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Constructive criticism can help you become a better writer. Your family and friends might read your stories and help out, but they're not writers. Their feedback is going to be limited as they're unlikely to be experienced in fiction writing.
So, if you're a beginner, how do you gain helpful writing feedback and good advice without shelling out loads of money for a professional critique service you're not yet ready for?
Simples (please accept my apologies - I can't quite believe I'm quoting a meerkat in a blog post... I must be overtired). You can seek help from a respected writing community offering encouraging free writing feedback.
I was recently contacted by one of my readers, Rana Tarakji. She suggested that a list of free fiction critiquing opportunities would be a good resource to build. I agreed.
When Rana was researching critiquing services, she came across a number of websites that offer free writing feedback, so she very kindly put a list together for me. You can see the list below - it details some of the best online services available.
After the free writing feedback list, you will find details of professional critique services. These are useful when you have developed your writing and are in need of help from someone with detailed knowledge and direct industry experience.
After that, you will find Rana's biography, as this was her brain child.
If you know of / use / run a website that offers writing feedback or critiquing services, please contact me and I will add the details to the lists below.
Here are some of the best websites and online writing communities that allow writers to gain writing advice, tips and feedback on their stories free of charge. Websites are listed alphabetically.
At the time of writing, ABCtales hosts over 100,000 short stories written by nearly 20,000 authors. Their forums allow writers to share their work with an active community of writers who give feedback and constructive criticism.
It looks like ABCTales may close on 31st December 2016. Very sad news. Let's hope Tony Cook (who runs it) can find someone to either help out with costs, or take it over.
Agentquery Connect is an online social networking community for the publishing industry, offering membership, forums and blogs where users proofread each other's work
Bookrix is a self-publishing platform that allows you to engage with community members and promote your work. They help you with publishing and distribution via Amazon and other major online retailers.
There are currently 7 groups, called Orbits, looking at short story or novel length stories. They are all online, usually by simple email, and focus on SF, fantasy or horror. Members of the BSFA enjoy free entry to one or both groups which are small and have been successful for many years now. The original Orbits were actually postal.
The normal ‘round’ is bimonthly, with a maximum submission of 15,000 words.
The aim is to improve writing skills so while all members are polite, and invariably very friendly, the feedback aims at professional standards. Members range from complete beginners to multi-published, and live in quite a surprising number of countries, so being a Brit is not a requirement.
Based in Iceland, Critique Circle is an award winning website that has been running since 2003. At the time of writing they have posted almost 120,000 stories which have received over 550,000 critiques. They offer active forums and a great community.
Here is a comment from one of my website users, Alex Guerriero, about his experiences with this website:
I have tried Critique Circle and I found it very helpful. Reading somebody else's work makes you more aware of your own mistakes.
A website that is primarily aimed at artists, but is also aimed at any form of art, including fiction writing. DeviantArt has been running since August 2000 and has over 38 million members.
Inkitt offer publishing advice, free writing competitions and encourage kind and constructive feedback from community members. Their content is curated, but they boast a 24 hour turnaround time for any submission.
Mibba is a creative writing website with a growing audience. It was developed for writers to share their stories, poems, blogs and books and then gain feedback from community members.
Aimed at writers of all skill levels, Scribophile encourages members to share their experiences and give respectful feedback in their friendly community forums. At the time of writing they have served almost 650,000 critiques for almost 110,000 submitted works, so it's a highly active community.
Peer review system aimed specifically at short stories, giving objective feedback via an online community.
This website was recommended for the lists by Dianne Bown-Wilson, one of my website users. Dianne has used the site and found it very helpful and learnt lots from it. For more information, see Dianne's notes in the comments at the bottom of the page.
Launched in 2005, The Next Big Writer give members access to constructive criticism from 1,000's of writers living all over the world. They also run writing contests.
A community offering proofreading, constructive criticism and general advice and feedback on both fiction and non-fiction writing.
Another site suggested by Dianne Bown-Wilson, who has used the site and found it really useful. Again, her notes can be seen in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
YouWriteOn is associated with FeedARead. Every 4 months, the authors who sell the most books on FeedARead receive feedback from publishers of authors like Dan Brown, Terry Pratchett and Ian Rankin.
Free writing critiques are great - they can be helpful and give you great advice when you're starting out. However, as you become more accomplished, you will need an expert to work with.
These professional services cost money, but you are usually receiving feedback from a successful editor, publisher or writer who can draw on extensive real-life experience to help you develop your stories so they have a much better chance of being published. Here are a few services that I have first hand experience of, or have heard good things about from other writers.
If you've used a professional critque service and have had a good experience, please get in touch and I will add the details to this list.
Allen's specialities are science fiction, fantasy, and short stories. He regularly judges the British Fantasy Society's annual short story competition.
He usually critiques work by people he knows or has met through the workshops he runs, but is still open to negotiation for critiquing the work of 'strangers'.
I've liaised with Allen regularly over the last few years and he often contributes to the writing challenges I run. The quality of his submissions speak for themselves. If you're interested in working with Allen, check out his website and email him.
I've heard good things about Hilary from a number of my website users. She's been running her business for over 25 years and has built up a team of experienced readers that cover all forms, styles and genres of writing.
One literary agent said: ‘Hilary is the best. She tells it like it is! And she has a particularly sharp eye for spotting talent, even in its raw state.’
I used Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau to critique and edit my first novel, Wicked Game. I worked closely with Doug Watts and found his feedback invaluable. JBWB offer an excellent service at an affordable price.
Lynda used to be one of the partners that ran Laurel House Creative Workshops. I won their short story competition way back in 2011 and they provided me with an excellent critique of my story, 'The Cat, the Bull & the Madman'.
You can read the story and critique here to get a flavour of Lynda's work. Her prices are amazing, so you'll struggle to find quality help priced so reasonably anywhere else.
I receive many emails asking me to critique other writers work for free. I run this blog as a business, so sadly I can't offer to give feedback without payment. Plus, I receive far too many requests for one man to handle (until someone invents a time machine).
Due to the amount of requests I receive, I decided to offer a short fiction critique service. I've been running it since 2013. I always try and give a positive and encouraging critique, while pointing out potential issues and making suggestions for writers to consider that might help them improve their work and make it more publishable. When appropriate, I also suggest potential markets for them to submit to.
I haven't used these services myself, but have heard good things about them from my website users a few times now. Writer's Digest offer reasonably priced services for all aspects of writing, including short stories, picture books, synopsis and query letters.
Here is a comment from one of my website users, Alex Guerriero, about his experiences with Writer's Digest services:
Writer's Digest was a big disappointment because their critique was very superficial and although I was told a follow up was part of the process I had to send several messages before I got a reply. It was very frustrating, I had to wait a month. I don't recommend it.
Rana Tarakji is an American/Lebanese female entrepreneur, writer and digital marketer.
After having worked in one of the fastest growing companies alive - Groupon - Rana has launched and funded an internet start-up called Cary, a pre-owned marketplace based in the United Arab Emirates.
Since then, Rana has remained a co-founder at Cary but ceased being involved in the operations in order to start he own small online business Stylerail, an online beauty shop and blog.
Rana has been focusing mainly on her online business as well as on freelance writing, and has had articles published on dozens of respected websites and blogs.
You can connect with Rana on:
I'd like to say a massive thank you to Rana for coming up with the idea for this resource and helping me develop it.
If you have any ideas about other useful writing resources that could be developed on this site, please get in touch with me using the comments form below or visit my contact page.