Critique groups are the reason I am writing novels today. That's how important I think they are in shaping my writing and your writing.
Back in 2005, my friend, Doug Warren, was writing his first novel. Up to that point, he and I had talked about writing but that was about it. Little did I know he was writing his first book. I had a few ideas but they were just the amorphous ones all wannabe writers have.
One day, Doug asks me the question all writers eventually have to ask: will you read my novel and tell me what you think? There it was. The Moment. Unless you are a diarist who only writes to get things out of your head but no one else will read, all writers want to be read. You *have* to put yourself out there and face the world. I call it Great Motivator #1: Find a Critique Group. My response was pretty quick: Sure...if you read my novel.
Rapidly, we established a routine of meeting for lunch every Wednesday to talk about our chapters. We submitted completed chapters by Tuesday and we'd have a night to critique each other's chapters. This was the Great Motivator #2: Set Deadlines and Meet Them. You have to establish a deadline for something, anything, to be read by someone else.
Motivators #1 and #2 are essential. If you don't give yourself a deadline and stick to it (NO excuses), you won't find the discipline within yourself to stick to it. It's really simple to say; extremely difficult to execute.
I have continued that practice with my current critique group. They are all members of the Ft. Bend Writer's Guild We meet every Wednesday night. It's a group of about 5-7 core folks. We meet at the house of the president of the guild. It's a good group because we each have different type books. We provide hard copies and take turns reading aloud and receiving criticism. I'll admit: it can be tough. There could be a chapter I worked all week on and think it's brilliant in my own head. I read it aloud and find out if that's the case. My group is kind but firm. It is absolutely essential to have non-family members read your stuff.
I'll post more Great Motivators as they come to me.