I'm a big fan of crit groups for writing. I strongly encourage writers of all ability levels to belong to one. However, it needs to be the RIGHT one.
My group is awesome! We're a collection of writers at a variety of stages in the process, all with the goal of eventual traditional publication, all with different strengths and weaknesses, different areas of expertise, and different preferences and backgrounds. For example, we have a pair of teachers, several with extensive knowledge of the sciences, a former member of the military, an engineer, and so forth. My contribution tends to be character development and grammar/punctuation, another's is choreography and plot holes, and another is finding errors in our science/engineering elements (many of us write science fiction). None of us are afraid to tell each other where the problems in our writing lie, and though we will sometimes "negotiate" for our points, we all take criticism very well.
But we weren't always that way. We had to build the group to this level. We had to weed out those who weren't serious enough, those who got hurt feelings every time they were critiqued, those who just wanted to be told how awesome they were. Well, actually, they weeded themselves out. It takes about two meetings and one critique for someone to realize he/she isn't ready for our level of feedback and our somewhat fanatical drive towards getting published.
Now anyone can have a rough day, and a harsh critique can really get a person down . . . for a day or two. But the members of my group go home, shake it off, and come back gunning to be better, often with a piece of writing that takes it to the next level.
Which brings me to my title question. Why do some of these people join a crit group in the first place? Crit, meaning critique, meaning there will likely be criticism involved.
Our group president is very up front with new people. We are a serious crit group. We tell it like it is. We try to be polite about it, but if something is wrong with the writing, we will tell you. And if a piece needs to be scrapped and started from scratch because it has fundamental errors at the plot's core or the character's development, even a whole novel you wrote before joining us, we'll tell you that, too. Then we'll make suggestions on how you can fix it.
And people still come, and are shocked when their work isn't perfect the first time they show it to us. Um, if you thought your work was perfect, why did you join a critique group? Why aren't you sending it out to agents and editors? Or did you just jump in to get praise?
I've talked to people from other groups who complain about members who give any negative feedback at all, as this is "discouraging." They don't want to be told they aren't good enough, but if they were good enough right now, they wouldn't need a critique group. That's the point!
And quite frankly, if you can't take constructive criticism from a group of your peers, you are NOT ready to query agents and editors who will care a whole lot less about your feelings and send you enough rejection letters by mail and email that if you printed copies of them all, you could wallpaper your living room. They won't tell you how to get better. They won't say their comments with a smile. Most won't even use your name. They don't have time for that kind of hand-holding.
So the new question becomes, do you want to be published, or do you just want to play at being a writer? Because writers revise and rewrite and start over from scratch even fifty pages in, and consider everyone's opinion and choose the ones that make sense to them to fix. They listen to those farther along the path than they are. Heck, I hang on every word that comes out of my mentors' mouths. I have two friends who are published authors who give me feedback, in addition to my wonderful group, and if they tell me something is wrong, then 99% of the time, there's something wrong. And I try to fix it. Because I want to get better.
That's why I joined a crit group.