I'm one of those writers who enjoys working alone for hours. And so, for the first year or so, that's exactly what I did. The problem with that was the only feedback I received was from my husband. My spouse is a fine psychologist and writes professional reports competently, but is not much for creative writing. His criticism was unfailingly on target, but there was just very little of it.
I suppose I was afraid someone would tell me I was hopelessly untalented and should give up on writing. Maybe I just didn't want to do the work I knew was coming to rewrite the book. Unfortunately, I couldn't escape the fact that, like playing tennis or learning the piano, I would need lessons and practice. Finally, I went in search of a group through which I could receive constructive, yet gentle, criticism. What a surprise when I actually found exactly that kind of support.
For about six years now I have attended the twice monthly meetings of the South Carolina Writers Workshop. When I began reading the first chapters of SNOWSTORM, I knew they didn't particularly like my tough, teenaged character. Looking back, some of their advice was of the most basic kind. They had to start somewhere, of course. A recent glance at my first draft made me wince, so I can easily imagine my fellow writers wishing they could cover their ears. They didn't, however. Then and now, their critique is gentle and helpful. Their sincere encouragment meant a great deal when the rejections were flowing regularly to my mailbox.
So, for any aspiring writers reading this, I hope you will find some folks like this to give you honest opinions and sincere support. I was very lucky, because I don't think such people are easy to find, but when you do find them, don't let them get away!