The Critique Pool

Come on in, the water’s fine. The stories are swirling and the writers are lapping it up.

The Serial Collective is a space and place to share your work, piece by piece, with other writers. It is designed to bring exterior motivation and accountability to creative people who need it to thrive. Self-starters also benefit from the connection and belonging that comes with community.

The Critique Pool is a group of writers within The Serial Collective who are committed to critiquing each other’s latest work. They’re no longer satisfied with “likes” and positive feedback. They want to know what they need to work on to keep leveling up their craft. They are intent on providing useful, balanced feedback and getting the same in return.

Writing is a solitary task, but being a writer doesn’t require isolation. In fact, being part of a group of writers makes you a stronger storyteller over time. I knew the first bit when I created my writers community, To Live & Write, in 2014. The rest I discovered, much to my delight, in the past several years of hosting and producing lit nights and open mics, writing labs and workshops, writing retreats, and a bunch of other writing events and activities.

To Live & Write is a solid, safe, inclusive space for writers at every stage of their creative journeys. Newbies rub shoulders with New York Times bestselling authors, Poets Laureate, and Pulitzer Prize winners and everyone gives and receives respect, support, encouragement, and celebration for their achievements.

Connection and community, when done right, bring the best out of people and rewards their bravery.

I’ve lost count of the number of writers in To Live & Write who mustered the courage to read at lit nights and open mics and to publish their work on personal blogs and The Flash Lit Collective. To a person, whatever fear they felt going into it quickly morphed into a thrill at having done it. In eight years, I think there may have been two, maybe three people who didn’t immediately come back for more.

The thrill of sharing your stories – fact or fiction – is so very powerful. It’s the gateway drug to knowing you’re a writer and being secure enough in that reality to own it and claim it out loud. We have weekly Proof of Write gatherings where writers share up to five minutes of their most recent writing and then get to hear positive feedback about what they’re doing right.

But what happens when those writers crave a new kind of risk? They’re used to positive feedback and now they’re itching to be critiqued. They want to submit their work to online publications and literary agents and know that what they’re sending over stands a chance, but that takes having other people look at their work with a (constructive) critical eye.

Rejection letters are a badge of honor, but they do leave you asking, now what? Why didn’t it work? What do I focus on to make this thing publishable?

Step 1: Swim in The Critique Pool. It’s where you reinforce your understanding of the craft by reading your peers through the lens of a critique.

The Critique Pool commitment options:

  • Pace options: Submit weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly
  • Word count options: 0-800, 800-1500, 1500-2500
  • Review options to request: Proofreading, positive feedback, critique
  • Review options to sign up for: Any of the above, however, to be fair, for every critique you have asked to receive, you must return the time and attention to another writer. It’s not okay to ask for critiques and then give back proofreading, but it is okay to ask for proofreading and give back critiques (that level of generosity is your choice).

In The Serial Collective, just like in To Live & Write, there are guidelines for critiquing each others work. The first and most important addresses how to resist making story suggestions. The Golden Rule for The Critique Pool and Proof of Write is: Their writing is not about you. What you want to see happen next or instead has no place in a critique.

To find out what else is in those guidelines, join The Serial Collective and sign up for The Critique Pool.