One of the most important things for me, as a developing writer, is receiving consistent, constructive feedback on my projects. It’s so easy to get so buried in a project that sometimes it’s impossible to see it objectively. This is where my crit group–and a very small number of gracious professionals–come in.
My group has been together for six years. It’s a very small group, which has, I believe contributed to its success. We meet in a private little corner of cyberspace, but have gotten together numerous times IRL to attend conventions or stage regional “write-ins” when a few members happen to be in the same part of the world at the same time. We have a pretty decent success rate (“success” being defined as publication of projects that we’ve workshopped), and it continues to rise.
There are a lot of crit groups out there. If you’re looking for one, with a little research, you’ll find one that fits your taste and your needs. Many areas have local writers’ groups that meet face-to-face. Or you might consider starting a group with your friends. If you relish face-to-face interaction, and aren’t shy about giving or receiving feedback, this might be the kind of group for you.
Personally, I find that working online makes it easier to both give and receive feedback. We have a rigid schedule (each month, a different member’s project goes through the process) and use a form to structure our responses to the work. Though we’ve become friends over the years, this format has made it easy to focus on the objective, and to give and receive constructive criticism (more or less) without insult or hurt feelings.
There are any number of writing groups, both free and fee-based. What will work best for you is a matter of your taste and your goals. If your goal is seeking as much feedback as possible, you might consider a large online group, like Critters, with over 5000 members around the world. If you’re interested in more personalized, in-depth feedback, you might consider a smaller group.
Beware of vast, unstructured online groups with no reciprocal requirements (ie; give a crit to receive a crit). You may get something helpful once in a while, but often, people are just there to get feedback on their own work. If you decide to go with a paid group, make sure you know what you’re getting before you lay down your money.
Here are a few links that I’ve found helpful:
Flogging the Quill: Professional editor Ray Rhamey (who often leads excellent workshops at writers’ conferences) offers up first pages submitted by writers for his readers to critique, or “Flog.”
Critters.org: A free, very large but highly structured critique group for speculative fiction writers.
Writers’ World article on giving and receiving feedback
Critters.org’s collected wisdom on critique and diplomacy
You might also check your local library or bookstore for local groups meeting face-to-face.