A little while ago, a friend let her baby out in the world. She'd never submitted, or critted, or had anything to do with writers. Just Nano.
The thing about Nanowrimo is it's all about word count. You write, you count and if you hit a certain amount of words--it's, am, the and uh, included--you win. It's a feel-good version of writing to publish, with the razor edges blunted to make the dream accessible. Sometimes people publish. Sometimes they don't.
Sometimes...people use it as a springboard to learn more about the craft of writing. Paraphrasing Nora Roberts, it's easier to edit than create.
...so my friend had a baby.
And joined an on-line writer's group--my fault, I pushed her--and got into the habit of writing and taking to other writers, some just starting out, some not so new. And like all writers, figured she needed feedback.
So she posted a thread for a critique partner.
The trouble with crit-partners is that all partners aren't created equal. Some are nice, some aren't. It's an agenda thing.
It means, "what's in it for me". Most trainers know that to create buy-in, you need to explain why. Like water, people flow downhill. To carve new canyons, you're going to need blasting caps.
In other words--each person needs to get something out of it.
My friend had nothing to offer. What she really needed was basic craft-work and a beta reader. Beta-readers are different from crit-partners because they aren't trying to "fix" you. They're there to tell you what works. When you're starting out, a friend--a good honest friend--who reads in your sub-genre, is the best partner.
Beta readers are right there in the trenches, reading. They know the market, they know more about craft than you'd guess--because they know what works for them.
Writing is nothing if not up close and personal. You need someone you can trust, and questions.
1) Does it make logical sense? If not, it's a structure/plot problem.
2) Were you bored anywhere? If yes--you need to learn to tighten and increase tension.
3) Did the characters interest you and the dialog work? There are great books and resources on character-building and dialog. The Greenhouse section of our website has links and articles.
4) How did the live-monkeys work for you? oops...wrong post.
Add more questions, tweak them, anything you want--just make sure to make them hard-copy and leave plenty of space for comments.