Archive | October 2013

Scribophile, a review

I learned about Scribophile from a writers group and was intrigued. While I love my in-person critique groups, I find they aren’t ideal for some projects such as longer short stories that can’t be read in one sitting. I had such a short story in need of review, so I thought I’d give Scribophile a try.

Signing up was quick and easy. I posted in the new member forum and was promptly welcomed to the site, along with several personal messages. Very friendly bunch of people.

However, I’m an aspiring writer eager for feedback on my work. Screw friendly! I want to post some writing!

The menus are easy enough to figure out, even when something isn’t obvious, it can still be found. Like, say, figuring out how to post my story! So, I click through to post and find out that I can’t post anything yet. Why not? Karma!

This is the beauty of the system. It takes five Karma points to post a work. They give you two points to start off, but then you have to earn more. And how do you earn more? You critique other people’s work.

If you click on the “Writing” tab, you’re presented with a list of items “in the spotlight.” (More on this later). Since I’m eager to post my short story, and since it is Karma, I scroll down looking for a short story to critique. The list gives you some information, the title and author, of course, but also how many words and then two-three tags such as novel or short story, thriller, horror, sci fi, and the like.

The first story I read was beautiful and happy, but it had some awkward word choices and repetition. When I clicked on the “critique” button, it gave me three choices – inline, template, or freeform. Inline lets you insert comments directly into the text to make comments, template presents you with a series of questions to answer and freeform just gives you a textbox to type away in.

Before you begin, you have to read and agree to the Critiquer’s Rules of Conduct, which boils down to “be constructive and respectful.” I made my first critique, earned my first Karma and happily went on to the next short story.

I reached my five points and pounced on the opportunity to post my own work. That’s when I ran into my first snag. My story is 6200 words and right there on the page it suggested posts no more than 3000 words long. I considered, I debated, and then finally decided to head to the forums.

I asked about whether I should split my story into two parts or not, and expressed my disappointment because that would cost 10 karma, and I only had five. Having been a witness to (and sometimes part of )forum drama for years, I was delighted and pleasantly surprised that not only did no one mock me for my newbness, but I received a number of polite and helpful responses. In fact, one wonderful fellow gifted me with five karma (apparently, you can do that!) to solve my problem of not having enough to post both halves.

The conversation revolved around whether people are willing to read longer posts. I admitted that when looking for a piece to read, I skipped over the longer ones. After reading several posts on the subject, I decided to split my story into two and posted the halves (fortunately, there is a natural break at about half-way, so that worked out ok). My first half went immediately in the “New Writer’s Spotlight,” but the second half went onto the waiting list for the main spotlight.

The “Spotlight” is yet another way Scribophile tries to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. The Main Spotlight is simply a queue of posted works. When a piece gets three critiques, it moves out of the Spotlight and the next piece in line moves in. If something is in the Spotlight, you get extra Karma for critiquing it. And since you need Karma to post your own work, you have incentive to critique articles in the Spotlight. There are other spotlights besides the Main Spotlight. Your very first post goes into the New Member Spotlight, no waiting! There’s also the “Good Critiquer Spotlight” for people who do the most critiques – I have no idea how many critiques one must do to earn that spot! There’s also “Newest Writing” which is just the three latest posts, work with bonuses – which is a way authors can bribe you for critiques, and then a sampling of random posts. Whatever happens your post will eventually work its way into the Spotlight, and once there, it stays there until you get at least three critiques.

It took almost 24 hours to get my first critique, but when I did, it was thoughtful, it was respectful, and it was helpful. About 24 hours later, the second came in and I was just as happy. The critiquers (critters as they’re known on Scrib) gave me the sort of critique I like to give – making sure to point out the positive as well as the negative and things to improve.

