I might be on my own on this one, but in the past I've been guilty of seeking a professional critique of my novels-in-progress long before they're finished. "It'll be good to know where/if I'm going wrong sooner rather than later," was my reasoning, "that way I can put things right before I get too far along." Perhaps not surprisingly those novels bit the dust soon after, and I realised that I wasn't so much looking for validation as confirmation of what I already knew – they weren't working.
I think if you submit your work at the three or four chapter stage, you're probably already having doubts about where it's heading (
I now realise that when you know or feel instinctively that your novel's on the right tracks, the need for “proper” reassurance fades. I don't want anyone professional seeing my words until I've finished this time round – they might burst my little bubble and I don't want that because I'm having a whale of a time!
Have you ever sought an early critique and did it work for you, or do you not bother with them at all and trust your gut feeling instead?