Critiquing the genre you dislike > that sinking feeling.

author-1320965__340 Yeah, 1984 and Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451 and The Giver.  After I saw the movie A Clockwork Orange with my brother when I was 19, I puked on the sidewalk outside the theater.   After reading On the Beach, I woke up frightened for weeks I was so affected by the ending of the world.

So dytopian novels are not my genre of choice.  Probably why I am the only person alive who hasn’t read the The Hunger Games books (or at least seen the movies).

But when you join a writing group, you make a commitment, and I am nothing if not about honoring my commitments.  (OK, all honesty?  I  stop reading a book if after 30 pages, I believe could leave it on a bus without moving heaven and earth to retrieve it.  That’s the test)

So here I am with my first novel to critique in my new writing group, and it’s a dytopian world of quarreling Buddhist-ish monks.

The author, knowing I am not her target audience, asked if I was finding it hard going.

“The first 30 pages I read out of respect for you,” I told her.  “After that I was ok.”  And I was.  Because good writing grabs you.  I discovered that it wasn’t that I didn’t like the genre >  I just don’t like being depressed.

Then I remembered The City and The City and Embassytown, two books about dystopian worlds that remain at the top of my list for all time favorites and the holy grail to my writing pursuits.

In part 2, I will tell you how I managed to separate my dytopian anxiety from my role in the writers group.







Writing Group: How do You critique?

What’s your method, sequence, technique, recipe?  Are you a “big picture” kind of gal/guy, or do you share line edits while noting plot holes and info dumps?  Do you work from a list, print it out and use a marker > hand over the copy when you’re done?  Or totally off the cuff, what stuck out for you?  Let me know, and I’ll share!



The Novel Novel Group


I am so pleased to have been invited to join Heidi’s writers group here in Dubai!  Yup, a novel length submission group which is novel for me – other groups I have attended critiqued short lengths of writing – 2000 to 4000 words from as many as six or seven people.  Some were short stories or parts of novels, some were bits of writing on their way to being a short story or novel.


In this new one, we read a complete novel, just one, from one author until we are done – albeit 10-15 chapters at a time, critiquing each section each week.

After two meetings, I can say I do like this new protocol.


  1. As I follow along the story, it’s easier to pick out plot holes/ flaws when I have the whole book.  When critiquing pieces from six or seven authors in short bursts, you get  a short peek into the plot and if you get to read more, it’s usually months later.
  2. I am invested in the story, the characters, the world of the novel.  As I go deeper, I can watch the characters change as each new plot twist unfolds.  Love it!
  3. I can keep track of continuity.  I notice if the car the antagonist drives changes color suddenly,  if mannerisms are out of character from earlier chapters, and since these things are important to me, I assume they are important to the other writers.
  4. I can also I pick out repetitious descriptors and descriptions, something that can break the spell of the book faster than a misspelled word.
  5. And it’s fun to find out that what I thought was a flaw in the narration is really a plot twist I never saw coming in the next chapter.

So, yes, I like this “Novel” group.

Disadvantages?  If you don’t like the genre, it can be hard going – but less than I thought.

This novel I’m reading now is set in a dystopian world of monks and soldiers, very cerebral, chock full of meditation and mind games.  I’m more of an action/dialog kind of gal.  But when the author asked if I found it hard to read, I was pleased to say, “I read the first 30 pages out of respect, but after that I was hooked.”   Good writing always wills out.