“I hate this genre!”
Not the first thing you want to hear when receiving a critique.
“But, I loved the story.”
Okay, now I feel a little better.
I have a great deal of respect for the individual giving the critique so I am willing to hear what she has to say. We all have our likes and dislikes. Variety is the spice of life.
What followed was a very interesting dialogue about genre clichés, knowing who your audience is, and the difficulty of providing a critique outside of your genre. I realized that just because I’m writing for a fantasy-reading audience does not mean everyone that reads my story knows what a couatl is. Or, that a tooled leather jerkin is a piece of clothing. Now I’m not going change these things because the audience I’m targeting will know. However, having a reader from another genre critique your work is very interesting and, in my humble opinion, very beneficial.
Even though phrases like; “A shock of red hair” or reference to “A dangerous sea crossing with marauding dragonturtles” seem like minor clichés and no one in my fantasy writers’ group commented on them, they drew this reader out of the story. That is not good. I have reviewed the “fantasy clichés” she pointed out and will rewrite the few sentences involved. They seem like minor changes but as I am reminded, the devil is in the details. I think I will add a few more non-fantasy readers to my list of betas.
The other realization I came to, is that it can be difficult giving a good critique on a piece that is written in a genre I am not familiar with. I find the need to concentrate more on specific elements and reread some sections to ensure I’m not missing something. It is becoming easier but it has been a challenge. Overall, I think it has helped my self-editing.
The bottom line here is this, even though you need to be acutely aware of who your target audience is, don’t hesitate to cross genres and sit on either side of the critique table. Whether you choose to take the critique to heart or not is still your choice.