Site for writing criticism for beginners

Hi, I’m looking for suggestions as to a site or other online resource where I can get a story of mine critiqued. All the spots I’ve found so far in google are for people who look at writing as a ‘craft’ or have ‘talent.’ What I want is something for people on the opposite end of the spectrum. The story I want reviewed is a short fantasy piece for a play-by-e-mail role-playing game I’m in. This should tell you something about it’s quality :).

In short: want suggestions for places where novice writers can receive tips on how to improve a story.

Thanks for your help!

Online is going to be tricky - the places I know of are really for if you are serious about writing, professionally - regardless of skill or how new you are to it. You can usually find someone willing to critique for a fee, and a short story should be about $50 to critique… but you might not want to do that if you aren’t doing the writing for money.

You might be as well served (with less frustration) to take it to a message board for writers, and ask if anyone on the forum would be willing to take a look at it for free. Tell them you are really new at this, and you have no idea what to do or where to go. Someone is bound to help you out, because frankly, a lot of decent writers started out doing something little and NOT for publication, and would have loved to have someone help them out.

Otherwise, you can go through all the tips and notes on the writing sites, and apply them yourself. Actually, you SHOULD do that before you ask someone else to take a look at it. Save them some time, and makes you look like you take their time seriously, too.

Try checking out sites for sci-fi/fantasy for children’s books, and look for critique guidelines and editing notes. Children’s books sites will offer info on simpler plots and shorter story length, so many of the tips should be a bit closer to what you need (rather than, say, an adult sf/f novels site).

Here are my basic tips for cleaning up a short story (do these before you ask someone online to look at the story!):

  1. Show, don’t tell. This is the big thing that makes a story grab people and pull them in. Do you say, ‘Frightened, she took off running down the dark dungeon hallway’? (that’s telling) Or do you say, ‘Her hands went cold, and she could hear her heart thudding in her ears. Even though she could barely make out the walls in the dim light, she plunged forward into the dungeon.’ (that’s showing) It isn’t necessary to show every blessed thing, but it IS important to try showing it and see if it helps the story along, helps you get ‘into’ the story more. Usually, showing is 2-3 times longer (or more) than telling. It also allows you to evoke more complex emotions and relationships without having to specify everything. In the telling above, you know only that she is scared. In the showing, you get a feel of urgency and tension along with the fear.

  2. Check your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Really. Then check it again. If you need help with that, look up an online grammar reference. If you have absolutely no clue, at least warn the person who has volunteered to critique that you are unsure of your grammar and might need help in that area.

  3. Read each sentence, and see if there are any words that don’t need to be there, or any words where another word would be more exact/appropriate/effective/evocative.

  4. Is there any place where you could remove text and make the content more direct? “She slipped quickly and silently from the room” could just as easily be “she slipped from the room” - if it isn’t critical to the process of the plot HOW she slipped from the room, drop it.

  5. Are there ‘breakfast-to-bed’ details that don’t help drive the plot? These are things like, “He threw back the covers and sat up on his bed. Stepping from the bed, he stuffed his feet into his slippers and pulled on his robe. He walked to the bathroom and examined his teeth in the mirror. Stretching mightily, he wondered if the milk was still good enough to use in his coffee, or if he’d have to drink it black today.” In other words, every blessed moment is described, when it would be enough to say, “He got up and muddled his way through his daily preparations for work.” (Granted, that’s telling, but if it isn’t critical to your story line, you can save people’s sanity by skipping it.)

  6. Read it out loud to yourself - or to your cat or dog. And have someone else read it out loud to you, if you can stand it. You’ll catch things that way that reading it silently won’t show you.

Here are some of my favorite sites (skip over the ‘publication’ issues, and just go for the ‘editing’ and ‘critiquing’ content): (list of best writing websites)

Try here:

It’s a place for writers to have their work critiqued by other writers. There is also a section for readers, where writers can “publish” their work online (after it’s been critiqued in the Writers workshop). Give it a whirl-- they’re great people.

I have looked and I remember a fantasy writing critiquing site. But I don’t remember the name of it. I will look back through my searches and see if I can find it.

Out of curiousity, do any dopers ever trade work and critique it? Personally, I would be interested in something like that.

E-mail it to me, but I’ll be savage. Best also to include a paragraph-long summary of what exactly you are trying to describe and what point you are trying to make. Sometimes it’s really unclear in amateur fiction.

I played AD&D all through my twenties, incidentally.

I would be also, CMC. I tried a writer’s workshop for a short while, but I didn’t like many of the people there. I’m on the last couple of pages of my third novel (YES!), and I desperately need someone to read it after my first revision, preferably someone whose work I can read in return. A friend I met in a writing class isn’t serious about writing, so I hesitate to ask her to read much as I can’t return the favor.

DeadlyAccurate and Bryan Ekers, I think we should tart a thread to that effect. I am on working on two novels, one that is standard, but humorous, (at least I hope so) in order for me to try and learn construction and actually finish it, (but it is only a quarter of the way done) and another very recently started novel which is a little more obscure. I will start a thread in Cafe Society.

Bryan… savage, eh? Oh, boy. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. :wink: