This group (in its many incarnations) has been part of my writing world for somewhere around two decades. Members have come and gone, usually changing the composition of the group gently. Recently, though, we underwent a bigger change, losing one long-time member (who has left quite a hole) and gaining four new ones in quick succession. The group has been infused with new genres, new ideas and a new vibe, and although we've undergone some growing pains, we're once again hitting our stride.
A good critique group is a must for anyone who's serious about writing; I don't know how any writer can operate without one. I count on my group for:
Critiques. Obvious, I know, but this group has made everything I've submitted to them stronger. Not only do they catch silly errors (like typos and changes that didn't quite make the cut), but they also call me on shortcuts and sloppiness that make a good story "meh." I owe a major plot twist in one of my novels to someone in the group who told me my story had hit a plateau. He was right, and his comment caused me to brainstorm all the ways I could get off that plateau.
Camaraderie. We get a lot accomplished, but we also laugh. For a long time, we had twice-yearly retreats, spending the whole weekend writing. And talking. And eating. I'm hopeful that those will emerge again, but right now, we all seem to be at a place in our personal lives where planning them is difficult.
Support. No one fully understands what a writer does better than another writer. We talk a lot about the industry, what we've heard, what's confusing, where we've submitted, what we're struggling with. And, because sharing our writing means sharing a part of ourselves, that makes the transition to non-writing (a.k.a. "real world") support easy. We look out for each other. And...
Celebrate. Every meeting begins with announcements, where we share our successes. You'd think that writers would be competitive, but we're not competitive with one another. We're genuinely happy for when someone gets published, no matter the format or length. We buy each other's books and attend each other's events.
I can't think of a better way to spend the third Wednesday of each month.