This Saturday I met with my first in-person critique group and let me say boy was I nervous. We had to bring 3-5 pages of a recent piece of work with us to read out loud for the group. The night before I went over my first chapter of Bleed Well many times. I read it to my wife, who had already read a number of version of it, and just needed a little bit of encouragement. She tried to give it to me, but let's just say I'm not in danger of her being too nice to me when it comes to my work.
But after a couple good suggestions from her, I got a version that she said was passable. That was probably the best thing she as ever said about something I've written, so I was actually feeling alright.
But then in the morning I started to have my doubts again. I mean my wife, as brutally honest as she is, is not a writer. What would these people say? What would they find? I would just have to wait.
I got to the restaurant about 30min early so I could try and talk to these people before hand, but as it turns out, the it opened right when the meeting as supposed to start. Rats. What could I do now but worry about my manuscript? Luckily it was near a mall with a B&N and I killed some time there.
Once the meeting started I was again nervous, but as we introduced ourselves, I found out I wasn't the only person there who was at their first critique group. There were actually two others, and one of the women was also new to the group. That made me feel good that at least I wasn't the weird new guy there (Oh yea, I was the only guy...Flashbacks of AP English all over again)
They started reading their works and I started to fall into a good comfort zone. I heard a lot of really great things, but I felt like I was also able to give some pretty good feedback for them as well. (One of the writers though was absolutely AMAZING! If I was reading that in a bookstore, I told her, I would be at the checkout only a couple pages in).
Finally, my turn came and to my delight, they didn't tell me I was the worst writer in the world and should go to hell. Phew. They actually like it. Nobody saw anything structurally wrong and thought it was a good beginning. I did get some good feedback though on a couple lines that should probably be tweaked to make it work better, but overall I left with my ego in tact and good suggestions for my WIP.
I will be going back there for sure, because for one, I got good feedback. For two, it was nice to meet other people face to face who were writers like me. It's a lonely hobby/profession, so face to face contact is always a good thing.
Overall it was a great experience and like every other writer says, FIND A CRITIQUE GROUP IF YOU WANT TO TAKE YOUR WORK TO THE NEXT LEVEL.