Critique groups have their pros and cons, in my experience.
On the plus side, you can develop a close group of authors who are familiar with your writing (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and can commiserate. You have people who can point out problems in a manuscript at the micro level and avoid some issues before your manuscript gets too far. You are able to hone your own editing and critiquing skills by reading the work of others.
On the minus side, crit groups by their nature are slow. Reading one chapter a week of someone's work-in-progess is not going to yield a lot of broad-picture issues. If you're a fast writer of horrendous first drafts who does a lot of rewriting, as I am, nothing's likely to go to crit group until it's in a second or third draft. For big-picture stuff and faster feedback, you need alpha or beta readers.
I have a little of everything. I belong to a local writer's group that meets weekly. I have an online critter who is the world's most brilliant brainstormer--we do a lot of IMs as we hash out our plots and execution. I have an "alpha" reader who actually slogs through my first drafts looking for big-picture issues, and several beta readers.
And I have an online crit group--which currently has an opening. In the next week or so, we'll be announcing a contest to choose our next one or two members. Stay tuned.
Here's the deal. We're called Rumored Romantics, and just lost a member when she landed an agent and began intensive revisions (go, Roni!). There are three of us now. I write urban fantasy with elements of paranormal romance from the South. Lynnette Labelle writes romantic suspense from the upper Midwest. Katrina Crew writes contemporary romance from London. Our newly departed member writes erotica. So, we're all over the map, genre-wise and location-wise. Our obligation load is light--we each read one chapter of another member's work each week.
Good writing is good writing, and that's what we're all after. If you think you might be interested in entering the contest to win a group spot (we all went through it, because Lynnette's a little sadistic--ha!), you might want to check us out first by clicking on one of the links below.
For a general overview of the group members and our backgrounds, check out Lynnette's blog. You can also follow Lynnette on Twitter.
Check out Kat's blog and follow Kat on Twitter.
You're here, so you've seen my blog! You can also follow me on Twitter.
More on the critique group opening soon!