When I attended the SCBWI Midsouth regional conference last month, I heard two gems of advice over and over again. The first of these was to join a critique group!
The prevailing wisdom passed down to me by authors, literary agents, and editors alike: New writers fear rejection--we're so fragile but think our work is a masterpiece. Veteran authors know it's part of the job--every manuscript needs rewrites, edits and polish. The way you travel from one perspective to the other is exposure to constructive criticism.
An ideal way to develop a tough skin, but also to improve your skills, is to link up with a group of like-minded souls who will read all or part of your work-in-progress (WIP) and offer constructive criticism.
This concept really appealed to me, so immediately after the conference I set about trying to find a local critique group. It didn't take long before other attendees with a similar goal started chatting, and I'm pleased to say we had our first official meeting today.
Truth be told, it went better than expected. Our group is small enough that everyone gets a decent chunk of time, and diverse enough that all children's book categories are represented, from picture books (that's me), to middle grade and young adult.
After going back through tonight's notes, I'll post some pearls of wisdom that I took from the meeting. But let me say that everyone who recommended a critique group was spot on. If the first meeting was any indication, this is going to be brilliant.