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”.
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.