Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Guest: Ronel Van Tonder

From Sunny South Africa, my Guest this week is a writer who brings some interesting solutions to an issue true to the heart of any author. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Ronel Van Tonder

How to get Constructive, Unbiased Critiques

What's one thing all authors have in common? We all want feedback. You wouldn't be an author if you didn't want someone else to read your work and experience some form of an emotional reaction.
That's why, whether you're a new writer or an established author, having your work critiqued is a crucial element in the writing process.

So what's critiquing?

Critiquing is allowing someone else (be they a casual reader, another author, or an editor), to read your work and provide feedback on it. Critiquing, if done right, can provide a plethora of useful information about your writing to help to improve your craft.

Critique & Improve

As an author, critiquing can answer many pertinent questions for you, as critiquing can be both constructive and unbiased.

Critiquing answers important questions about your writing, such as:
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Does your plot make sense?

Is your writing coherent, and how can it be improved?

Are your characters captivating?

How realistic is your dialogue?

Does your novel begin/end in the right spots?

Are you formatting your novel correctly?

Are your funny bits actually funny?

And are your sad bits indeed sad?

Although there are several hundred critiquing groups in existence, here are two that I highly recommend:

Scribophile (

Scribophile is an online community that allows you to critique other writers’ works, as well as submitting your own for critiquing. It also contains forums with genre and topic specific groups. The feedback you receive is plentiful, concise, honest, and unbiased.

You get "Karma" points for every critique you do, which allows you to then post your work for critiquing. It's a "pay it forward" system that really works.

Here are some of the highlights:

Free and Paid membership options

The free version limits the amount of "works" you can have at any one time, as well as the amount of private messages you can store. But it still provides valuable feedback, and can really help you understand both the weaknesses and strengths in your writing.

Forums & Groups

Scribophile’s forums make finding the right critique group very easy. There are all sorts of critique groups, ranging from short stories to genre specific and even writing prompts if you’re in need of creative inspiration. Joining a group helps you to target your critiquing. This in turn provides niche-specific feedback which is invaluable, especially to genre authors. 

Very detailed, online critiques

The Scribophile website comes with three different critique types: inline, template and freeform. The inline version is fantastic, because you can highlight words or sentences and make suggestions, corrections or notes. It makes figuring out the critique a lot easier.

Here’s an example of a piece of my work that was critiqued by a fellow forum member

Here’s an example of a detailed rating provided with a critique

Message system

With Scribophile, you can send personal messages to other members, or write on their Scratchpads for the world to see. You can also send gifts to members, which use some Karma points.


Authors can add their social media links and a host of other information to their profile pages.

Bookmark & Set Reminders

If you see a chapter/work you'd like to critique, you can easily bookmark it and read it later - great for when you're in a hurry and want to come back later to read a piece.

Reputation Points

You also receive reputation points for interacting with fellow community members by responding their queries, liking their work and sharing critiques.


Scribophile also runs competitions from time to time.


If you want an online community that’s passionate about writing, improving their work and providing honest and unbiased feedback, then Scribophile is for you.

Wattpad is another online community that I discovered which allows for critiques. Members here are more concerned about the essence of your work than its structure and form.

You’ll find Wattpad members commenting on sentences they liked, what intrigued them about a character, or specific points about your story they enjoyed. With a sophisticated story structure that allows for chapters, covers, media and votes, this is a great way to get feedback from a diverse community.

Although usually not as concise as Scribophile, Wattpad is still a great way to collect unbiased critiques that will help you polish your writing and pitch future novels to potential readers.
Here are the highlights:

Story Structures

Wattpad allows for chapters or parts for every story along with basic formatting. It also provides writers with the tools to add a cover and other media to the work. 

Votes & Statistics

Statistics can always shed a light on which demographics enjoy reading your work, along with a host of other items.

Readers can also vote if they enjoyed your writing, and leave comments. Published works can be edited and published, giving you complete control over your writing. 


Wattpad had a thriving community that share a deep passion of the written word. There are groups which can assist genre-specific authors with getting targeted feedback from fellow group members.

Mobile App

Wattpad also provides a mobile app, which makes it easy to check up on notifications, read other authors’ work, and reply to comments.


There are a few regular competitions running on Wattpad such as short story competitions and the like. Most aren’t for cash prizes, but every bit of exposure helps!


Wattpad is a great place to get feedback on your story as it develops. It’s also a great place to upload complete works and short stories to provide additional traction for your priced titles.

In Conclusion

There are many other critiquing groups and platforms out there, but these two work great and are easy to use. With their large communities and host of functions and tools, these two websites have become firm favourites when it comes to critiquing.

What critiquing sites can you recommend? 


Ronel is a brand-spanking new indie author. She loves creating fantastical worlds set in the future, the mythical, and the horrific. Translate: She writes science-fiction, fantasy and horror novels.

Her life story is not particularly fascinating, but her love of technology, PC games and writing is. Beside writing, she spends her time slaying rendered baddies in the form of robots, gangsters and aliens - with any weapon that happens to be at hand.

When she's not writing, she's gaming, and when she's not gaming she's either sleeping or eating, as these are prerequisites for a continued life on planet Earth.

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Thank you, Ronel, for providing us with plenty of food for thought. If you haven't read any of her sci-fi novels yet, check them out. I had the privelege of reading 'Compile: Quest' a few months ago and it's on a par with works from some of the classic sci-fi authors such as Asimov and Herbert whilst reflecting 21st Century writing styles. Don't miss them!

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