If you’ve spent time on Critique Circle, you’ve probably seen authors or critiquers with a star symbol next to their usernames. If you hover over it, you see that these people are Super Critters, but what exactly does that accomplishment mean? What does it take to be awarded it?
Well, a large part of the answer has to do with the progress bar you see on your dashboard (the page you get to by clicking the Critique Circle logo from any other page). You can see in the example above that my current progress for the month of May is 8,228 words. That means I’ve written 8,228 words’ worth of critiques during the current month. At the end of the progress bar is an orange star symbol, exactly like the Super Critter badge, and that’s because if you reach that goal (12,000 words) and have a grade of at least three stars (as shown right above), you get the badge for the remainder of the month and all of the following month.
So what does that mean in a nutshell? Anyone who has the badge has done a lot of critiquing for other users of the site in the past month or so. Maybe they’ve written forty critiques of three hundred words apiece. Maybe they’ve written twelve very in-depth critiques of a thousand words apiece. Likely the answer is somewhere in the middle, as not all critiques are the exact same length. Some people tend shorter while others tend longer, and for some it depends on what they’re critiquing.
Hopefully, though, you’re putting more time and effort into longer critiques rather than padding out the word count, and that’s where the grade comes into play. When you write a critique for someone, they will usually grade it on a five-star scale. One star is typically reserved for really problematic critiques, like the kind that get reported. Two stars is for unhelpful, and if you try to game the system, I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself with this sort of low rating.
While there probably are other ways, I wouldn’t recommend doing anything other than what I did to get this badge: honestly trying to help other writers. When I first joined the site, I wasn’t critiquing very often, but the more I got into it, the more writers I wanted to help out consistently or return the favor to after they helped me. I never thought I would end up critiquing that much; it just happened. I try to critique submissions where I feel that I truly have something helpful to contribute, and when that’s the case I naturally tend to go into detailed feedback.
I do think I had a bit of an advantage from having participated in workshops during my college days, as well as having spent significant amounts of time giving feedback to other amateur writers outside this site, but I think for anyone the key is doing your best and knowing your limits. If you try to give advice on something you don’t truly understand, you’re not doing anyone a favor. If, on the other hand, you take the time to understand your strengths as a reader/writer, you can use those to help someone who might be weaker in those areas.
For example, I once critiqued a short story whose author was looking for people with computer programming experience to give insight into whether the fictional artificial intelligence was written realistically. I topped easily over a thousand words just pointing out what wasn’t quite accurate in how the AI was being programmed and explaining what might work better based on my personal experiences. That sort of help is almost always appreciated, and many other writers appreciate simply getting feedback about what your reactions are as you’re reading and whether you’re engaged or feeling a certain emotion or getting bored or confused. And if you are more experienced, there’s a whole world of other advice you can get into, whether it’s giving suggestions to make a sentence sound better or talking about plot and pacing and characterization.
In short, it takes time and dedication. I would argue, though, that the reward is not the badge itself but the relationships you build along the way. A little icon of a star isn’t worth anything if you put in the bare minimum to get it and everyone you critiqued for knows it. For me, it’s about the satisfaction of a job well done, giving back to the people who’ve helped me and hopefully helping other writers get just a little farther on their journey to improvement.