First, a word of caution: writing is a fragile thing, and self-doubt and fear are creatures that can easily consume the desire to write. Be sure to carefully screen the people you give your writing to, especially earlier drafts. The people who provide you feedback should be honest but always constructive. They should build you up and make you excited to revise. If someone ever makes you feel bad about your writing, walk away as fast as you can, and don’t look back. I will include tips on how to avoid and screen for negative or destructive critique partners in this post, but if one should weasel their way into your life, cut ties immediately. Don’t let them feed your writing demons. You don’t need that shit.
Remember that not everyone will like your writing (and that is okay), but they should always treat your writing with respect. Also, while you should take all feedback with an open mind and not get defensive, not all feedback will be actionable or right for your story. Think long and hard (and consider the source and type of feedback) before you alter your story. Finally, always save an unaltered draft before you begin revisions.
1. Join a writing group.
If you haven’t done this yet, do it NOW! Writing groups will provide you with the resources and networking to develop meaningful writing relationships. This is the first step in finding someone to provide you feedback. There are different types of groups, the largest (and most important for your query letters) being national groups and associations like the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, all the way down to local writers groups. I recommend finding and participating in as many of these communities as possible.
National groups: Sometimes you have to be published to be a member (as with the SFFWA), but you should be familiar with the association(s) for your genre.
Regional: These are an awesome resource. Regional groups tend to be larger and thus have more influence and reach than local groups. My regional group, the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, is large enough to host writing conferences, workshops, contests, and agent and editor pitching opportunities.
Local: Local writing groups are the best way to build meaningful critique groups and find writing partners. Check out bookstore and coffee shop bulletin boards to seek out these groups. Another great way to find (or start) a local group is through www.meetup.com.
2. Join a Critique group.
Critique groups are a great way to get feedback on your writing. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and chances are you can find at least one group that will meet your needs.
3. Find a Critique Partner.
A good critique partner is worth their weight in gold. They can provide the same quality of feedback as an editor (if you find the right one) and they can take your writing to new levels. The best place to find a critique partner is through local writing groups.
4. Find a Freelance Editor
This is a costly option, and it comes with its own dark waters, but if you are planning on self-publishing, or you cannot find someone to provide you with effective, honest feedback, finding an editor might be the way to go.
There is one more option available to those looking for feedback, the big online critique groups (they seem like huge manuscript databases to me). I have no experience with these. Thus I left them off my list. The idea of sharing my work with someone unknown to me is terrifying. If you have participated in a group like this, comment and let me know what you thought of it!
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