On to the actual search and find of a great beta reader, critique group, or critique partner. After I posted my post yesterday I had a friend ask me what a beta reader was and how did I find her. Here are some basic tips on locating someone to beta read or critique your work.
1) Check with your local writing groups. If you prefer face to face contact a local critique or writing group is probably your best bet in joining a critique group or finding a partner/reader. If you're in a larger city, you shouldn't have any problem in finding such a group. You'll just need to choose which one (out of those accepting new members) you think will suit you. If you're in a smaller town, it might be a little more difficult to find one that is open to new members. If you know a member, approach that person and ask about an invitation. You can look for groups at libraries and book stores (talk to the staff). If you can't find a group, consider starting your own.
2) Chapters of writing organizations. I belong to my local chapter of RWA. Granted it's two hours away from me, but I go to meetings when I can. I know there are members of the group that have formed crititque groups and/or partners. Start going to the meetings, see who writes in the same genre as you (or at least likes to read it) and get to know them. You can also inquire with one of the board members to see if there is an already established critique system within the chapter that you can join.
3) Online writing groups or chapters. I found out two of my online RWA chapters offer a critique service. The one I mentioned before was through one of these services. What's interesting is each chapter does it very differently. One chapter has a critique mistress that partners you with someone else who is also looking for critiques. You fill out a questionnaire and they do their best to match with someone else. It worked very well for me. The other chapter has an email loop. You simply request to be added. You then begin to critique other peoples work and post your own work to be critiqued. I'm a little behind on that - was waiting till after the holidays to jump into that loop. Other online chapters and groups might have other methods of setting up critique partners or groups.
4) Connect with other writers in your genre through various means. You can follow blogs, go to readings, lurk on message boards, etc. Remember a critique partnership is a give and take relationship. Make sure you are just as weilling to give of your time and energy toward another person's work.
5) Be careful about changing anything by committee. As much as a critique group, partner, or beta reader can help you find the weak points in your work so you can fix them they can also ruin a perfectly good story. If you've been writing very long, I'm sure you've heard one critique group or partner horror story. They aren't all created equal. Dean Wesley Smith talks about the dangers of writing to committee. His post is focusing on Workshops, but I think it applies just as well to a critique group and partnerships.