Sunday, December 11, 2022

65 and I Still Know Nothing

On November 29th I posted a blog titled: Tips on Critiquing the Romance Genre

One of the basic points I made was when I read romance and I am being critiqued it often feels like criticism for the genre - not necessarily for me.

Recently on Jenny Crusie's blog she threw out an invitation for what she calls a 'questionable' blogpost in which she will answer writer's questions.

I commented this:

ME: "I have a questionable. Is there a good source for figuring out / learning about genres and what is required to be a certain genre?"..."Is there a basic text or article or anything that would aid me in furthering my education?"

Jenny commented in response. I am paraphrasing because I don't think it's legal to quote word for word long passages. (Although I did tell her I was doing this.)

Genres are fluid and genre labels only serve the purpose of sorting books for libraries, or bookstores, etc. 

Direct Quote: "The lines between those are blurred because people write stories, not genres."

THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE END OF IT BUT - other people commented and  then I commented again.

ME: "...What frustrates me is – we had a 20 something year old coming (to Pinellas Writers) for a while and he was writing a thing like Red Dwarf – I don’t know what you would call that genre – but critiquers kept saying things like – this or that is random – and you’re writing too fast… Everything they were criticizing was supposed to be that way. In fact, it was really good and funny. But there were 10 people saying the same things and only 3 of us getting it, so he stopped coming."

SIDE NOTE: I don't mean to imply he stopped writing. I think he must have found a more appropriate critique group.

Again Jenny commented in response:

Direct quote: "Yes, but if only three people get it, if ten couldn’t see it, he was depending on genre conventions to sell his story."

She gave examples - paraphrasing

Murderbot by Martha Wells is science fiction but many people who are not SF fans read it based on recommendations from commenters and loved it.

One of the books I wrote with Bob Mayer, Agnes and the Hitman, is a romance novel but people who don't normally read romance liked it.

Harry Potter appealed to people who don't like kids lit.

People who don't like cartoons wept over Up.

Direct Quote: "If you have to explain your story, it's not a good story. It's a draft."

Paraphrasing: For critique you hand over your story. You don't explain. If it's romance and someone says they don't like this lovey-dovey stuff - they aren't your audience. On the other hand if they don't believe your happily ever after - that these people are in love - you need to work on your story.

Paraphrasing: Some people who read Welcome To Temptation considered Phin abusive. With Bet me some thought Cal was insensitive. Fast Women critics felt Gabe was remote. 

SIDE NOTE: I have read all of those books many times and loved Phin, Cal and Gabe.

Paraphrasing Jenny: Those characters provoked those readers and those novels were never going to work for them.

Readers are not wrong when something doesn't work for them. 

If the critique is happening before publication - a writer needs to decide - make changes to accommodate those readers or don't because... Direct Quote: "those aspects are important to the story you need to write."

The take-away for me is - write the story I want to write regardless of genre. Read it to be critiqued without any defense. Decide - is this critique because this person isn't my audience or am I failing to get my story across to my audience. Rewrite or don't accordingly.

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