Sometimes it can be incredibly hard to ask for critiques. I know that when I first started working on OPEN EYES, I didn't want anyone to see it. I was so scared of everyone hating it that I kept it all to myself.
Then my wonderful roommate forced me to hand it over. I sat impatiently as she read it every day, bringing it on campus with her so she wouldn't have to wait until she came back to the apartment. It appeared she was liking it, but you know how it is. All those doubts in your mind, wondering if she's just being nice because she's your friend (or cousin), yadida. The book wasn't even finished when she made me hand it over, and I was extremely nervous.
When she got to the end of that draft, we sat up late one night talking about the story. I divulged everything in my five book series to her, and guess what? She loved it. More importantly, she made it even BETTER. The draft I gave her turned into two books, OPEN EYES and SECONDHAND HEART (btw, Kelley, thank you for the compliment!! :D). Plot points that I'd been unsure of were set in stone, and characters were developed. We were up till about four in the morning just brainstorming how to make the story better, and we came out with a wonderful story that I can't believe I'm writing.
Had we not had that conversation, half of OPEN EYES wouldn't be there, and SECONDHAND HEART would be covered in just a few chapters. It would hardly have been adequate. Now, I have wonderful people like Katrina Lantz and Angela Townsend (go read FROZEN FURY!) helping me make not the story better, but the writing. Changing my passive verbs to active verbs. Making the actions of the MCs clearer. I can't even describe how much of a help they've been.
I've yet to join a critique group, but I would love to. I know many of you are already in one, but if you're not and are interested in someone critiquing yours as well, go to the Projects tab and check out OPEN EYES. I enjoy reading almost every genre of fiction, but I do gravitate towards YA. If you're interested in forming a group with me, e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other than that, what do you find the most useful critiques? How did your story become what it is today?