First, the story goes to my Gang of Three. I thanked my gangster friends, by name, in my acceptance speech at Writers of the Future in 2011. We are writers. We trust each others. We understand the genres we write in. We love history. We have an acquaintance with literature.
Our Gang of Three critiques are "soup to nuts." Does the plot work? Is it boring? Are there unnecessary scenes? Does the plot work? Were you ever confused about the action? Did any words sound wrong? All of it.
Then I revise. My gangster friends are generally convincing, so I take about 80% of their suggestions.
Next I send to a few writer friends who do not necessarily "get" the genre I'm working in--historical speculative fiction, mostly. Since the gangsters understand me, it's great to hear from people who are a little less on my wavelength. Once a friend pointed out how confused he was through two pages. He was not exactly sure what was going on. The problem was remedied by changing "man" in the first sentence of the story to "rider." I thought the horse in sentence two was obviously underneath the dude.
Next I throw it open to Codex, a forum for new writers, though some of the "new" writers joined a few years ago and are now highly successful. They take things apart well. By this time I have many of what I recognized as "kinks" worked out. So I usually have to consider advice seriously before I change things. However, sometimes I get a review from a friend on the forum that I immediately agree with and make lots of small revisions. The big revisions are probably done by now, though.
Finally my wife reads the story. She's a fabulous reader. She can spot all the errors that crept in from the revisions. And she reads for story and flow. Now and then she'll give me a suggestion that leads me to undo revisions that writers suggested. I trust her.
Sometimes I send to friends, but usually I never hear from them. Most are not that interested. Heck, if the world's greatest romance writer was a friend, I doubt I'd be that interested in reading her latest take on girl hates boy, girl is put in position that she can't get away from boy, girl gets interested in boy, boy gets interested in girl, then a big misunderstanding . . . See, I don't get it.
Somewhere in there I may send the story through my larger group--Stonepile Writers. But we only do six pages at a time (1500 words), so the only complete stories I would see critiqued are flash fiction. I don't do much flash. I crawl 40 page stories through, six pages at a time, though. It's good to participate. And I sometimes get a few good suggestions that I would possibly agree with. But by now the work is polished.
This seems way too complicated. But it gives me confidence that I have honed the story into the best form possible before submitting it to a seriously critical reader--a slush reader or an editor.