When I first started writing fiction, it was in a workshop environment. In fact, it was really more about producing for that workshop than writing for its own sake. Oddly enough, when I started writing long fiction, I somehow came to the conclusion that good writing was a solitary effort. It was between me and publishing professionals. Bad idea. (But probably no worse than counting on non-writer friends and relatives for critiques.)
Over the past few years I’ve started finding critical assistance from other writers via a couple of the many web-based platforms. Not only has the input helped me, but in reading hundreds of submissions I’ve sharpened my eye towards my own work. From these contacts I’ve developed a few highly productive exchange partners, and hope to continue those relationships.
This past month I joined an online critique group, and although it’s too early to know how well they’ll tolerate me, their presence is already a comfort. Having a reliable, stable group of committed writers to provide suggestions and support is a great thing for a pursuit that is so fundamentally solipsistic.
Writers who might not know where to begin should take a look at www.critiquecircle.com. which has a terrific interface. Also consider joining appropriate forum groups, where writers of similar interests often exchange manuscripts. I look back at my earliest projects and find myself wincing at mistakes any experienced reader would have noted. And I think of the long list of acknowledgements in so many wonderful books. There’s a reason for them, and should ever I be so fortunate, I’ll be proud to offer up my own growing circle of kind, perceptive folks who have helped.