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Review: Online Writing Workshop SFF (OWW)

Discussion in 'Original Fiction Discussion' started by Vira, Aug 2, 2020.

  1. Vira

    Vira Third Year ~ Prestige ~

    Dec 20, 2006
    High Score:

    For one month, I have been a member of the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (OWW).

    I heard a lot of things about it before joining, even years back, since this community has been around for a long time. Many authors have posted their works here for critique, including Jim Butcher, and there’s a scrollable tab of member success stories, people who have gotten published.

    I was looking for critique on my original fiction, and I’ve always been curious about this site. When I saw a free trial, I shrugged my shoulders.

    I decided to try it out.

    How It Works.

    This is how the site works. You join up and are immediately given five points. To post a submission, you spend one point. Every time you review another writer’s submission, you gain a point. So if you wanted to post your twenty-five chapter book, you would need to review twenty pieces to get the points necessary to post all of them. If a submission is highlighted at the top of the review/rate page, it’s because it doesn’t have enough reviews. This is called an “under-reviewed submission”, and you gain two points from reviewing it. This under-reviewed submission changes multiple times per day.

    And when I say review, I mean a substantial review. A 50-word thumbs up review doesn’t cut it, you need to put in effort. There’s a 100-word count minimum (anything lower will post, but you won’t get a point for it), and if you keep writing non-substantial reviews, the administration will contact you to tell you off. There’s also an option of doing spot comments, which is like commenting on a google doc, but they’re not mandatory.

    When you’ve done enough reviews, a colored bee appears next to your username. These are ranks. You gain a black bee for 50 reviews, blue bee for 150, and gold for 350. They don’t mean anything, but your user profile will let you know how many reviews you have left until you reach the next rank. Just as a clarification, the rank counts reviews, not points. So while I may have 21 points, I only have 16 reviews under my belt, and it’s the latter that’s counted.

    There are only a few rules on what sort of submission you can post. It needs to be original fiction; no fanfiction. 7500-words max per submission, so if your chapter is over that amount, better break it up. The level of sexual and violent content is subjective, but if it’s content you wouldn’t normally find on a bookstore’s shelves, then best not to post it, or at least ask the site whether you can. Otherwise, you can post a story, a synopsis, and I even saw one person post a movie script.

    Lastly, and the most apparent thing, is this site isn’t free. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial, but after that you need to pay. One year membership is $49 ($6/month) or $30 for a six month membership.

    So as you can see, this community has centered itself around reviewing rather than posting stories, and due to this, it’s created a thriving and active community.

    My Experience.

    I joined July 7, 2020, with the intent to post the first three chapter of my first book. I wanted an honest critique to see if I was missing anything, or whether things could be changed. I read the FAQ before I did anything, and I immediately liked the tone that concentrated on finding things wrong in stories, rather than just enjoying them.

    However, I didn’t post my chapters. For the first week, I only reviewed.

    I already had all the points I needed to post my chapters, but I didn’t want to post and dash. I wanted to see if I could actually become a part of this community for the long-term. The membership fee was pretty cheap, and the community active enough to make this worthwhile. I wanted to get a feel of what sort of reviews the community expected of me, and what sort of reviews I should be expecting for myself. The one thing I learned here is to include your email with your review, so the writer can reply to it if they want to. I didn’t do that for my first couple reviews, and when I did post, they reviewed my submission then wrote their reply to my review.

    The types of reviews common to this site are multiple paragraphs long with a lot of spot comments in the actual story. So basically the same as Work By Authors. The interface is easy to use, and you even have an option to save your review as a draft and come back to finish it later. Just as a warning, if you do this, the writer of the submission can’t read the draft but can see it exists. Whenever I saw someone had a draft on one of my submission, that was cue for me to check back every five minutes.

    Once I had a few reviews under my belt, I posted my first chapter, and a week later posted my second. Statistically, for every ten views your submission gains, one review will be posted. My first chapter got four reviews, and my second got five. I’ve shelved both because that’s a great amount of reviews, and after observing how other writers are doing, there’s a trick to gaining more reviews.

