Joining my first online critique group gave me the boost that I needed to start writing again. It felt great to be critiquing and to be critiqued! My only regret is that I wish I had created new stories at that time. Because I was in a new group, I chose to get fresh eyes on older manuscripts. Looking back, I see the importance of challenging myself to keep writing new material.
Speaking of critique groups, I will share a bit about listening to critique partners. If this sounds preachy, please know that I AM speaking to myself! But I'd like to share my experience and advice, TAKE OUT THE DOGS!
In a manuscript that I am currently working on, I wrote in a pack of wild dogs to create tension in the story. About 50% of the critiques said to take out the dogs. They were too scary for young kids. I resisted. Instead, I tried replacing the word "wild" with hungry, mangy, and dirty. I even added a puppy!
I felt the manuscript was in pretty good shape. But there was still that nagging, it-can-be-better feeling. I was not able to revise at that time. It needed space. So I put it away for a while. Later, after several more critiques, I experimented with adding a sibling, changing the POV, and adding metaphors. Through this process, the dogs miraculously disappeared! They really weren't necessary! My story went under a significant transformation.
Now, I feel it. My manuscript is submission-ready!
Listen, even if it's advice you don't think you will need.
Try a new approach.
Take out the dogs! Or, as they say, kill your darlings!