The writers' group meets monthly at a local library, and each month it critiques three member-submitted writings. This past week, one of them was mine.
My short story — which I also plan to use later as the first chapter of a novel — involves two costumed crime fighters trying to foil a bank robbery. No special powers, just gadgetry. All pretty easy to understand, I thought. But oh, did I underestimate the reading abilities of my writing group.
Fourteen fellow writers were there that night to critique my piece. Of those, seven admitted it wasn't the sort of story they would normally read. Fair enough. Yet, of those seven, only two proceeded to give me any sort of feedback beyond that. The other five went about it different ways, but basically what they said boiled down to: "It's not my genre, so I have nothing for you."
Since when does "not my genre" excuse people from doing their part? 1 Even if you don't understand the technology I describe, is it really that hard to take a critical look at the dialogue, or the pacing, or the interplay of characters? I don't read romance and rarely opt for women's or literary fiction, but I still give thoughtful feedback for each of those excerpts. But hey, if that's not the accepted practice in this writing group, I guess I can prepare some excuses for next time:
- "Stories with this many adverbs and such unexpected shifts in perspective aren't really my style. My apologies."
- "I'm sorry, I don't usually read books set in 1982. I don't have anything for you."
- "I only read paranormal steampunk cyber-werewolf murder mysteries with female protagonists. But you went with male. Too bad."
So, has this ever happened to you? What do you do when someone in your group isn't pulling his own weight?
1 This wasn't an isolated incident. Another writer submitted a sci-fi story a few months ago and got a similar response. His concepts were tougher for the average reader to grasp, however, so I was certainly surprised when my story became its equal. Apparently, the elder statesmen and stateswomen of the group (and I suspect all the offenders are over the age of 60) can't handle anything that isn't culled directly from real life.
2 We could call ourselves the Genre Assassins. Or Bob. Bob's a good name for anything.