Friday, 10 July 2009 Rated and Slated

I’ve always been a little wary of critique services, but I came across one a while back that sounded OK and I was curious. I’d just finished a story that I thought was pretty good, but seemed to be missing something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

It was an 1800 word story, the fee was negligible and they promised a quick turnaround. What did I have to lose? Other than my pride and dignity, that is, but I lost those a long time ago anyway.

So I dipped my toe in the water and sat back, waiting for the words of wisdom to come in.

Two months later, I sent a polite query asking if they could give me an idea of when to expect my critique.

A month after that, I finally got my ‘full service critique.’ It’s presented here in all its glory.

Now, that’s what I call a full critique. I have a cool looking chart showing exactly where the story succeeds and where it fails. What could be better than that?

I scored fairly high in most areas, but my presentation let me down a little. They asked for it to be sent as plain text in the body of an e-mail, not standard manuscript format. I duly obliged, so where I failed in presentation I really don’t know, but I’ll take it on the chin and move on.

Still, money well spent, I think you’ll agree.

But wait, there’s more. Not only did I get this rather fancy looking chart, I also had a bonus comment. Free of charge, no less. Now, that’s what I call a deal.

‘You clearly can write,’ it said.

Yes, I can; I learned at school. They taught me to read too. On a good day I can also clean my teeth, get dressed all by my own and, albeit at a push, I can even do myself a nice little packed lunch. Although it has to be said, I make a mess with the peanut butter.

Never, ever again.

I think I’ve since found the missing element that eluded me for a while with that story, but I still haven’t sold it. Come on editors – it scored 7 out of 10 for originality. That can’t be bad.


Rebecca Nazar said...

Hmmmmm, three months? I'm wary of critique services, but if I ever use one I've chosen Nannette Croce of I enjoy her posts and she has years of experience as an editor.

You might give a try. It's free and you can receive up to 15 critiques. It does take awhile for your manuscript to bubble to the top and you have to critique others. One of my stories was accepted after I took all that feedback to heart.

If you'd like, I'll critique it. My experience? I earned my English degree from a university whose initials are UMF and I'm very opinionated. :-) I prefer bloodied napkin manuscripts, but pasted in an email is tolerated.

L.R. Bonehill said...

Rebecca – I’m sure there are many of good critique services out there. I was just curious with this one and thought it was worth a shot. If nothing else it was an interesting experience; I did get my really useful chart after all! Don’t think I’ll be in a rush to repeat it though.

I’ve looked at critters before, but I get that little time to write anyway, that finding the time to critique god knows how many other peoples stories and write my own seems pretty much impossible. Until I either retire or discover the key to not needing any sleep…ever. Both of those are a long way off.

Be careful, I may just take you up on that offer one day – bloodied napkins it is.

Michael Stone said...

Ha, your wit is as dry as a bone, LRB. Like Rebecca, I recommend I owe much of my success (if you can call it that) to my peers in the group and made some good friends. I left lat year because of time constraints, so I can understand you hesitating to jump in. Basically, you need to critique on story a week to keep your participation ratio above the required 75%. If you pick a well written story it's easy to write 200 words of critique, but sometimes you read a story that makes you wonder where to begin.

Aaron Polson said...

Wow...maybe I can use a service like this to critique my students' papers...hmmmmmm

L.R. Bonehill said...

Mike – Thanks for the info. I’ve heard a lot of good things about critters, but (lack of) time is the main stopper at the minute.

By the way, I finally caught up with your latest Dunesteef story. It was great fun, I even enjoyed Big’s Scottish accent. Thought the grilling your daughter gave you was brilliant.

Aaron – Great idea, but maybe you could go one better and score them out of 11 instead

Horror Girl said...

i didn't even know these things existed. you learn something every day :^)

L.R. Bonehill said...

Samantha – They exist, but by the looks of it, some of them shouldn’t.