In the 1980s and ’90s, there were no Internet forums for people to share their work.
There were writers’ groups. I just didn’t realize how much I needed one.
Having joined one during grad school and having now been a regular participant in a very good writers’ group in the city of my university employment for some years, I can compile lists of what to expect and what not to expect from a writers’ group. Since this is (at present, anyway) about what not to do, here is a do not:
Do not expect a writers’ group to tell you how good your work really is. Some people’s experiences may lead them to conclude that this advice is incorrect because someone in their group definitely DID tell them how wonderful or how lousy their work is. But in a good group, by my definition, you won’t find out the answer to that question.
Because in a good group, a) members support each other, which will lead them to say many nice things; and b) in a good group, members support each other, which will prevent them from saying many potentially painful but possibly true things. I believe that you can get enough uniform enthusiasm to persuade you that your group really does like what you’re doing, but with all due respect to the best of groups, like mine, group members are not agents or publishers and use very different criteria to click “Like.”
Do not number 2: Do not expect global feedback on your novel, especially if it is a mystery. Check back to see whether you agree with my reasons for this claim.