The sympathetic reader.

My wife is my sympathetic reader. She likes what I write, really truly likes it. She will point out if I've gone too far off track, but mostly she approves.

I don't know what writers do who don't have someone to read to as they're writing. Reading aloud to myself doesn't do it. Having an audience, even if it is one, is enough for me to catch mistakes, to get a sense of the flow.

I do a lot of automatic editing when I read to others. I have it written one way, and it comes out of my mouth another way, and I've yet to find an example of where the way I read it wasn't better than the way I wrote it. I try to catch those; I'll flat stop reading to correct it if I notice no one else is making notations.

What often happens when something isn't clear to others is that the explanation is better than what is actually written. I've often wanted to take down word for word what another writer has explained and hand it over to them and say, "Do that."

At the same time, though, I've decided not to read first drafts to writer's group. I don't want to be influenced until the basic story is down. After that, the more critique the better--as long as it is constructive and my writer's group is mostly constructive unless they get in a feeding frenzy. (Someone points something out and everyone piles on.)

Again though, even if the critique isn't valid, just the simple act of reading aloud to sympathetic readers is immensely helpful to me.

I think it's dangerous to never expose your writing to others. Yes, at first keep it to yourself, but before you let it loose into the world, get some second opinions. You don't have to take those opinions, but it might prepare you for what is likely to happen.

At writer's group there is often a consensus, and again, that consensus is usually correct. That doesn't mean the writer has to bend to their consensus, but it might usually be a good idea. Of course, you have to figure out whether the good is in sync or not. If you see the advice given to others as good, then take their critique of your stuff seriously. If you see them being off base, then take that into account too.