One of the best things to ever happen to my writing is the viewpoints of other readers. It’s hell to let go and let someone else read it for the first time, but I have come to discover how much I enjoy the comments from other writers. Even if they pick it apart, word by word, I learn something from it. Now, someone just saying “It sucks!” without offering their reasons as to why they believe so doesn’t cut it. Constructive criticism is the foundation for improving my writing. I may produce something I think is brilliant, I post it over at the Lit Forum or wherever, and I’ll sudden;y realize I have way too many adverbs in it. Or I have plot holes big enough to back a truck through. Readers can find these things, point them out and suggest new ways of appraching the idea. One scene with Valerie and Daniel underwent a massive transformation. The basic premise remained the same; a bad encounter with the ex-husband, but it ended up as something so much more powerful and strong at the end. It also afforded Daniel the opportunity to be a hero for Valerie, whereas he wasn’t so much in the first few drafts.
My advice? Find an online forum that you like. Compuserve has a writer’s forum that is open to anyone and there are lots of fantastic writers there who are so helpful and happy to answer questions. Yahoo has lots of groups dedicated to writing, some very structured, some not as much. Rarely have I run across anyplace where someone is hurtful or mean in their commentary; such behavior is not tolerated. If you post someplace looking for help, be prepared to offer such help in return. Reading someone else’s work and commenting, expertise in a subject, there are lots of ways to contribute to the cause. Your writing will grow and improve because of it.
Alternately, many community colleges offer adult education classes that often include creative writing instruction. Sharing my work in person was harder for me, but it still as helpful and supportive; you may prefer the face-to-face interaction. These classes are usually short and aren’t overly expensive; some are even online.
Really, I swear it works.