I can't emphasize what being part of a critique group has done for my writing! Having other writers look at your work objectively can really help you to improve as a writer, reader, and critique group member (and make some wonderful author/illustrator friends as well). Being part of a group was so important for me as a writer, that when I moved I worked with SCBWI to find members nearby, and I'm now part of another wonderful group!!
Here's a great blog post (sent to me by Laurie) written by Donna Bowman Bratton's called: Worth Repeating: Critique Guidelines & Tips. It gives some solid lists, guidelines, and tips for your critique group. Here's a highlight:
What is a critique? A critique is an honest evaluation of a manuscript or work-in-progress, offering constructive criticism and helpful suggestions, framed with positive reinforcement.There's much more to read on the post! Now that you're ready to be part of a critique group, you can contact Kerri through the SCBWI WWA contact information page.
Why a critique group? The ultimate goal of any critique group is to help each other hone the skills necessary to produce publishable manuscripts, while offering emotional and professional support during the arduous journey toward publication. As a critique group member, you will at times be a partner, a therapist, a sounding board, an impartial reader, an editor, and a cheerleader. Not only will critique of your own work offer fresh perspectives to help improve your personal writing, but by analyzing the works of others you begin to read like an editor.