And here's where it gets tricky. I found Natalie and Renee randomly through blogs. We evolved a friendship and began sharing manuscripts. I found Stephanie through her agent's blog, and then lurved Steph so so so much from her own ridiculously charming and interesting blog that we became friends and then critique partners. I found Carrie in exactly the same way (in fact, I'm pretty sure I once left a love note in her comments. She's probably done her best to forget that memory). And finally, I found Andrea through the online debut authors' group I'm a member of, The Tenners. And I liked her so very very much that I asked her to read a new manuscript of mine and she was freaking awesome and obliged.
So, umm, see the pattern? Yeah, me neither. Other than the fact that I found them all online, there really wasn't much rhyme or reason to it. All of the friendships/critiquingships developed quite naturally out of a mutual admiration for each other's writing. Each of my critique partners brings something different to a reading, and I like that although we all write YA we write quite different YA. And finally, these girls are invaluable because, while they are always positive and kind and enthusiastic, they are also insightful and intelligent and good writers. They push me to be better, which in the end is all you can ask from critique partners.
As far as the mechanics, I read Natalie's stuff as she's writing and vice versa, but with all of my other betas we usually only send manuscripts that have been finished and edited at least once or twice (or in my case three times because I'm very vain and would die if anyone other than Natalie saw my initial efforts).
I don't really know where to tell you to look for betas. Maybe you'll find someone in the comments here and click with each other (which would make me ridiculously happy, by the way). Other than that, please, readers, sound off in the comments. I know there are a lot of writers' websites and groups out there in the big www; have any of them been particularly helpful to you in connecting with other writers? How else have you found critique partners?
And finally, how happy are you that it's Friday?