As you can see if you follow the link, none of the writing is visible, and it won’t be unless you sign up to become a member. This is very important, because, as the site is private, there is no danger of the work you post there being considered published on the internet. I know this is something that a lot of people worry about – myself included – but on that count, Scribophile is safe.
To be able to post stories, you need a currency called Karma. It takes five Karma to post one piece of work (that work can be anything from a poem, to flash fiction, a short story or even a chapter for a novel, but they recommend nothing longer than 3,000 words to make sure the work doesn’t get ignored in favour of something shorter). To earn Karma you have to write critiques of other people’s work, and the more in-depth and thorough your critique is, the more Karma you earn. Once you have earned enough Karma you post your own work, and people will write critiques on that. It works pretty well for the most part. You do get the odd unhelpful critique here and there but mostly people are there to get constructive help in their own writing and so will give what they hope to get back in return. The ones who don’t, soon find out the error of their ways. Plus, there’s a team of admin you can turn to if you feel like a critique was not constructive.
There’s also a lively forum community, where writers can talk about all kinds of subjects, on writing, publishing, or just chill out and act silly. Again, there are moderators to make sure nothing gets out of hand, and while they can be a little over-zealous at times, in my opinion at least, they do keep the forums from getting out of hand.
It doesn’t cost anything to join Scribophile. Basic membership is free, but if you want to be able to post more than two pieces of work at a time, or use formatting such as italics or bold etc, you have to stump up for premium membership, which is currently $65 for a whole year, or $9 per month. It’s well worth the price, for all the extras – especially for novelists who would like to be able to keep more than two pieces of work up at a time.
Cons? The sheer volume of novelists on the site means that novel chapters are very slow to get into the critique spotlight (this is a place where they generate more Karma and therefore will generate more critiques from people looking to earn Karma). The answer to that is to critique more novel chapters if you want yours to move through. Unfortunately, some novelists post their chapters and critique short stories (which move through the spotlight a lot more quickly). And what you’re left with is lots of high numbered novel chapters that no one wants to touch because they haven’t read the rest of the novel. My answer to that was to critique novel chapters and find like-minded people writing in the same genre whose work I could follow from beginning to end, and hope that some of them would return the favour. That way, my chapters are guaranteed to get a few critiques whether they have gone through the spotlight or not. If you’re a premium member, you can get around the problem by posting to a private spotlight, where people in your groups or who have marked you as a favourite can earn more Karma for critiquing your work.
All in all, it’s been a positive experience so far, and my writing has improved immensely from my being there. But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. It costs nothing to join, hang around, critique some work and even post something to test the waters. You never know, you might just find it useful too.