· A little push. Writers must be self-starters. No boss tells you when to work or what to work on. Your regular meeting provides impetus to finish that scene, chapter, poem or proposal.
· Free proofreading. Your five-minute read by a fellow writer whose eagle-eye catches a simple spelling error is worth a dollar or more. That's what a professional reader charges for red-lining each of your careless mistakes.
· A reader's reaction. Writers are readers--magazine subscribers, library patrons and book buyers, especially in their own genre. Most of them develop a feel for the market--the what's in and what's not. Where can you find a better bunch to respond to your work?
· Truthful comments. Your mother and best friends don't want to hurt your feelings. Your writing friends don't want to be hurtful either, but they know their honesty is important to you in making your work the best it can be.
· Professional style. Correctly written is not synonymous with well written. You may have excelled in English classes, but have you developed a fine, professional style? A focused critique group will help you define your voice and put punch in your prose.
· Writers’ techniques. Most writers take writing courses, attend author's seminars and read books about writing. When armed with knowledge, they’ll not only tell you what works, but why it works, and how to employ techniques to overcome your manuscript’s flaws.
· Editor-like input. Writers develop expertise in different areas. One writer is dynamite with dialogue while another can recite grammar rules and give the reason for each. Collectively, your group can equal one experienced editor.
· Support. It takes discipline to spend long hours in front of a computer, only to shred your hard copy and start again. A writer knows how it feels to be rejected when he believes his manuscript is finally perfect. Critique groups give their members what money cannot buy—camaraderie and encouragement.
(c) 2011, Bernice W. Simpson