|Photo from KristinNador of Flickr|
This process takes forever for me, as I get too caught up in all of the details and lose perspective for what my work really is. I'm sure this is true for many writers. When I get to that point, I have to just put the story aside and let it stew for a while--oftentimes a month or so, to really get it out of my head. In the meantime, I'll poke and prod my wife to read through it and give me her thoughts. She tries to be as critical as she can, looking for any little thing that she can. Sometimes, she finds some impressively big mistakes--things left over from previous drafts, awkward descriptions, terrible dialog, inconsistent characters.
The thing is, though, that there's only so far that the two of us can take this process. She's not a writer, so there are certain things that she's not going to notice. She won't necessarily know old hat ideas if she's not well read in a certain genre. She might not notice some bad description that relies on cliches unless they're REALLY OBVIOUS cliches. And me? I'm way to invested in my own work to be completely impartial, try as I might.
I have a friend that writes that used to look at my stuff. However, she was always too busy to look at it--either working on her own stuff, or doing just general Life Stuff. She was always well meaning, but she never had to time to do what she wanted to do--really, thoroughly critique it--and so the job kept getting pushed back indefinitely.
It's times like this where I wish I had a writers' group that I could fire my stuff off to. However, that's where some of my concerns come in. My friend has one through Google+, but she also doesn't have a job, so she has the luxury of being able to give as good as she gets. I have a day job that fills 75-80% of my time--at work and "off the job." Therefore, I'm not sure I'd have time to do a proper exchange of manuscripts, and I know that asking someone else to read my stuff if I don't read theirs is bullshit.
I have other concerns as well. While writers' groups can be great things, I'm also concerned about the quality of groups out there. I've been in some groups before where people were too afraid to give their opinions and critique. There's nothing more frustrating that having people preface their comments with "Weeeellllll..." and then pussyfoot around lest they hurt your feelings.
Then again, I've also been in groups where they didn't just critique the manuscript, they mocked it, laughing at every little piece of bad description or nonsensical plot element. They didn't just point out errors and/or provide suggestions. They were almost outraged that you would deign to turn in something that wasn't of the highest caliber--despite that not being what writers groups are for.
I've also seen groups with genre biases--we don't read horror, we don't read sci-fi, we don't read fantasy, we don't read anything except literary contemporary fiction with occasional magical realism elements, we don't read sex or violence or swearing, etc.
Ideally, I'd find a group that worked toward publican of some kind, that was business like in giving critiques without indulging in personal attacks. While I'm at it, I'd also like a pony.
I'll keep you guys updated with what I find.