    It’s called… reviewing other people’s work. :p

    I like keeping track of submissions I’ve reviewed to see if other reviews agree with my conclusions. The writers who never replied to me and never reviewed my work back generally got less reviews than other writers on the site. Because I wanted to shove my way into the community, I replied to all my reviews and I made sure I reviewed all my reviewer’s stories too. Then I went one step further.

    I like to call this “guilt-reviewing.” I looked through the reviews of other stories and found a reviewer whose style I liked. I then reviewed their submission with the intent on forcing them to review my story and give me attention. This doesn’t always work, as it’s not mandatory to review a reviewer back because it’s just curtesy. Another trick is creating a “group”. These are people who have reviewed both of my chapters, and I’ve reviewed their stuff, so we’ve creating a loop of reviewing. For my chapter two, I waited for a couple of my group to post new submissions before posting mine, so we could all review them at the same time. Obviously, this group is only in my head, but it makes me happy.

    I posted my chapter three on July 29, and I only have one review so far with twenty-one views. I have no doubt the rest of my group will get on it eventually, and I’m interested in their takes.

    Now to the part everyone will be wondering about.


    Or, how useful are these reviews?

    It depends.

    I’ll say outright that the writing quality of these submissions aren’t as strong as the works on DLP. Not that you can easily compare fanfiction to original fiction since things like audience investment in a protagonist is mostly a problem for original fiction. But the general writing quality, pacing, and storytelling of the submissions posted in this community are average. The strongest tie binding these writers together is the desire to improve their work or help others improve it.

    While the only genres on this site are fantasy, science fiction, and horror, some writers only write one genre and may not be that familiar with the age and genre your story is. Like all reviews for fanfiction, you need to take every review individually to judge whether their points are valid or it might be a problem on their end.

    A unifying thread on the reviews for my book was that there was not enough explanation in the first chapter on what is going on and why my protagonist was doing things. A fair point. One of my favorite things as a writer is throwing readers in a story blind and taking them for a ride. It’s something I’ll consider when I do my edits.

    However, my chapter two was more divisive. I’m ignoring one review for reasons, but two were generally confused and wanted much more explanation. I could tell instantly that they wanted a Wikipedia summary of what was going on. The other two reviews apparently read those reviews, and told me not to over-explain and that they were enjoying the ride. For my third chapter, my only reviewer so far (one of the confused ones from chapter two) suggested an actual history lesson prologue for context on the setting and my protagonist’s motivations.

    But this ties back into the main draw of this community.

    Despite the obvious confusion this reviewer felt with my story, they still made many spot comments and left me reviews for all my chapters. They’re not my target audience, and I politely disagree with many of their suggestions, but I appreciate that they sat down and took time out of their day for me. This goes for all my reviewers. I wanted this community to give my story a chance, and they did, and by doing so, they’ve helped me out and given many things to think about.


    In the beginning stages of joining this community, I played with the idea of staying long-term, but I’m satisfied with what I got out of it during my free monthly trial. I don’t want to drag these reviewers through my entire story, and I have nothing else to post at the moment. Even when I start draft two of my next book, I won’t want to show it until draft three. Some people on the site are posting their first drafts as they write it, but that’s not how I roll.

    This community is thriving, helpful, and attentive. You may not get the reviews you’re looking for, but you will get reviews. People will look at your work, and if you don’t have a support network or have enough people to look at your original fiction, this community is here for you. It’s up to you to do what you will with what reviews you get. But be happy and thankful. I know I am.
  2. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
    I was a member here for a year back when I started writing (or at least I’m 90% sure it was this site). This seems accurate.

    scribophile and critique circle are two other similar sites that are free - but being free means they’re full of less serious people who dial it in more.

    I’d actually wanted to rejoin OWW but couldn’t remember the name of it. Thanks for that.