Because I have published only in the magazine world and do not have a book contract yet (notice the YET), I’m always second-guessing myself in my stories. Have I developed strong characters? Do I have a compelling situation? Does my protagonist have a main goal? Do I have a sneaky, slithery, slimy opponent in the story? Are there enough obstacles in the story?
To answer these questions, I have joined several critique groups. (I NEVER get in over my head.)
The group I have been part of the longest has eight writers in it, and we meet each week. Each person passes out five pages every week for the next week’s discussion. The next week every person comments on their critique for each set of five pages. Wonderful synergistic dialogues ensue in this group. These people are dedicated to learning their craft. One member has two published books and another has a book contract. Several have won writing contests.
Another group I belong to meets monthly to discuss an entire manuscript and render a critical evaluation. There is something to be said for reading a whole book at once. You pick up details and problems you don’t see with just a few pages each week. These writers are dedicated also. Three of them have published in magazines and newspapers, and one has a couple of short stories in a seasonal books.
The last group I belong to is a picture book group. (I LOVE writing picture books!) In this group we email our monthly writing and discuss our critiques from our computers when we meet. (We’re going green!) We have a published author in that group also.
If you are a serious writer, find a critique group to belong to. (You don’t need to join three!) Check with the League of Utah Writers in your area. The feedback you get is very helpful, and you make wonderful friends that really understand the process you are involved in. (They’re great to cheer you up when you get rejections letters and celebrate with you in your successes.)