Are Writing Contests Good for Critiques?

There is a point in the writing process when we all want to know just what others think about our work, and like so many others, the writer turns to contests that judge writing and award accolades or prizes for the best of the entries. Is this actually a good way to get some feedback on your writing? I don't think so. Writing contests are about entering the best that you have to offer, so that you can win. It is nice, and I know of a few contests that will provide a professional critique for entrants, but as a general rule, the best way to hone your writing skills is to join a writing group and get group criticism on your story. Even if you can not make it to a group in your area, there are plenty of them online that you might choose from. Do a search for sites using "writing critique" as the keywords and you are going to find a long list of websites that provide peer-to-peer writing critiques, often in exchange for providing a set amount of your own critique service to fellow group members.