I recently went to a meeting of the face to face writing group I joined fifteen years ago. This group is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, quite an achievement since they meet during the day once a week for eleven months of the year. I have been less regular in my attendance lately for reasons beyond my control and I regret that. This group took me in as very much a beginner and I doubt I would be the writer I am today without them. They gently taught, encouraged and sometimes, when it was needed, pushed me. They shared my joys and disappointments. Actually I think they were as excited over my first competition win as I was. They critiqued my work honestly, fairly and kindly. I owe them a great deal.
I'm describing this experience because to have such a group behind you is invaluable to a writer. Writing is an isolating business. Most of the time it's just you and your computer. You sit there writing away at something that is in your head demanding to be told and it's hard to know whether you have it right or it's just a pile of rubbish. You fall in love with a piece of writing and can't bear to let it go or you think everything you've written is dull and stupid. The truth is you really can't judge your own work objectively because you are too close to it. That piece you've fallen in love with may be completely extraneous to your story and the dull bit might only need to be tightened but you can't see that. You need fresh, impartial eyes on it - not your mother, your best friend or someone who doesn't read anything but the newspaper comics. You need a critiquer.
The group I mentioned above is not the only critique group I have belonged to but they were the first - and they are the standard by which I judge all others. I feel blessed that the two groups I now belong to are just as generous, knowledgeable and supportive.
Although I prefer to belong to a group I have gotten to know well, there are other options including several online critiquing groups in the genre. Among them are Online Writers Workshop and Critters. Although I have no personal experience of either I have heard good reports about both. Apart from peer critiquing they offer a variety of information on useful resources for writers and are run by experienced writers and editors - and, of course, there's always the chance that you might be discovered by a publisher who is taking an interest in what is being put up for critiquing.