First let me apologize for my silence -- lot of writing, critiquing, and revising left my blog abandoned. No longer . . . now I am back to the regularly scheduled programing.
Okay, so in my experience there are two types of critiquing -- the finish the whole damn ms and hand it out theory, and the have it critiqued as you go method. I was asked recently which one I utilize and/ or preferred. Unfortunately the answer isn't so simple. In all honesty, I prefer both.
I am a huge fan of having my work read chapter by chapter as I write, however, I only do it with certain people. I've had the same critique partners for the better part of three years. They've read everything I have ever written -- the good, the amazing, and the its-so-bad-shove-it-in-a-drawer-and-never-pull-it-out-again WIPs. They are familiar with my voice, know the inner workings of my mind, and can often predict exactly where my dark twisted mind is going before I do. Because of this, I trust them not only to be honest but catch anything that goes awry . . . even as soon as chapter 2. This trust, this level of familiarity allows me to correct horrible plotting mistakes (and yes I do make them from time to time) before my MS is finished.
I also have a different set ot crazy-talented critique partners I hand my completed manuscripts off to. They are fantastic at analyzing story arc and character consistency. They read for flow, character growth and the all important chapter/ scene transitions. Rather then the line edits my chapter-by-chapter partners provide, my "completed ms" readers give me feedback on the scope of the entire project, the consistency and believability of the characters, and the authenticity of my voice.
In the end, I employ both methods of critiquing, keeping the purpose of each in mind as I revise. So how about you -- are you the critique as you go type person or more of the big picture type of beta reader?