.

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9 thoughts on “Scribophile

  1. I joined Scribophile a week ago, and my first concerns were, will I have the writing environment that I’ve been searching for, with the tools needed to accomplish the job; I signed up, and discovered that I could only post 2 works at one time, unless I purchase the month to month plan which is $9, or the yearly plan which is $65 up front. So I purchased the $9 plan so that I could post unlimited works “at once”.

    The “at once” phrase means, you can consecutively post your written works all at once, but what they don’t tell you when signing up, is that it requires “karma” points. 5 karma points to write and release your work, so the “at once” terminology they use, becomes obsolete, because you can not post your unlimited works at one time, because you will constantly have to read and “critique” the works of others, to gain these karma points.

    I don’t mind reading the works of others, I rather enjoy it, but I have a problem with “critiquing” their works, because I’m not a professional writer, so how can I tell them what’s wrong with their writings, when the same problems probably exist within my own works, and you do not get karma points for submitting a “comment”. After reading someone else’s story you have the option to “comment”, or “Critique”; So no karma points issued for comments.

    Not only did I sign up for premium service yesterday, at $9 a month, but I woke up the very next day, that day, being today, to find that I have been banned, my account terminated, my works deleted, because the critique I offered was in fact critiquing the system that forced me to critique the works of others. Here’s an example of my critique:

    Critique

    “Dear John Doe, first off let me get the critique out of the way,
    Critique!
    …Now that we have the critique out of the way, I would like to say that I enjoyed your story, and here’s why…blah blah blah…

    I can’t critique your work, John, because I’m not a professional writer, so please accept this critique as a critique of the system that forces me to critique your work, when I find nothing wrong with it! Keep up the good work, and I look forward to reading more of your stories!”

    Writing is not about critiquing, it’s about being creative, and spontaneous in your thoughts, and the ability to transfer these thoughts into readable form that can be enjoyed by others!

    Why should I pay Scribophile, $9 a month to be forced read and critique the works of others? Another issue is I came across a pedophile , who wrote a story in which he played the role of a child in a location serving alcohol, where Disney characters where, and the bartender was using his sexual organ to stir his mothers drink…

    THIS is the type of behavior that is allowed, while I get banned, my account deleted for criticizing Scribophile’s critique system.

  2. Thanks for a very good and well-rounded review.

    I joined the site just a short while ago. My experience is that with a two page critique, I’d get just over 1 karma point. Newbies start with 2 free points, but that means typically it takes 4-5 critiques for each submission. So, if you get off at critiquing other people’s work, Nirvana. If not, it’s a long and hard road for posting that might take you a couple of lives. Then, just like real life, there’s no guarantee that the critiques will add anything.

    For me, it’s all about value. Do I spent a bunch of time working for the site? Or, do I write? Hmm, that’s a tough decision.

  3. I just wanted to address some of the ‘flaws’ addressed by the article and other comments.

    *I am a user of Scribophile but I do not work, moderate, or have any control of what happens on the site. I am just a user.*

    The set up of Scribophile is that you critique in order to be critiqued. For me this is fair enough. You have to put in effort to get returned effort. As the writer, if you get two differing critiques, you choose which to apply to your work if any. This is the biggest learning curve for those new to the critiquing process I think. Every single writer who critiques your work would write it differently, so only you can choose which bits of their advice (if any) you want to apply / fits with your vision.

    If you’re premium you can open up dialogue with your critiquers through private messages. I do this on many occasions. Sure, they don’t have to respond, but I haven’t had one person who hasn’t as yet.

    Again, if you’re premium you can post work into a personal spotlight which offers 6 spotlight spots (as opposed to the 3 spotlights in the main spotlight) and your work enters the spotlight immediately. This doesn’t happen in the main spotlight because the purpose of it is for you to critique those ahead of you in order that they may get feedback on their work and to move your work into the spotlight. The same thing happens when your work hits the main spotlight.

    Scribophile isn’t for *editing* other members works. It is for critiquing them. You can jump into chapter 39 and critique the scene(s) in isolation. Sure, you can’t focus on story and character arc’s etc but there is still valuable feedback that could be offered. Again, if you’re not a premium member you will also come across this issue.

    But, it generally isn’t a problem. Find groups, network, build yourself a few critiquing partnerships and you don’t worry about things like Karma or spotlight’s anymore.

    You also don’t need to be a professional writer to critique. If you read, you can critique. What works for you? What doesn’t? Why is character x acting completely different to normal? Would character z really say that? etc… It’s all useful to the writer.

