So I finally found a writing group locally and attended a meeting last night...and this morning.
Yes, it went that long.
Pros: nice people, decent critiques.
Cons: I arrived at the meeting at 7:30 p.m., and got home at 1 a.m.
When I arrived, it was only the host and I. My first irritation was that it was 15 minutes after the meeting was supposed to start that the next person came in, and 45 minutes or more before most of the people had arrived and we actually started the meeting. Apparently this wasn't uncommon. From the joking as people straggled in, I gathered this was the usual modus operandi.
The second major irritation was that it took five hours to critique what every other writing group I've attended has done in two. The problem started because we didn't get each other's entries ahead of time. Each person showed up with their submissions and started by reading them aloud at the meeting. Seven submissions, ranging from two pages (mine) to six or seven pages, and you're talking probably 45 minutes just for the reading alone.
Without any advance preparation, you're critiquing on the fly, which is inefficient and doesn't allow for any sort of thought-gathering or organizing, which means most critiques were stream-of-consciousness. Throw in one or two people who like to ramble, and there was a very low signal-to-noise ratio.
That said, the critiques were good enough, but again, nothing that couldn't have been accomplished in half the time with a little more organization.
I'm not sure I'm going back. The usefulness of the critiques didn't really seem to outweigh the late bedtime and frustrating meeting procedure. Maybe I can find another group that follows the sort of format I'm a little more appreciative of...or perhaps start one.