How to Get Super Critter on Critique Circle

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.

New to Critique Circle? Top Five Tips

Whether you’ve just joined the site or if you’re just looking for ways to make your experience even better, here are the things that have given me the best results. If you’re very new to the site or if you haven’t even decided whether to join yet, check out my earlier review here!

5. Fill out your profile with any qualifications you might have

An empty profile does not create the best impression. If other members see you posting in the forums, leaving critiques, or posting your own pieces for feedback, chances are a few of them will be curious about who you are. If you don’t give them anything to go on, they’re likely to conclude that you’re so new you don’t know what you’re doing yet or that you don’t care enough to stick around. Not everyone will look, and not everyone will care, but isn’t it worth taking a bit of time to get the best possible result?

If you have qualifications, like a degree in Creative Writing, past publications, or even just years of practice, mention it here! People want to interact with writers who know their stuff. They also love to get critiques from people who often read the type of stuff they’re writing, and they value feedback from people who have knowledge about the subjects they’re writing about. If you can’t think of anything else, I recommend at least telling a little something about what you like to write and what your current project is.

4. Critique a lot before posting

You’re certainly not required to do this, but the more critiques you give, the more likely you are to get critiques (and good quality critiques) when you post your first piece. Of course, your chances are even better if the critiques you give are of good quality, so if you don’t have experience with giving critiques, I recommend doing some research before jumping in. Do some Googling, check out the forums for tips, and go to the “Finished” tab in the story queue to read through past submissions and see what kind of critiques other people on the site are giving. All of this will give you a head start.

3. Make use of author’s notes to describe what kind of feedback you’re looking for

When you are ready to submit your first piece, I recommend making use of the author’s notes to help guide your potential critiquers. Is this an early draft that you’re looking for general feedback on, as opposed to line edits? Is it a polished draft that you’re hoping to publish? And if you’re looking to publish, are you planning to query agents or self-publish? This will help you attract the kind of critiquers who can give you the type of help you’re looking for, and you’re likely to find the experience much more rewarding.

Just be aware that if you say you think you’re ready for publication, you’re likely to get critiquers who will go all-out and no-holds-barred. If that’s exactly the type of feedback you’re looking for, it’s a great way to get it! If you’re not sure whether you’re ready or not, you might be better off saying what your goal is and asking what people think you need to do to get there. They might say “you really need to work on improving in these areas and then rewrite” or they might say “just clean up these particular sentences and you’re good to go”. Either way, you’ll definitely get an answer.

2. Send thank you notes

When someone gives you a critique, send a personalized thank you note. This is extremely important, not only because it’s polite to recognize the effort someone else put in to help you but because a number of experienced users will avoid people who don’t thank anyone. To send a thank you, open the critique you got and look on the right side for the little green button that says “Reply”.

Critique Circle's Reply feature for thank you notes

This will bring up a message box with some default text. If you really want to make sure you’re being polite, delete what it says and rewrite it in your own words. I like to tell them exactly what I found helpful, and I often let them know the revisions I’m planning to make based on their suggestions. You can also make use of this to ask questions if you didn’t understand something the critiquer said or if you have an idea based on their feedback that you want to run past them.

1. Consider returning critiques to build relationships

One of the best parts of the site is when you build relationships with other writers. There’s nothing better than seeing the person who gave you an awesome critique on chapter 1 coming back to do the same for chapter 2. So what can you do to increase your chances of that happening? First of all, do what I said in tips 5-3 to increase the chances that helpful critiquers will be attracted to your submission in the first place. Second, make sure you send those personalized thank you’s, according to tip 2. But one more thing that can make a world of difference is giving return critiques. If you love the feedback you got from someone, take a look at what they’ve submitted. If you like the looks of it, give them a critique. Relationships are built on give and take. While it’s definitely possible that someone will decide to keep following your submissions because they like your writing so much, there are a lot of users on the site who don’t have time to critique for everyone, and a lot of them will prioritize users who return favors.

Besides, the whole critiquing process can be a lot more fun if you get to know the people you’re exchanging critiques with. You can give better feedback if you’ve read and critiqued every chapter of a novel as it comes up for feedback, and the same is true in reverse. If you’re both exchanging personalized thank you’s, you can get an even better idea of what that person is looking for and what types of help they’d most appreciate. This is where you’ll really start to see the value.

Best of luck out there! I hope that you have a great experience and get everything you’re looking for.

Critique Circle’s New Profile Page

I wrote about Critique Circle a few weeks ago and just wanted to write a quick update to mention that I’m enjoying the recent updates to the profile page.

My old profile had a lot of blank white space at the top, as well as a little icon meant to represent gender, which, in my opinion, did not do a very effective job at it. The new one moves the “About me” section into this space, which makes it a whole lot more interesting and useful right off the bat.

