As a writer someone will eventually tell you to join a critique group. Sure we all have friends and family more than willing to give us their advice/opinion on writing. Sometimes a critique group can be the Rosetta stone of storytelling.
It can also Pugatory.
Lots has been written about bad critique groups and bad critiques as well as breaking up with those groups, so I won’t go into that here. Instead, before you join, you need to decide what it is you wish to get out of the group. Okay, multi-book contract aside, let’s focus on a few particulars.
1st-Do you need help on the technical stuff–POV, sensory details, description.
Second-Is your manuscript a balance of narrative, description and dialogue?
3rd-How is your handle on grammar and those pesky punctuation rules?
4th-Do your characters walk off the page or do they behave oddly at times? Do you understand Goal, motivation, and conflict?
5th-Maybe your middle sags and you need to find a way to punch it up. Or where you went wrong in the initial chapters.
6th-Maybe your plot has more holes than a wedge of Swiss cheese. And you’d like to brainstorm and have your partners present options along with their remarks.
7th-Can you take constructive criticism? Or do you just want people to tell you how wonderful you write?
8th-Can you take nonconstructive criticism? People are entitled to their opinions, even when they’re wrong.
9th-Are you going to take everyone’s advice or no one’s? No one likes to think they’re wasting their time on your manuscript, but listening to everyone will strip your voice off the pages.
10th-Are you going to get even with someone who marks up your pages? Or make petty remarks on someone’s story because others in the group routinely praise them?
While this is not an all inclusive list, it’s a good start. After all, only after knowing yourself, your expectations, and your writing abilities can you hope to find a group that suits your needs.