I need some help from you, my very small but oh so beautifully formed group of readers. I'm not ready for beta readers or critiquers (is that the right word?) yet but one day soon I will be. Now before you panic and click away, pretending to yourself that you never saw this post, I'm NOT asking for volunteers! What I am asking for is some hints on what would be a good way to go about finding such people. I know that it's a two way street, and actually that excites me. I'd love the chance to critique someone's work, I just don't know how much use to anyone I would be right now. Everything I know about writing I've learned from the internet. No-one has ever read what I've written, I've not been on any courses and I only own a few books on the craft of writing (although to be fair, one of them is Stephen King's awesome On Writing). I know lots of other people are in the same situation and I only mention it so you can see why I don't feel qualified to critique anyone's work yet.
Obviously I make it a point to read as much as I can about the actual craft of writing. Somewhere in my perusings I came across a post linking a site that was a good place to join to get to know people with a view to finding a critique partner, but I'm darned if I can find where I filed the link. I'm asking for your advice at this early stage of my WiP because I'm guessing it could take time to find someone who is comfortable enough with me to let me see their work and vice versa.
So here's where you lovely people come in. What I want to know is what skills should I be developing to become a good critiquer? (still not liking that word). Is there anything specific I should look for when trying to find a critique partner, and are there any sites that you can recommend as being a good place to find like- minded people?
Finally, how important do you see beta readers? I use that term to mean people who may not necessarily be writers themselves, but who enjoy reading and are prepared to say what worked and what didn't for them, even if they can't say why. I sort of have a beta team. That would be Diva and Blue. I was concerned that if I let them read anything they might go too easy on me. On Wednesday, Blue asked if she could make a few notes on a three page outline I'd typed for a possible project. After reading her notes (written in red pen of course) I know that at least one of them isn't afraid to tell it like she sees it! Don't worry, I've almost recovered :)
PS If anyone needs 14 year old beta readers I know two who will work for chocolate - and Playstation privileges :)