We’re all about community support! Writing can be a lonely process, and having a circle of fellow authors you can turn to for advice and guidance makes all the difference. Recently, we shared our top picks for 5 online writing communities for fiction authors. One of those communities is Scribophile, a social writing workshop founded in 2008 and aimed at improving members’ writing skills through its reviewing system.

The founder of Scribophile, Alex Cabal, was kind enough to answer our questions about the site and how users can make the most of its offerings.

Q&A with Alex Cabal from Scribophile

Author Secret: Tell us a little about Scibophile: what is it, and how did you get started?

Alex Cabal: Scribophile is a critique-based writing community. Writers sign up, participate in lively discussion forums, and post their work to get feedback on how to improve it from other writers. We also have lots of free resources for writers, like our Academy and Blog sections which have tons of helpful articles for writers. We’re one of the largest independent writing communities online.

AS: How do your members interact with one another on the site?

AC: We have a large public discussion forum that anyone can participate in to discuss almost anything. Members talk about writing craft, books they’ve read, or just their day-to-day goings-on. We also have a section for member-run groups, where writers can gather to discuss or post about special-interest subtopics.  For example, we have several groups dedicated to literary fiction, others to fantasy, others to erotica, and so on.

Finally, the backbone of Scribophile is our critique system. Members write helpful and detailed critiques for their peers, in order to help them improve their writing.  In doing so they earn “karma points”, which they can then spend on posting their own work for feedback.  That way, everyone is able to improve their writing.

We have tens of thousands of members participating in our forums and writing critique every day. These days we see an average of 200,000 words of critique written daily – that’s the equivalent of the length of five novels’ worth of pure feedback, per day!

AS: What is the “Spotlight”, and how does it work?

AC: The spotlight system is one of the ways we guarantee that members get timely feedback for the writing they’ve posted.  A ‘spotlight’ is a limited number of work that we highlight for maximum karma earnings. Your work is guaranteed to enter a spotlight for a minimum number of critiques, and people are encouraged to critique it because they earn the most points for critiquing work in a spotlight.  Once your work reaches a certain number of critiques, it’s removed from the spotlight to make room for another work.

The spotlights, along with the karma system, are how we can guarantee a minimum amount of helpful and actionable feedback for every single post!

AS: What do you think is the biggest benefit of being part of an online community of fellow writers?

Oh, there’s tons of benefits for writers.  The thing with writing is that it’s a very lonely activity. It requires long stretches of quiet concentration, in which you can’t be interacting with others. So writers tend to be a solitary bunch. Being able to connect online, with writers from all over the world, and who understand your subject area, can be such an eye-opener. The sense of community is so important for people – you can meet writers who have gone through what you’re going through with the publishing process, who can give you helpful advice or just commiserate.

On top of that, the feedback you get from strangers is often much, much more valuable than the kind of feedback you’d get from friends and family. Friends and family might not necessarily know much about the writing craft, or might give you feedback designed not to hurt your feelings, rather than feedback designed to actually help you improve your writing.  Getting critiques from objective strangers is just so much more helpful.

AS: Do you have any top tips for new members getting started on your site?

AC: Even though Scribophile guarantees critiques for everything you post, you’ll get the most from Scrib if you make an effort to meet people and network a little.Twitter Many writers have part or all of a novel written, and they want feedback on the whole thing. Well, it’s quite difficult to approach a stranger and get them to read an entire novel and write detailed feedback on the whole thing, if they’ve never met you before. That’s why networking is so important.

As you get started with Scribophile, make an effort to meet people, to critique outside of your comfort zone, and to make friends.  Then, as you build critiquing relationships, you’ll find that you’ll have naturally created a network of readers who would be happy to sit down with your entire novel and give you cover to cover feedback.

AS: What is the Scribophile Academy, and how does it work?

The Academy is a section we put together after we noticed that lots of members were asking the same basic writing questions over and over. Knowledgeable members from our community volunteered to put together a series of fact-based articles that cover writing basics – everything from punctuation to dialog tags. So when a new member asks the same question again, we can point them to a detailed and thorough Academy article, instead of rehashing an old point.

The Academy is free and available for anyone to read, no membership required.

AS: Anything you’d like to highlight or add?

Our members run regular writing contests, for which we often sponsor cash prizes from our prize fund. You can win hundreds of dollars every month by writing something for one of our many contests. Check them out. 🙂

Lastly, Scribophile is a totally independent writing community. There are lots of other writing communities out there, but many are owned by large publishing houses. Since we’re independent, we’re not interested in selling you publishing packages or making you compete for votes for a popularity contest. We’re just here to help you improve your writing, to give you a comfortable place to chat with other writers from all over the world, and to be your stepping stone to achieving success on your own.

Come by and say hi!

Thank you once again to Alex for chatting to us about the site, and for providing such a great platform for writers to connect with one another!