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The first ten years -- by Jon Bjarnason

Critique Circle celebrates its ten year anniversary on monday Oct 21st! Congratulations, everyone!

It's hard to believe it's been this long. Ten years is actually a lot of time. In that time Sigrún and I have gotten married and have had two baby girls. Hulda and her husband have had two baby girls. We've seen the rise of Apple and the iPhone, the downfall of Microsoft and the Blackberry. We've survived the collapse of the Icelandic banking system as well as Paris Hilton.

In this blog I'm going to rant on a bit about this and that which comes to mind at this juncture. If you don't want to read the blog, at least scroll down a few paragraphs and check out the birthday gifts we've got for you guys. smiley

How it all began

CC started as, a small Icelandic writing website that Sigrún and I thought up. The site launched in Feb 2003 and a few months later Hulda (my sister) asked me "Why not also do it in English?"  We all thought this was a brilliant idea since we had been on and the Online Writing Workshop before and really believed the feature set we had developed for Rithringur was something that no one else had.

She came up with the name Critique Circle and I set to work on turning the website multilingual.

So, on October 21st 2003 we opened our doors not knowing what to expect. We were all amazed by the response and are continually amazed to this day. The site was way more successful than I imagined and it quickly buckled from the stress and I needed to do massive rewrites to caching and the database layer (pro tip: MS Access databases are not a good choice for a big website).

This all went fine though and I quickly added some important features such as the custom queue system and private forums, which were bundled into a premium system. Now, we had no idea whether anyone would be willing to pay for these extra features but knew that we couldn't continue running the website without some money coming in. We were pleasantly surprised (not for the first or last time, mind you) to see that people wanted to buy premium subscriptions, not just to get the features, but just to support CC.

We now had a very solid foundation to build on and the rest is history. This was absolutely amazing start and we're extremely grateful.

A fantastic community

We (all of us) have managed to build up a fantastic community on CC. Sure, we've had our ups and downs with huge dramas and major blowouts, but that can be said of any family. wink

The community here on CC is something that we didn't plan, we just built the tools and were fortunate enough that people wanted to use them. The awesome community sprouted up from like-minded people who were reaching for the same goals converging in one place, and that community is the true magic of CC.

Hulda, Sigrún and I didn't do this alone. We've been lucky enough to have had some great people helping us as moderators. There is no way we could have managed the website all by ourselves for all this time if it wasn't for these wonderful people. They have a thankless job and they do it just because they believe in what CC stands for. The next time you see a moderator, please give him/her a nice virtual hug or a pat on the back.

The next ten years?

I hope we'll be around in another ten years. This journey has been absolutely fantastic (and terrifying sometimes) and we've met some amazing people. We hope that people will want to continue using this website to help with their stories. Even though you guys need to do all the work it makes me proud have some minor role to play in you reaching your goals.

I never, in my wildest dreams could have imagined that our little website would be the most successful writing website on the web. I can't wait to see how far we can come in the next ten years!

It's true that I will need to put effort into modernizing the site so that we remain relevant but I don't ever want to move away from our core, which is to provide a platform where people can critique each others' work, and I know you'll keep driving us in that direction. Thank you for that!

Birthday presents

Buy Premium, get Premium Gold!

We want to offer you guys, the people that make CC what it is, a special gift to mark the occasion. For a period of one week, until Oct 28th we are offering 1 and 2 year Premium Gold Subscriptions for the price of a normal premium subscription, which translates to a rougly 50% discount on gold subscriptions!

Click here to take advantage of this offer

But but but, I'm already a premium subscriber??? Not to worry, people who are currently premium subscribers with a 1 or 2 year subscription have a special upgrade offer with a 50% discount as well which the link above calculates for you.

Premium Gold members can do Paragraph edits while the story is up for review

Not only this, but starting now Premium Gold members get a special treat. They are now able to do paragraph edits to stories while they are up for review. Premium members are still able to change the story before it comes up for review and anyone can change their story after it finishes the crit cycle but no one has been able to edit the story while it was being critted before.

A paragraph edit is a minor edit to text which does not change story structure (no adding or deleting paragraphs). You can use this to fix those typos and minor issues that make you want to pull your hair out when the nitpick crits start rolling in. To access it click 'revise story' in your story page like before. I've also jazzed up the feature a bit to make it more user-friendly.

If you edit the story while it is up for review a little icon appears next to the edited paragraphs when people are critting the story to tell them there was an edit, so that people don't get confused if the text changes in the middle of their crit.

We hope you'll like this feature. I'm sure it will be very useful to some of us. wink

Some numbers

I love numbers and stats. Here are some straight from our trusty ol' DB:

In our ten years 12 thousand people have written 420 thousand crits on 88 thousand stories written by 8500 people. Combining stories and crits people have submitted half a billion words through CC, which is something like a thousand bibles.

Those are some huge numbers. smiley

For funnsies, here are the top words from all the story text that has been submitted to CC:

and here are the top words from all crit text:

In conclusion

I'd like to thank you all for being here with us, and also those that have come and gone. I hope we'll be here ten years from now, and I hope you'll be here with us, along with some new friends.

