Knowing that I always wanted to be a writer, I took many different writing courses. A few in high school, a few at the local junior college, one at my university and others through local community programs. Some were obviously much better than others (probably not rated in the natural order one would assume, ironically), but there was one thing that wasn't brought up until the very last course I took, which ended up being the most useful nugget of information I received.
Don't let everyone read your writing!
This isn't for the sake of being top secret or because we're afraid our cousin Vern is going to plagiarize our work and go make millions off of it...it's simply because everyone has an opinion and they have trouble keeping it to themselves.
Unless your cousin Vern happens to be an esteemed literary critic, an agent, editor or publisher, you don't need his input. I know it's really hard to resist when you write something that you're really proud of and you want your friends and loved ones to see it, but believe me they will try to put their two cents in there. I confess, I broke that golden rule with my first few chapters and I learned my lesson. I finally thought to myself "if everyone has such great ideas, they should really go write their own book--if I take everyone's suggestions, this book won't be mine anymore. I'm going to lose my voice."
I still let family and a handful of very close people read it, but I told them absolutely NO creative or content input whatsoever and they were extremely good about that.
I'm not saying that we have absolutely the best ideas...or that I did, not by any stretch of the imagination, all I'm saying is that as writers, we have our own unique voice and if we start letting other people in on our creative process, it dilutes the purity of that voice.
Say I would have let my Mom read it and she wanted something more heartwarming, so I made those changes. Then my sister read it and she wanted something funnier, so I changed it again. Then my Dad read it and he wanted something with more action and adventure, so alas, it changed again. The process can be never-ending depending on who is reading it. I'll reiterate, if anyone is that passionate about how a story should be written, by all means, they should write their own.
We write the kind of books that we WRITE, not the kind of books that they write. Honor your voice...after all, when you think about it, isn't that unique voice what makes you love some of your favorite authors?