I’ve been a part of several writers’ groups over the past three decades. One of them I started myself when I retired from teaching back in 2006. But as my writing has evolved and morphed and taken me in unexpected and wonderful directions, my needs in writing groups have changed, too.

Once it was quite fine to read a piece aloud and hear others say “good,” “fine,” “I liked it,” “it was interesting,” “I enjoyed your story,” and so forth and so on, but I became hungry to hear what needed to be polished, or clarified, or edited out.

I currently have two books in a cozy mystery series that are “on the precipice” of publication. I’ve had a few people read portions of it over the past several years, and they were always supportive and kind. The problem is that I need some really killer critique in order for me to be sure it weaves a wonderful story.

And my friends are way too… well, they are my friends for a reason, and I guess the word here is “tactful.” They tread carefully, don’t want to hurt my feelings, and therefore are not quite objective as they could be. Which are delightful traits in most everyone EXCEPT an editor and a few other people in responsible positions.

Constructive criticism is key, but so is brutal honesty. It’s a delicate balance for those I’d like to continue speaking to, so I guess I’m going to have to enlarge my network and find someone who can tell it like it is without fear of offending or insulting me. Someone who will unquestionably take his/her gloves off and whack away at my manuscript.

Perhaps I can find someone with a fresh red pen who wants to trade manuscripts in progress. Or I suppose I could always pay to have it done. AAACCCKKK! It’s tough to justify spending money on things I, too, regularly get paid to do, so do I just trust myself and proceed to publish without outside input?

This dilemma has me totally stymied. Any thoughts, readers?