How to Use Critique Circle -- according to Katherine Lato.

Last revised: 12/12/11

How to Use Critique Circle -- according to Katherine Lato.

Note, you may want to do things differently. It's up to you. This guide is just to help get people started.

There is no cost to join Critique Circle. (Although there is a Premium membership, which has some benefits, but I recommend that people start with the free membership and make sure that they find it useful before spending any money on it.) You don't ever have to upgrade. It's not like a trial version of software. It's a service. Some people never pay anything for it (but they do see ads.)

In this How to, I first show how to sign up, then what you see at the site, what critiques on your writing looks like, and how to give a critique.

  1. Click on and the first time you should see something like the image below.

  2. Click on the 'Sign up Now' button.

  3. The form is longer than will fit in one screen shot.

  4. Once you fill it out, be sure to click on 'Register.'

  5. Now you can sign up with the User Name that you just picked and the password you choose. (Login is fast after that, especially if you click on remember me.

  6. Once you are logged in, you'll probably see something like this. Only it will be your login name, not KatWrite.

  7. If you click on 'Story Queue' on the left, you can see the stories that are up for critiquing at this point in time.

  8. There are several queues within Critique Circle. The Newbie is for people who have not yet submitted three stories--regardless of how many they're critiqued. You don't have to start by submitting to the Newbie queue, but if you do, you're highly likely to get 5 critiques since there are a lot of people who make it a point of critiquing that queue to help the newer people.

  9. This screen shot below is from the Fantasy queue. The line through the stories means that I've already critiqued them. The holding hand icon means that Midevil has critiqued at least one more of my stories than I've done of hers. This symbol is put there by the website.

    The two people icon means that Mariaxuxas is on my 'buddy list.' This is a useful way to find people whose stories you want to critique even if you don't owe them a critique.

    You can critique anyone's stories, but I always start with the people I owe and then do my buddies, then if I still have time, I may sample other storis.

  10. When you submit a chapter for critique, it may take a week or two to come up, then it is up for a week (Wednesday - Tuesday midnight.)

    People critique it and I see their comments. (I also grade their critique which I'll cover in a bit.)

  11. I can see all the inline critiques at once. Some people explain their comments a lot. I tend to write less than this myself.

  12. The critiques continue through the whole chapter that I put up.

  13. Critiquers do not always agree as you can see below. As the author, you decide what you're going to change and what you're not. I give more weight to critiquers whose writing style appeals to me, or who seem to really understand what they're talking about. There are a few people who will want you to change stuff just to have something to say, but you soon learn who those people are. Most critiques, even if the person didn't like the story at all, provide valuable information for me as the author.

  14. The author gives feedback on each critique. This is important because it helps establish a relationship. The more relationships you have with people whose critiques you find useful, the more you'll get out of this site. You also help the critiquer to know what you found most useful in their critique, and then they'll do more of that.

    If I have something that I've polished and just want a final read-through, I'll tell people that. Sometimes I explicitly ask people to ignore commas since there is a huge variation in what people think is correct. You can help shape what comments you get, often with the 'author's notes.'

  15. Even though I didn't agree with everything this critiquer had to say, I still found the critique very useful.

  16. Now I'll show how I do a critique. First I click on a story that I want to critique. (I can always change my mind after looking at it.) Here I'm looking at Bria since it's by one of my buddies. (I don't know Fairchild, but we've critiqued a number of each other's stories. So if I critique hers, she's likely to do mine.)

  17. I can see how many critiques this story already has, but not what those critiquers said until I finish mine. (Then I can see unless they marked it private.)

  18. She asked for inline (the type of critique) and I like doing inline, so that's what I select. Now I can begin writing the critique.

  19. To avoid sharing someone's material outside where they intended it, I switched to Barry's short story to do the actual critique just so I could demonstrate how to do it.

  20. I might read several paragraphs without making a comment. That's fine. The goal is to write 300 words (to get full credit.) but sometimes a story is so polished that I don't have much to say. If this happens, I tell the author what I'm thinking at various points in the story, since that is useful as well.

  21. Sometimes I ask the author a question. It doesn't mean he has to answer me. It's to show what I was thinking as I read it. Some people don't like suggestions on how to change things. I like them myself. It's easier to see what the reader was thinking if you see how they'd write it--unless they're really bad writers. Then it's annoying. (But I rarely have someone make suggestions that are purple prose or bad grammar.)

  22. If your critique is too short, you'll get a warning. 150-300 words and you get .5 credit (regardless of how long the story is.) The number of points for a 300+ word critique depends on the length of the material.

  23. If you start critiquing a story and change you mind, you can delete your critique. That's a good idea since leaving half-written critiques isn't good etiquette.

  24. To submit your own story, click on 'Submit' on the left side.

  25. Pick which type of story it is. I recommend starting with the Newbie Queue.

  26. After you highlight the queue, click on Next.

  27. Fill in the form. The story has to be at least 300 words long. I recommend aiming for around 1500 to 3500. Do not submit something more than 5000 words long. Few people will comment at all, and those who do critique will skim most of it.

  28. And click on Next.

  29. Fill in the author's notes. And if there's anything risque, put in a warning.

  30. I always let anyone read mine.

  31. Have to keep clicking Next.

  32. Do a last look at it, then click on Submit. Note when it is likely to appear in the public queue (depends on how many others are already in the queue. Sometimes it can take 3 weeks to appear.)

  33. You can structure your submissions as novels--which has advantages, but don't do this right away as it's complicated.

  34. If you're a premium member (pay money), you can have private queues. Which have the advantage that you can have your chapters up for as long as you like and people can read them at their own pace. I recommend doing this if you can afford it after you've used Critique Circle for a month or two.

  35. There are lots of tools at the site, some of which I hadn't looked at until I was preparing this material.

  36. Including ways to track your progress.

  37. And writing exercises.

  38. Remember, I do not recommend that you start by buying a premium membership. Make sure you're going to use it first. I, personally, have a premium gold membership because I wanted to have up to 24 people able to be in my private queues and I think it's worth it. But that's my situation.

  39. Be sure to let me know what your Critique Circle handle is and I'll look for your submissions.

    Please let me know if anything in this step-by-step was confusing and I'll try to make it better.