Though writing is essentially a solitary sport, one of the requirements for bettering your book is honest critique to help in the revision process. If you plan on traditionally publishing, you want to have a polished manuscript to query to agents. But how do you polish?
I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I live in South Florida, and the Florida chapter of SCBWI is awesome. We have a big conference in Miami each January and a workshop in Orlando each June. There are also smaller workshops offered in several cities throughout the state. So this has given me a great opportunity to meet other writers on all levels – newbies, veteran but still unpublished, published, veteran published. So there are plenty of opportunities to find critique groups or beta-reading partners.
It’s important to have other sets of eyes on your book before you submit it for representation (or to self-publish, whatever your road is). Fresh eyes can find plot holes, see flaws in characterizations, and make recommendations to help strengthen your manuscript. I just had my mentor/bestie read my unrevised first draft of a YA novel, and she gave me so many good notes for revision that I almost can’t wait to dig in to it. (I hate revising.)
So when you write, to paraphrase Stephen King, write with the door closed. But throw that baby open and invite other writers or really strong beta readers to give you feedback as you head into the revision mode!