Five days after posting, the first half has received four solid critiques. I’ve been checking (let’s be honest – compulsively checking) the status of the second half. When I first posted, it said there were
“a lot” of short stories ahead of mine. Five days later, it says “about 4.” However, I have been dutifully critiquing every short story that appeared in the spotlight in hopes of clearing the way, but today, there’s nothing new. For the first time since I posted, there’s nothing I can do to move my story up in the queue.

At six and a half days, the second half moved into the spotlight.

Roughly 36 hours after moving into the spotlight, it still hasn’t been touched. I finally messaged one of the people who critiqued the first half and asked him to look at the second half, so nearly 2 days after reaching the spotlight, more than seven days after I posted it, I got my third critique on the second half of my short story.

I then posted a poem which immediately jumped into the spotlight, so I suppose there wasn’t a long poetry queue.

Pro’s Cons
Friendly, welcoming The 3000 word “limit*” per post means you have to break up longer stories, making it hard to get a critique on the entire piece.

One of my critters when on to read the second half and then offer comments on the whole story, but the second person didn’t do that. Since my concern with that piece is whether or not the story works, I’m concerned that I’m not really getting the critique I want/need with the story split in two pieces.

*the limit is a recommendation, but longer works tend to get overlooked.

The Karma system makes sure people are contributing and everyone gets their shot At the same time, the Karma system discourages reading works that aren’t in the spotlight.

-but, of course, friends will still read, and nothing stops someone from seeking out and reading non-spotlighted works

FREE The free membership allows you to have two posts up. With the above mentioned 3000 word limit, this means it will be difficult to get a critique on a short story over 6000 words – you’ll either have to post more than 3000 words per post, or be unable to post the entire story at one time.

On the other hand, the premium membership isn’t that expensive, and I suspect I will upgrade to premium as soon as I have the extra bucks sitting around.

You’re not getting a fast turn around. If you need a critique today you’re probably out of luck. Over time, as you make contacts and friends, join groups, et al, you’ll probably have enough people willing to do you a favor, but as a new member, you’d probably better develop patience.

McDonalds fails again

Last night I was driving home from Tulsa in a bit of a funk, a lot on my mind. It was my intention to eat when I got home, but as I was driving, I started to feel weak and shaky – my blood sugar was getting low. So, I pulled into the McDonald’s there on the Muskogee Turnpike.

I asked for a McDouble Mighty Kids meal. The first question threw me a bit when she asked me if I wanted the Happy Meal. I glanced at the menu and didn’t see where the McDouble was offered as a Happy Meal, so I repeated McDouble Mighty Kids meal. She then asked me if I wanted a girl’s toy, or a boy’s. Normally, this makes me want to go off on a feminist rant, but instead I just told her to give me a girl’s toy.

The total was a little higher than I expected, but I assumed I just hadn’t figured the tax right.

Down the road, I inhaled the fries (they were hot and yummy), I found the plastic toy and set it aside, and then pulled out a cardboard box filled with… Chicken McNuggets. (Barf). I am not a big fan of Nuggets. I ate them – I was hungry, but I wasn’t happy about it.

Today, I just happened to glance over at the discarded toy – They gave me the wrong gender-stereotype-reinforcing toy. It was a Batman toy.

Review – Doctor Sleep

I just finished Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King. On the whole, I enjoyed it.

>Mostly spoiler free<

At first, if felt as if I were picking up The Shining and just reading some new chapters. I loved some of the references back to The Shining that he never bothered to explain – little things you’d get if you remembered. The one that stands out in my mind is Dan Torrance interviewing for a job and thinking “(officious prick)” without ever reminding us that Jack Torrance thought the same thing while interviewing for the job at The Overlook.

On the downside, King’s kinda gone soft on us. I identified one character about half-way through as the guy who was definitely going to die, but nope – he lived, not even hurt. The good guys win with – in my opinion – too little effort.

But if you enjoyed reading The Shining, it’s totally worth a read. For those who saw the movie but not the book, King explains in an afterword that Doctor Sleep is a sequal to the book, not the movie.