Join a writing group, they said when I was starting out.
I was skeptical.
Now, here I am a year and a half into writing groups. My friend Karl, himself an exciting writer, has helped me restructure the beginning of my first novel and suggested an important twist that will carry into my second. Miranda, an editor, has ever-so-nicely restructured my query letter to be shorter and better.
Those are the obvious and wonderful advantages. The more subtle part is that I have heard many different voices speaking from different points of view … short story, YA, romance, science fiction. I have sampled good (and, as valuable, bad) examples of the craft of writing. I have seen other people’s characters jump off the page. I have become a better writer with a lot of help from my friends.