Where does one find decent critique partners? I have spent plenty of time on the internet, but have not found anything promising.
I don't know where other people find their CPs, but I can tell you where I found mine.
When I first went looking, I joined two organizations: Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Sisters-in-Crime. S-in-C has a subgroup called the Guppies (the Great Unpublished), and the Guppies match people for critiques. I was matched with four other people. Over six months, three of the others dropped out, but two of us remained together and are still CPs more than three years later.
I took an online class and met a number of very supportive newbie writers. Two of them became my CPs two years ago.
A little over a year ago, I joined a large online writing group. Another writer and I clicked, began talking outside the loop and have been exchanging critiques.
Not all of these people exchange with each other, but all exchange with me. I've met two of them in person and have spoken with all of them over the phone.
Three years ago, I was invited to submit an application to join a closed group of five writers looking for a sixth. I provided a sample of my writing and was selected over the other applicants for the vacancy.
At the time, three of the group were much better writers than me, and two were probably not as strong as I was. What I discovered was that the three best were competing to prove who was the cleverest. They were not interested in helping me or my work. After six months of attending frustrating, non-productive (backbiting) sessions, I resigned and joined a public writers' group in the community. None of the writers there were as strong as the group I'd left, but I got better, more sincere critiques from people genuinely interested in helping me.
I'd suggest that you take every opportunity you find to exchange critiques--even if you think the writers are not as good as you are. At worst, you'll meet a lot of nice people and, maybe, just maybe, you'll click with someone.
I've been with three of my CPs more than two years now. We've all grown as writers--and we've all influenced each other.
I believe the key is to find CPs in whom you can develop trust. You need to know that your CPs want only the best for you. When you have that kind of trust, you can listen to the hard messages you need to hear.
Of course, it's a two-way street. You MUST reciprocate in kind. A few months ago, I spent a fair amount of time critiquing something for another writer. Because we seemed to be clicking, I sent him something of mine to review. I got a facile, "Not my genre, but looks well-written." From that response, I couldn't even tell whether he'd read it.
The next time he asked for a critique, I pointed out I had not gotten one back. Instead of hearing what I was saying, he actually referred me to his original response. Hello? He's since asked for another critique. Not going to happen.
Moral of the story: When you find a good CP, treat him/her like gold. If you are a taker and not a giver, the relationship won't last.
Good luck on your search.