Now go write something! cool


Posted by Jon Bjarnason 20 Oct 2013 at 13:02
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Responses to this blog

Owllady 20 Oct 2013 at 20:19  
Nonni, thanks for this Did you notice how the word "like" is pretty prominent in both crits and stories? And in the story text, I don't even see "said". That's cool!

Hulda, Sigrun, and Nonni, thanks for the b-day presents and for all you do.

Happy Birthday, CC!
Sheridan 20 Oct 2013 at 20:57  
Thanks for the history on CC's origins, and especially for the CC site. I spread the word about how terrific it is as much as I can.

Not only has my writing improved through the input of CC members, I've also learned a lot through the forums, and have made some great friends here.

Blessings to you and yours for creating CC!
Petesdiner 20 Oct 2013 at 21:06  
Mead and waffles all around! Happy B-day, CC!
Zacs 20 Oct 2013 at 21:28  
Happy Birthday CC. I am sorry that I did not discover CC in previous years! (me bad). I look forward to being part of CC for the next 10 years.
Linda5216 20 Oct 2013 at 21:32  
There are no local crit groups where live. I don't know what I'd do without CC and the wonderful, and honest, people here.

Happy birthday!
Clarksvill 21 Oct 2013 at 00:10  
Happy Birthday!
Insertname 21 Oct 2013 at 00:26  
I've been here for six of those ten years, and I can honestly say that CC is what's kept me writing. I'm from a small town rich with literary history, but I never really knew any writers. I grew up in a family where support is non-existent and I never had any confidence in my words. I don't know why, but writing gave me a sense of purpose I'd be lost without, and CC, too, is responsible for that.

I was a precocious kid and a bit of a lost teenager, and I found here at a juncture where my writing was a bit crap and I was reaching to be better, and in its way, CC and its members is my home on the internet. CC is a community and a support system that many of us don't have, and without it, I don't know if I'd still be writing, but certainly I wouldn't be half the writer (or person, because the person and the writer are rather linked with me!) I am today. For that, Nonni, Hulda, and Sigrun, I offer my deepest thanks.

Happy birthday!

(Trust me to turn a post about CC's birthday into a post about myself. Ah, narcissism. )
Radprogirl 21 Oct 2013 at 00:40  
I've been here off and on for seven years. I would have given up long ago if not for CC. Happy Ten Years, All!
"I believe in the five Ps: Patience, Practice, Persistence, Passion, and a Pile of luck." — Doug Walker(Nostalgia Critic)

Aheila 21 Oct 2013 at 03:11  
Wow! Ten years! Congrats!

I'm a new CC members from Quebec City. Though I know a few writers, most of them write in French. I had been searching for a way to get the level of critics I wanted for my work and am happy I found it here.

When I read about the site before subscribing, I was amazed by how thought out the credit system is. And then the way newcomers are introduced to the features. I think I mentioned that on the forum.
In video games (my day job), this is called gamification (adding game-like mechanics to an non-game context). It became a buzzword about 5 years ago and most people attempting it have yet to master it. You're WAY ahead of the game. *laughs* Big thumbs up from a Game Design Director.

Happy Birthday CC! And thanks to all the wonderful people keeping it running!
Crease 21 Oct 2013 at 05:29  
"Small part" indeed. How about online home of the driving force? Keeper of the eternal flame. There be magic in those 100000 lines of code.

Thanks for building the structure for a community I—like others in the outbacks of the world—couldn't have found locally. Happy 10th, CC!
Gkt 21 Oct 2013 at 05:55  
Happy, happy birthday, CC. Thank you so much for this wonderful site. Not only has it helped me improve my writing but I have made great friends here as well. Love the sense of community!
Collenlynn 21 Oct 2013 at 06:48  
Happy birthday. And thanks. I felt isolated as a writer before I discovered CC.
Clareeast 21 Oct 2013 at 08:10  
Happy Birthday CC, and here's to the next 10 years!

"You can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club." Jack London

Clarksvill 21 Oct 2013 at 08:57  
CC is absolutely my favourite place on the internet. Thanks so much, guys. I appreciate everything you do for us.

Waterloon 21 Oct 2013 at 09:38  
Thank you for a wonderful place to learn and grow as writers. As busy as you are, you've always been eager to help, responsive to needs and concerns, and willing to accommodate us as we found our places in this wonderful community. You guys are the best. Happy Birthday and here's to many more.
Gracetier 21 Oct 2013 at 10:28  
Happy Birthday to CC and all who sail in her.

My son's 10th birthday is today too - a double celebration in my home now. I'm always telling writers to try CC because it has helped me so much in my writing. When I started here I had no local writing group, now I participate in/run two, but CCers are the best critters. I've made some great friends here. Here's to another ten years.

Big cheer and thank you to the moderators too - unsung heroes, I think.
Annjones 21 Oct 2013 at 12:30  

I'd have to drive a minimum of two hours to find any sort of local writing community.

Critique Circle keeps me focused, keeps me honest, and fills my need to belong to a community of writers. Most of all, it teaches me.

