I've been participating in a creative writing workshop lately, and I'm amazed at how talented the people in it are. I'm also amazed that none of the other people are in or have ever been in a critique group.
I would say critique group is king, but I prefer strong female protagonists, so Critique Group is Queen! :) I know/am acquainted with many working authors with contracts and they all have critique groups of some type. I don't care how much raw talent you have, 99% of writers need a critique group. Writers are too close to their own work and it takes fresh eyes to see what is really on the page.
This is true for novelists and for short story writers. Often at editorial meetings, we editors sit around and say things like: 'If only the author had developed the character arc of the protagonist; the setup was there but they didn't follow through. Doesn't this guy have a critique group?'
Dave said it yesterday. I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: critique groups are helpful!
Please keep sending us those (critiqued) stories!
An editorial note: we no longer have an autoresponse on the submissions email.