If you've spent enough time hopping around blogs or how-to books on writing, you've probably heard this sage advice to improve your writing skills: Get regular, peer feedback. It's almost as important to the health of your manuscript as regular dental check-ups are to the health of your smile.
Why? No matter how many hours you spend staring at the text on the computer, you will never catch all of your mistakes. Even when you know your manuscript upside down, inside out and backwards in Latin, little but glaringly obvious errors will slip by. Feedback gives you a fresh pair of eyes that aren't married to your story. It makes a difference. Even software spellcheckers can't find every problem.
Also, as a writer, criticism comes with the territory. If you walk around barefoot all summer, by the end of the season the task becomes easier - little pebbles and twigs are less of a nuisance, because you've toughened the skin on the soles of your feet. Getting honest (and hopefully positive) feedback now will toughen your writer's skin for the day when the harsher words start flying (and they will occasionally).
And, writing is a solitary hobby. Critique groups and critique partners are another form of networking that creates connections with other's who get you. The crazy writer side of you, the one at which your husband and children raise an eyebrow in deep concern...
...like when you start having arguments with your MC who just won't do what you tell him to....Aaaggghh!
And there's other reasons too - please share your thoughts and leave a comment!
P.S. Tune in next week for part II of this topic....