When we started Toasted Cheese, the critique forums were very popular. This was in large part because the editors put a lot of their own time into giving feedback. Our hope was that by leading by example, by showing writers how to give good feedback, they would eventually take over from us and become self-sufficient. Ultimately, our goal was for us to be dispensable at the forums. One day, we thought, our members won’t need us anymore because they’ll be able to rely on each other.
That’s not what happened. Instead, as the editors became busier, and weren’t able to spend as much time giving feedback, writers continued to post work and request feedback, but few gave it in return (those who did: we appreciate you so much!). The less feedback that was given, the fewer new requests that were made, until posting at the critique forums slowed to a trickle and died off.
We loved giving feedback—that’s how this whole thing started—but no one can give and give and give indefinitely without being refueled. Eventually, you burn out. Other things, things that do reward you for doing them, take priority. If you want someone to keep giving, you can’t just take take take, you have to give back.
I know some writers are reluctant to comment on others’ work because they don’t think they’re qualified. But if you write yourself, if you read, then yes, you’re qualified! It may take some time to figure out how to articulate your thoughts, but just like writing fiction or whatever your genre of choice is, the only way to get there is by practicing. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.
Others shy away from critiquing or reviewing because they don’t want to “waste” their limited writing time commenting on others’ work. But I will let you in on a writing secret: giving feedback is one of the best ways to improve your own writing. When you read your own work, you are blind to many of its flaws. When you read others’ work, those same flaws jump out at you. Feedback, critiques, reviews—all of these will give you insights that you can put into practice in your own writing. The time you spend on them will never be wasted.
Our reviews editor, Shelley, receives many review requests from writers with no connection to Toasted Cheese. An existing connection with TC is a stipulation because Candle-Ends is about supporting our writing community. You have to put something into it before you can get something back. If you’d like us to review your work, there are many ways you can establish a connection with TC—one of those, of course, is by writing a review of another writer’s work.