    I noticed that Harold asked why he should be *forced* to read and critique other members works. If you want something for nothing, Scribophile isn’t the right site for you. If you’re serious about writing, are happy to put in the effort for others that you in turn would like, then Scribophile is the place to be.

    “Writing is not about critiquing, it’s about being creative, and spontaneous in your thoughts, and the ability to transfer these thoughts into readable form that can be enjoyed by others!”

    Again Harold, I have to disagree. I have learned so much by critiquing and being critiqued. It had helped me in my own writing and my ability to critique other members works. Please don’t dismiss the value in it out of hand.

    The critique style you showed in your comment above is what is known as Karma Farming and is seriously frowned upon and does lead to members being banned. If you cannot find anything constructive to give the writer, then it should be written in a comment, not a critique. Again, I reitterate my earlier point, Scribophile isn’t for you if you want something for nothing. You have to pay serious $$$ for a professional to do it for you. On Scrib, you have to give your time instead.

    “My experience is that with a two page critique, I’d get just over 1 karma point.”

    Sorry Louis but I’m not sure that this^ stacks up. You get 1 Karma for critiques longer than 125 words. If a critique really did translate to two pages, you’d be looking at having written about 700 words. There’s a lot more Karma in that than at the 125 word mark.

    For anyone looking for a serious writer site I would definitely recommend Scribophile. If you want to join and just check it out – it’s free to do so. Give it a go and see. If you really like it, you can always upgrade to premium later. But you don’t have to do this. I know many writers who find it fit for purpose without being premium.

  4. What a great blog you have here, Molly–you seem quite knowledgeable about the online writing world. So what do you recommend? Dive into Scribophile and begin critiquing (which I don’t mind since I’m a teacher and accustomed to offering input) in order to earn return critiques or, as Louis commented, focus more (limited working-mom) time on my own writing? I sure could benefit from a writers’ group right now but am not sure where to find the best one online, if there is a “best” one.

    • Hi Eve,

      I am not an expert by any means, but I think Scribophile is great if you already have a complete story written and want to get feedback on it. I think it’s still useful to take time to critique other people’s work because you will learn more about your own writing during the process, but I would try to find a balance between editing other people’s work and writing your own. Personally, I spend the majority of my time writing my own stuff and I will occasionally edit on Scribophile or look at my friends’ work to help them out. I don’t know much about online writing groups aside using websites like Scribophile and Wattpad. That’s definitely a topic I am looking into myself!

      -Molly

      • Thanks so much for responding. I started a writers group years ago and loved it, but it was the in-person kind before internet was such a big tool. I wonder how aspiring writers like me put together small, private writers groups online these days.

  5. This review overlooks Scribophile’s draconian editorial policy, which bans religion and politics, and its erratic moderation, under which vaccinations are classified as politics rather than medical science, and even secular references to the Bible as a work of literature are disallowed. The ban extends to criticism of such policies as well; posted discussions to that effect are closed or deleted.

    It’s worth noting that, under such rules, religious themes in science fiction masterworks like Stranger in a Strange Land and A Canticle for Leibowitz could not have been discussed on Scribophile (at least not without a moderator turning a blind eye).

    The owner of Scribophile claims these rules are in place to serve my interests as a writer and community member but that defense is difficult to believe. The site operator has spared himself the difficult tasks of writing a specific editorial policy and enforcing moderation which acknowledges nuance and the distinction between empiricism and opinion. I don’t think any serious writer can take Scribophile seriously as a marketplace for self-expression while membership requires a muzzle.

  6. I agree with the above. Scribo should be avoided. It’s a lot of work and they don’t treat the paying customers with respect. They will delete your account including your posted works if you run afoul the administration. Also a side note a few weeks ago I watched a Wattpad member get run off the site. All she did was ask if others used it. It wasn’t just forum members who did it. The mods were in on it. And don’t dare suggest a change on something on the site. I asked once if we could have a better notification system and I was humiliated by the leader of the site. I was a paying member btw. Finally, I said why am I paying these people? I can work with much nicer groups that don’t forum bully members paid or unpaid. Go to Wattpad, critique circle (not tried this yet) Write on by Kindle. Write on has some the nicest bunch of people and if you want to put a bible verse up on the forum you won’t get run off the site. Of course, all of them have issues as do all write groups but I’ve never experienced a paid site as bad as Scribo to the customer.

  7. Love Scribophile. Been a member for a few months now and its been a huge help. Took me a while to start critiquing but if you don’t want to there’s still lots of good info in the forums. The people are really nice too.

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