Last night I was, once again, reminded of the value of being a member of a good writing group.
Writing is a lonely, often selfish business. You create your world, you people it with characters, you give them things to do and say - generally you play God with them. But this is your world, yours alone. A single brain alone is rarely enough to make all the correct calls, to get it just right. There is nothing better than reading out a passage to a group; firstly it highlights the mistakes you have not picked up yourself despite how many times you've been through the text but, more importantly, invariably the group picks up areas that you have over or under written, where the narrative is tedious, unnecessary or misleading. They often also suggest directions for the plot that you haven't thought of.
Now, there are different forms of writing groups. Some are aimed at the novice writer and go in for writing exercises - these are quite useful, particularly if you are starting out, but the one I'm a member of, the Renegade Writers http://renegadewritersgroup.blogspot.co.uk/ is one of the more mature type where you are encouraged to read out work in progress. It can be hard to have your beloved prose torn to shreds - but it is really effective in improving what you do!
The best thing an improving writer can do is find a group like this. Mind you, after last night, they have created a lot of work for me rewriting one of my characters...!