|Critique groups help in many ways|
I belong to several critique groups, and I wouldn't trade any of them for anything. I'm incredibly lucky to have found some amazing and talented writers to work with. But not everyone is so lucky, and finding a good crit group can be tough.
I'm pro crit group. I know without question that I wouldn't have sold a novel (let alone three) if I hadn't had these folks taking the time to read my work and offer their feedback. I think it's hard to be objective about our own work, and since we know everything so well, we often miss what's in our heads and what's really on the page. Outside eyes can tell us what our words say, not what we think they say.
How to Find a Crit Group of Your Very Own:
Check your area for local or state writers groups. A quick Google search with your state and "writers groups" will likely bring up a few organizations. I'm a member of the Georgia Writers Association, and they have folks who organize crit groups and help their members find others who are also looking for a group.
Check your genre for national or local organizations. I write children's fantasy, so I'm a member of both the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). I'm also a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), and even if you don't write romance, it's a very good group to belong to. All of these organizations have forums and ways for writers to connect. Most genres have similar groups and ways to find like-minder writers. You can also try agent blogs who rep those genres, as they often have links to the various groups.
Forums are another good resource. I've been a member of Absolute Write for several years now, and they have a great bunch of folks happy to help writers with questions, and even critiques. People are always looking to connect and form groups there.
Online workshops can offer feedback. When I was starting out, I was part of Critters, an online crit group for science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. In fact, I met my best friend through Critters, which in turn led me to one of the crit groups I'm in now.
For those who can afford it, there are also paid workshop groups you can join, where an instructor as well as your fellow writers read and crit each others work. Gloria Kempton's Writers Recharge is where I met several of my current crit buddies and good friends.
There are also other classes at Writers Online Workshops and Writers.com, where you can take online classes (for a price) and work with instructors and students.
Not everyone can afford to pay for classes on a long term basis, but sometimes they can be a good way to meet other writers, and if you hit it off, you can find crit partners that way. (I know I did). But if you can't, don't feel that you're missing anything. There are plenty of ways to meet folks without these classes.
Conferences are another way to connect with fellow writers. While the conferences themselves won't offer crit group services (though sometimes they do crit workshops), I've never attended one where I didn't meet someone I still keep in contact with. And many of those people are now part of my crit groups.
Writing can be a lonely endeavor, but it doesn't have to be. A little time with a search engine and you can find resources to help you get the feedback you're looking for.
And if anyone has additional information on getting in touch with crit groups and writers forums, please post them in the comments section. I'll add them to this post.