Similarly, the old page had a lot of options for things that you could add, several of which I didn’t make use of. That meant I tended to do a lot of scrolling when making updates. Now, the whole thing is streamlined to only include the areas you’ve filled out.

It also incorporates the use of tabs so you or any visitors can focus on the information that you’re looking for. Do you want to see what this person has done lately? Read their previously submitted chapters? See whether you like their style of critiquing by reading samples? See what they’ve been up to in the forums? All those options exist, and they’re very easy to get to and flip between.

On the whole, I think it’s made this portion of the site a lot easier and more enjoyable to navigate. Finding and evaluating potential critique partners or looking for any published books by writers whose submissions you’ve really enjoyed has become easier than ever.

Critique Circle: The Benefits and Drawbacks

Critique Circle is a website that gives writers an opportunity to get critiques on their work in exchange for giving other writers critiques on their work. It is free to use, but it also has a premium option that you can pay for in order to unlock special features.

How does it work? In a nutshell, you earn credits by giving critiques of short pieces that have been submitted for review. The number of credits you earn depends on the length of the piece. You can then spend credits in order to submit one of your own pieces for review by others. If you submit a piece, it will be added to a waiting list, and you will have to wait until pieces that were submitted before yours are given their chance to receive critiques first. In my experience, this is typically a few weeks at most.

I think the largest benefit of this system is that it incentivizes its users to give critiques to one another. In other aspects of my life, it has been far too many times that I have taken time to read and edit or give suggestions to a writer friend or an acquaintance, only to struggle to find anyone at all who is willing to do the same when I am looking for a bit of feedback. In general, I do enjoy helping other people with their writing, especially when I feel as though I’ve been able to contribute some high quality insights, but of course it is difficult to improve as a writer if you never receive any feedback on your own work. When I submitted pieces to Critique Circle, I got five or six critiques for each of them, most of them quite detailed and a few that definitely helped me see areas in need of improvement.

The largest drawback is that you never know who is going to be reading and critiquing for you. You could get advice from one of the most helpful and experienced users or you could get it from someone who is a complete amateur. Similarly, you can get critiques that are written in a very positive and friendly way and critiques that are written in a very critical way. This can be difficult to handle if you have thin skin, and it can be frustrating if you feel as though you’ve received a piece of advice that is unhelpful or even wrong.

This leads into the second of the drawbacks that I have personally experienced: when attempting to get feedback on a novel using the free version, you are more than likely to get critiques on your second chapter from users who haven’t read your first. I tried to alleviate this problem by providing a summary of all the events of the first chapter that were directly relevant to the second, but I was frustrated to find critiques from people who complained that they were confused about something that had, in fact, been explained in the summary. To be fair, this may be a larger problem with books that involve a large amount of world building, as opposed to genres that would theoretically be easier to pick up from the middle. I also found that I experienced the problem of people not reading the summary much less once I started getting critiques from more experienced members more often, but it was a large frustration for me in the beginning.

If you become a premium member, though, you can solve this problem by recruiting members to join a group that will focus on your novel specifically. The premium member also has the ability to determine who can join the group, which solves the first problem as well. Premium membership also gives you the ability to give and receive critiques on an entire manuscript rather than on short chunks at a time. The downside to this, of course, is that it costs a monthly fee.

I used the free version for a long time before trying the paid version, and I think both have benefits and drawbacks. The question of whether to pay for it or not comes down to the individual writer and what they are looking to get out of the site. Personally, I would recommend starting with the free version to get a feel for things and also to build relationships with other users. Even if a private queue appeals to you, you’ll have to know who to invite into it. Unless you joined the site with a group of writer friends, how else will you know who gives good critiques except by receiving some in the public queues?

On top of that, there are some features that are friendly to new members, enabling your work to receive critiques more quickly than members who have been around for longer, and I’ve found that really understanding how the system works is a good way to get the most out of it.

My biggest tip to those who plan to use the site? Strive to give good quality critiques to others. Many people will return the favor when it comes to be your turn. Besides that, there is a system in which writers can grade how helpful a critique was to them, and users who critique often and score over a certain average can get special badges that show up next to their names. You can bet that there are people on the site who will choose to give critiques to those who have given good critiques to others! Be a good person: give the best advice that you can give. If you want to be a very good person, go back and read the previous chapter(s) before critiquing the current one. It won’t get you any extra credits, but I’m sure the author will appreciate it. Sites like this work best when everyone involved is kind and generous.

I wish the best of luck to all other aspiring writers out there! Feel free to shoot me a message if you decide to join based on my recommendation. If I like the looks of what you’ve written, I might just give you a crit.