I can't thank you enough for this site. Happy Birthday.
Zarafa 21 Oct 2013 at 21:07  
In the days before CC, writing was my guilty little secret. I kept it hidden. Kept it safe. No one knew I wrote. No one suspected how I spent my nights. Needless to say, I thought my scribblings were just FABULOUS! How wrong I was.

CC gave me the courage to step from of my writerly closet, out into a wonderful land where patient critters took me by the hand and showed me the error of my ways. I earned a few thwacks with an electrified cattle-prod along the way (being a slow learner!), but eventually I got it.

CC forced me to confront the full naked horror of my pitiful prose. I can't lie. It wasn't a pretty sight. But I needed to hear the bad stuff in order to improve. I think I'm finally starting to make some headway (slow learner, remember?) I wouldn't exchange my premium membership for a gold pig.

Thanks CC. Happy Birthday. Now, pucker up!
Mariaxuxas 21 Oct 2013 at 22:59  
You have put Iceland on the map. Not that it wasn't there before, of course. But now, just like I thought of tin and Bolivia when I was a little kid, as an adult, I will think of CC and Iceland. The difference is that whereas my idea of Bolivia changed over the years, even as I grow into ga-ga-landia, I will always associate Iceland with the greatest writers' critique group and resource site on the Internet.

Congratulations and virtual pizzas to you all. ?Feliz cumplea?os! y muchas gracias. And may your success continue.
Mrsmack 21 Oct 2013 at 23:33  

I found out about this site while reading through the archives of a literary agent's abandoned blog. I haven't been on much lately since I started having babies, but I hope to come back in full force in a couple more years, once the kids are a bit bigger. What I have seen and tried has left me sincerely impressed though!

Looking forward to the site redesign you implied in your post! The fundamentals of the site with credits, etc., is fantastic, but your site looks like it's stuck in the early 2000s. I think it will entice more people to join if you have a fresh, professional looking design.

Thanks for giving us writers a place to connect! I live in a non-English speaking country. Without CC, I'd have no one to sharpen my writing skills. This site is very much appreciated!
Kids_table 21 Oct 2013 at 23:41  
I'd have to drive five hours to get to the nearest writing group. Thanks to CC I can meet and exchange crits and support with writers across the country and around the world. And thanks to you, Nonni.

Seriously, thanks.

★ First Draft Support Group ★ First draft achieved. Current status: Editing.
"And there's always edits."

Twisted 22 Oct 2013 at 06:46  
Disappointed that nobody has used this particular pun so far.

So I'll have to oblige, since we are all members of

All together now:

"I don't like critting, oh no.
I love it."

Shouldn't you be writing?

Ginella 22 Oct 2013 at 07:55  
I joined five years ago. I came across CC just by accident. I've learned so much here, but then I had a stroke and I had learn all over again. You wouldn't think I had a stroke today (other than my writing), but I know I'll get there in the end. So thank you to everyone and thanks heaps to CC.
Happy Birthday.

Now that I am older I thought it was great that I seemed to have more patience. Turns out I don't give a damn.

Imjustdru 22 Oct 2013 at 21:56  
I found this site in Witer's Digest. It's been a great experience joining other writers like myself and to show them my knowledge on comic book writing.

Cheers 2 U for 10 years of welcoming aspiring writers, CC!
Lindymoon 24 Oct 2013 at 13:31  
I found you through Nathan Bransford's blog, ages ago. At least, it seems like ages, because now I'm a published author with a blog and a website and a facebook page. Just today, my e-book grew up to be a paperback! Never would have happened without CC.

Thanks for everything, and it's nice that you want to give us presents on your birthday — but all I want is a "reblog" button!

Congratulations. You should be very proud of the work you've done, and the generous community you've built. XO
Fabulist 28 Oct 2013 at 00:07  
Happy birthday CC! Kudos to you Nonni for making an user friendly website! I have learned invaluable lessons on the art of writing here! Thank you.
Fields 1 Nov 2013 at 07:08  
Belated Happy Birthday, CC!

My writing wouldn't be where it is without this site, and the people I've met and workshopped with here.
Hartsbeat 24 Dec 2013 at 02:58  

Clarksvill 24 Dec 2013 at 10:03  
Literally speechless, eh?

Hilary 24 Dec 2013 at 10:19  
Disappointed that nobody has used this particular pun so far.

So I'll have to oblige, since we are all members of

All together now:

"I don't like critting, oh no.
I love it."


Sad to say, not everyone is as old as us, and they may not know who 10CC are. Only one of my favourite bands of all time.

Follow me on twitter: @Hilarymackelden
Like me on Facebook:
A complete list of my stage plays at

Hilary 24 Dec 2013 at 10:19  
I tell everyone about this site.
Follow me on twitter: @Hilarymackelden
Like me on Facebook:
A complete list of my stage plays at

Sarahbeth 4 Jan 2014 at 01:25  
I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your inspiration. My maybe-novel lives instead of being stuck in an on-line ghetto because of you!
Jjemerald 10 Mar 2014 at 21:46  
What is a 'shasca' and why is it as commonly used in crits as the word 'scene'? Weird.

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