I am almost finished Edward County. It’s been a year, and that’s a long, long time for me to spend on a book (of course I did take a break to write an entire Molly Smith book). Right now the MS is with several of my writer friends for critiquing and is due back in a couple of days.
I am a firm believer that no writer can judge their own work. The author is just too close to it. Certainly no one can edit their own writing – you see what you think is there, not what is there – but when writing fiction the author can be too close to the work to see what’s missing or what isn’t explained. When my crit group began reading Edward County they said they didn’t know if the first-person narrator was male or female. That’s pretty important. I didn’t bother to mention it because to me it was perfectly obvious.
The most important thing about a critique group is that it has to be a GOOD group. A bad critique is worse than none at all. You need to work with writers you respect and whose own writing you like. Most readers who aren’t writers or editors can’t usually give a proper critique. They can say what they don’t like, or what they think is missing, but they can’t usually say WHY they don’t like it. (e.g. Too much telling not showing). There are exceptions, of course.
I’d advise very strongly against joining a critique group online, of people you don’t know. If you don’t know them, or their work, how do you know they are a good judge of what works? You don’t know if they have an agenda of their own, such as the need to crush other people to lift their own ego or the need to praise in order to get approval back.
Where, then, do you find a good critique group?
Probably the best place is your creative writing class. If you are a beginning writer, you are taking classes, right?