Cross-Genre Critiques

29 Mar

“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.

Any thoughts?


Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Other Strangeness


Tags: , , , , , ,

10 responses to “Cross-Genre Critiques

  1. annewoodman

    March 29, 2012 at 1:26 am

    My first novel is women’s fiction, and five of my critique group are women… totally within my target audience. The sixth member is a man. He is extremely valuable, even though he would probably never pick up my book off a shelf. He notices pacing and story arc problems and has caught a couple of things in my novel and a short story that he hates: Nora Ephron-like writing. I actually like Nora Ephron quite a bit, but I take his critique and realize he’s right–in these cases, the writing is usually too pat and needs reworking. Also, my dad is one of my beta-readers, and I try not to cringe knowing he might read a steamy or non-dad-like passage. ; )

  2. Dennis Langley

    March 29, 2012 at 2:12 am


    It has been an education critiqueing childrens and YA stories. I’m beginning to feel more comfortable with it.

    Don’t sell your dad short. He was “steamy” at least once too. 😉


  3. Traci

    March 29, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    I agree! It can be a challenge to read outside of one’s favorite genre, but also invigorating. It makes me look at my own work a little differently. And I even find myself enjoying these literary delicacies that have been missing from my diet!

    • Dennis Langley

      March 29, 2012 at 7:38 pm

      Thank you, Traci. I am also enjoying the some previously unexperienced tidbits.

      And, Thank you!

  4. scottweberwriter

    March 29, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Good writing is good writing not matter the genre. Expository dumps, cliches, and passive voice are things that don’t fit no matter if it is fantasy, romance, or paranormal. That being said, readers in each genre do have a set of expectations or acceptable quirks that are unique to each genre as well as having a history of what works have come before. I try to vary my reading to help me to understand different genres better, but I really doubt I am ever going to be a particularily good reviewer of romance or young adult stuff. Good post.

    • Dennis Langley

      March 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm


      Expanding my reading list is definitely in order. thanks for the comment.


  5. 4amWriter

    March 31, 2012 at 7:22 am

    I have run into this before, and while I feel I give a stronger, more thorough critique on genres I regularly read (or write), I love seeing how another genre is put together. Especially time travel. I don’t think I could ever figure out how to structure a plot with time travel without getting hopelessly lost. But I’m game to critique it.

    The way I figure it, is if someone outside your audience can enjoy what you’ve written, or at best, appreciate what you’ve written, then you done good 🙂

    It really does come down to how well the book is written, and the open-mindedness of the critter.

    • Dennis Langley

      April 2, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Time travel is probably the toughest plot line to work with. My primary writer’s group recently devoted an entire session to talk through one member’s time travel plot. The only TT plot line that makes sense to me is a parallel timeline. However, even that can be what-if’d to death.

      Speaking of time, it’s time to go write something inspirational. 🙂

  6. Nicola

    April 2, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    I find it quite fascinating when a writer can momentarily, if not fully, pull a reader into a story that is not their “normal/typical” genre of love. Simultaneously, it’s good to be aware that people who “hate” a specific genre may not be qualified to critique it, and so everything said can’t be taken to heart when considering suggestions.
    I too have certain genres I just don’t read, like mystery, for instance, is not particularly my thing. Yet, as a reviewer I have to be more open-minded than normal, and really think outside of the box to evaluate quality.
    Great post!

  7. Dennis Langley

    April 3, 2012 at 2:12 am


    I think that as storytellers, what we strive for is spinning a tale that everyone can relate to. I agree with you that being open-minded and thinking outside the box is critical when looking at a different genre. Thanks for the comments.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: