Do you have critique partners?
They're a funny thing for me. Up until about six months ago...
I'd never had one.
They kind of scared me.
THE PRE-CRIT PARTNER LIFE:
See, I'd gotten used to being judged by my agent, by editors, then by my editor, but not by my peers. Part of me justified by saying I got this far without one, but let me tell you, crit partners are INVALUABLE.
First I should say that my mother is my ultimate reader. No story makes it past our front door and out into the pub world without crossing her desk. She's incredibly intelligent, and honest, and if others are beta readers, she's the alpha.
So I didn't really know if I wanted crit partners, or how to go about getting them, and then one day a good writing friend of mine offered to read NEAR WITCH. I was TERRIFIED, because I didn't want this person's opinion of me to decrease if they didn't like the ms. I feel like our stories are clothes, and people judge other people by how they dress.
But I sucked it up and gave it to her.
And the feedback this person came back with was so thorough! So HELPFUL. I was in shock.
OH, SO THAT'S WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT:
The shock led to the realization of how much better my books would be, and I got braver and extended the circle of critique partners.
Now I have 4-5. All of them are authors at or around the same part in the publishing process. All of them are people I know and trust.
CRIT PARTNER ADVICE:
That last part is VERY IMPORTANT. These people are handling material that is private and precious (to me) until it makes its way onto the shelf.
Get to know your crit partners, choose wisely, test the marriage, do everything you need to, because if it's a good fit, it can be an incredibly fruitful, and hopefully fun, relationship.
Oh, and make sure I have a spectrum of NICE to EVIL. So I have 1-2 who are gentler, and 1-2 who will tear me a new one without fail.
Wherever your crit partners fall on the spectrum of mean, having them is great practice for letting your book out into the real world, and because of them, it will look a lot better when it gets there.